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How to Wash a Wool Coat

Do you often wonder how to wash your wool coat? Whether your coat needs to be spot cleaned, hand washed, or machine washed, we have the answers to all of your questions.

beautiful woman wearing a camel wool coat

It can be intimidating to wash anything yourself that has a “Dry Clean Only” tag, especially wool.

But when you don’t have the time to send your wool coat to the cleaners, or it just isn’t convenient, it is possible to wash the coat yourself with great results.

Whether your coat needs to be spot cleaned, hand washed, or machine washed, we have the answers to all of your questions.

How Often Should I Clean My Wool Coat?

The moment you see a new stain on your coat, spot clean it as soon as possible. The longer you wait to treat a stain, the harder it will be to remove.

But if your coat isn’t stained, it may not need to be cleaned until the end of the season. Since overcoats aren’t worn directly against the skin, they stay clean longer. Yet, if you notice that your wool coat has an odor or is visibly dirty, wash it.

How Do I Spot Clean My Wool Coat?

The spot cleaning method is an easy way to keep your coat looking clean throughout the season.

First, brush it gently to remove dust and dirt from the fibers. Once you have done that, mix together a mild detergent (such as Castile soap or Woolite) and water, and apply it to the affected spot.

Use a soft cloth to rub at the stain. Then press a dry towel against the dampened area to remove any excess water. Leave the coat to air dry.

If the stain remains, repeat the process again.

a grey wool coat being brushed gently to remove dirt

How Do I Hand Wash a Wool Coat?

Before storing your wool items, wash them to remove any odors or stains by following these steps:

  1. Brush the wool

    Just as you would with spot cleaning, brush off any hair, dust, and debris. Lay the coat flat, and starting at the shoulders, brush down section by section.
  2. Pretreat stains

    Mix together a half cup of warm water and a teaspoon of a gentle detergent, such as Castile soap or Woolite. Dip a clean cloth into the solution and rub away visible debris or stains from the armpits, cuffs, and collar of the coat. Wait about 10 minutes after pretreating the stains to give the solution time to work.
  3. Prepare the washing space and solution

    You can hand wash your coat in a deep sink, plastic tub, or a bathtub. Whatever you choose, make sure the basin is thoroughly clean and has no residue before you begin the washing process.

    Fill the tub or sink with lukewarm water (never hot water), and add in a bit of wool detergent. For a bathtub, you will need ¼ to ½ cup of detergent for an effective solution. Use a bit less for smaller basins.
  4. Submerge, soak, and agitate wool garment

    Place the coat in the water, and let it soak. Wait about 30 minutes before agitating the coat gently with your hands. You can agitate by squeezing sections of the fabric. Never rub or twist the garment, which could cause damage to the fibers.
  5. Rinse

    Do not wring the coat as you remove it from the soapy water. Drain out the used water, wash out the basin, and then refill it with fresh lukewarm water. Return the coat to the tub and swish the water to rinse the fabric. Repeat until there are no suds remaining.
  6. Remove moisture

    Once there is no soap remaining, lift the coat from the water and squeeze the water gently. Start with the top, at the shoulders. Again, don’t wring. Repeat the squeezing motion for the entire coat until it is no longer dripping.
    From there, follow the instructions below to allow the coat to air dry.

close up of a wool coat button detail

Is it Safe to Machine Wash My Coat?

Many people think that the dry cleaning tag on their wool clothing means that tossing the item in a washing machine is strictly forbidden, but that’s not true. With a little preparation and a mesh laundry bag, machine washing wool coats is quite easy and safe.

  1. Brushing and pretreating the coat

    Similar to the hand washing method, brush away soil and pretreat any stubborn stains. Empty out the coat’s pockets and button or zip the coat up. Turn the coat inside out so that the liner is on the outside.
  2. Prepare the washer

    Select the gentle or wool cycle on your washing machine, and set the water temperature to cold or lukewarm. If you can, choose the slowest spin cycle to prevent stretching. Add a wool detergent, following the instructions listed on the bottle.
  3. Add your coat

    To prevent snagging, place your coat in a mesh laundry bag or a white pillowcase with the open end tied shut. Start the washer. Once the cycle is completed, remove the coat and immediately turn it right side out. Then follow the instructions for drying your coat below.

Drying a Wool Coat Correctly

Never put your wool coat in the dryer, as too much heat will ruin it.

Instead, lay the coat on a drying rack or on a towel. If there is excess water, gently roll the coat up in a towel then squeeze—not wring—out the moisture. Then you can shape it so it lays naturally and then take a soft brush to remove pilling.

Be sure to keep the wool coat away from sunlight or heat while it dries, since that could cause shrinkage.

a rust colored woolen coat worn over a roll neck sweater

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some questions you may have about washing wool coats:

  1. Can you wash wool when it says dry clean only?

    You can wash wool that has a “Dry Clean Only” tag. However, it is best to hand wash the garment rather than use the washing machine. If the tag reads “Dry Clean Recommended,” then you can choose any method for washing wool at home.
  2. What happens when you put a wool coat in the washing machine?

    On the delicate or wool cycle and in cool or lukewarm water, a wool coat will be thoroughly washed. However, if you put wool in hot water or on a more vigorous cycle, the wool could get stretched or irreversibly damaged. Be careful when putting wool in the washing machine, and make sure you are protecting it by washing it in a mesh laundry bag.
  3. How can I make my wool coat look new?

    If your coat is looking a bit drab, you can bring it back to life with a suede brush. The brush will remove lint and debris and also manage pilling. When you are not wearing the coat, hang it on a wide cedar hanger to help retain its shape.

  4. Can you wash 100% wool?

    Yes, you can. Simply soak your coat in lukewarm water with a wool-friendly detergent for about 10 minutes. Wash out the basin, refill it with clean water, and rinse the wool until no soap remains.
  5. Is vinegar safe for washing wool?

    Vinegar may be acidic, but it won’t damage wool coats. In fact, diluted vinegar is considered one of the best cleaning solutions for wool. If you want to use vinegar when hand washing, simply mix in ½ cup to warm water while rinsing the coat.
  6. Can I wash wool with a gentle shampoo?

    Yes, you can wash wool with shampoo. Using shampoo will give wool a smooth look and soft feel.

a man in a woolen coat looking out to the sea

With the right products and just a few simple tricks, you can now spot clean, hand wash, or machine wash your wool coat and keep it looking well for years to come.

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