How to Wash Wool Socks and Make them Last

There is no denying that when it comes to the ultimate winter gear, nothing beats a great wool sock for keeping your feet warm and cozy all season long. But you need to learn how to wash wool socks properly if you want them to keep their shape and last you for as many winters as possible! 

laundry basket for washing wool socks

Can You Wash Wool Socks?

Yes, you can – and should – wash your wool socks. Keeping your wool garments clean and caring for them properly can make or break their sock lifespan. However, the most important thing is that you wash your wool socks the right way so that you don’t damage the material.

Can You Put Wool Socks in the Washing Machine?

This is an important question when it comes to washing your wool socks, and the answer is…sometimes. It depends on the type of wool, and this is a case where how you wash them matters — just tossing them in with whatever load you happen to be doing isn’t going to work.

First, not all wool is machine-washable. Look for a tag inside your socks to see whether your specific wool blend can be washed this way. For some wools, the fibers can shrink in a washing machine, or your detergent may contain ingredients that could start chemically breaking down the wool. 

Assuming your socks are machine-washable, you’ll want to use the gentlest setting the machine has, usually called the gentle or delicate cycle. If your washing machine has a setting marked “suitable for knits,” that’s even better. Keep in mind that you’ll want to use a mild detergent if you decide to throw your wool socks in the wash — look for options designed for sensitive skin or that specifically say they are safe for delicates. Bonus points if you use a sock laundry bag.

washing wool socks in the washing machine

How to Wash Merino Wool Socks

Merino wool is a particularly popular fabric when it comes to designing wool socks — the material is very soft and finer than other wool blends. It’s also extremely breathable, doesn’t retain odors, and is moisture-wicking, making it a wonderful winter sock choice! 

When it comes to how to wash merino wool socks, you have a few options. These socks can be machine-washed, so use the method above to get them clean and ready for your next adventure. However, if you really want to ensure your merino wool socks last for many years, the best method is to hand wash them. 

  1. You’ll want to fill a basin or sink with lukewarm — NOT hot — water and a mild detergent, swishing the water around to get a soapy, sudsy mix. If you have any stains or areas that are particularly dirty, you can put a bit of soap on a washcloth and gently dab at the area. Just don’t scrub too hard or you’ll risk damaging the fibers. 
  2. Then, put the socks into the basin and swish them around until they are completely soaked through. Let them soak for a few minutes, then gently move them around to get the water moving through the fibers and help flush out any dirt or debris.
  3. Once you are happy with the clean, remove the socks from the basin and run them under lukewarm water until it runs clear and no more detergent comes out. Then, very gently wring out the excess water, and lay them flat to dry.
laundry bags for washing wool socks

Washing Other Types of Wool Socks

While Merino wool tends to be the most popular material, here are some tips for washing other wool socks of varying fabric types:

  • Blended wool. A blended wool sock is one that is not 100% wool — in other words, it is several different fibers blended together. For wool socks, you most often find them blended at an 80:20 ratio. Blended wool socks can be either machine washed or hand washed using the above techniques.
  • Cashmere wool. Known as one of the most luxurious — and certainly most expensive — wools, hand washing is the better method, but you can machine wash them with a few extra steps. First, you’ll want to use a mesh washing machine bag to help protect them during the cycle (something you can do with all wool socks, and will help extend the life of your wool socks as well). Second, you’ll want to wash these on the cold cycle, again using the gentlest option your machine offers with a very mild detergent.
  • Angora wool. This particular wool is one of the thinnest options, and because of that, it is not recommended to machine wash these at all to avoid damage. Instead, stick to the hand washing method to keep the thin material intact.
  • Australian wool. This type of wool is very soft and has more of a fleece-like texture. Compared to other types of wool, these are also one of the easiest socks to wash. Australian wool can be machine washed in cold water on the delicate cycle. 

No matter which washing method you use to clean your wool socks, do not put them in the dryer. It doesn’t matter what type of wool sock you have – you risk shrinking them with excessive heat. Instead, gently wring out any excess moisture, and then lay them on a flat surface to completely dry before putting them away. 

wool socks

How Often Should You Wash Wool Socks?

Unlike cotton or other materials, wool socks actually don’t need to be washed after every wear. In fact, you don’t want to wash them that frequently, as it will drastically cut down on their lifespan. The natural properties of wool socks mean they don’t retain odors or moisture, so for the most part, you can get away with spot-cleaning them! 

To spot-clean your wool socks, simply take a washcloth with a bit of detergent and water and gently dab at any areas that need to be freshened up. Don’t fully soak or submerge the sock, just focus on specific areas, and then leave them flat to dry. 

That said, how often you wash merino wool socks depends in large part on how often you’re wearing them. If these are your go-to socks that you wear daily, you’ll probably want to wash them once a week. However, if you’re only wearing them for a few hours or a few times a week, consider only fully washing them once every few weeks. 

wool socks

Wool socks are the perfect option to keep you warm all winter long. You’ll want to have a few pairs in your sock drawer to cycle through during the cold winter months, and having a few pairs to switch between can extend the time between washing, in turn extending the life of your socks! 

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