How to Wash Wool Socks

Have a pair of merino wool socks that need to be cleaned?

We’ll share the proper steps to do so, along with how to dry them, the frequency at which you should be washing them, and if they are safe to iron.

How to wash with a washing machine

Given the natural and delicate fiber of wool, you should take special care when cleaning. For starters, we recommend having the following on hand:

  • Wool detergent (i.e., Woolite): This specially-made laundry detergent is free of harsh chemicals that damage wool fibers. It is also effective in removing dirt, bacteria, and stains.
  • Laundry or sock bag: This keeps your socks from getting caught on other items and getting damaged. Plus, it reduces the risk of one sock getting lost in the wash.

To wash your socks, follow these steps:

  1. Turn your socks inside out and place them into the laundry bag.
  2. Set the washer to the wool cycle. If your washer doesn’t have this cycle, then delicate is a close substitute.
  3. Add the wool-approved detergent and set the water temperature to cold or warm water, not hot.
  4. Wash and let it run through the cycle.

How to hand wash wool socks

woman gently scrubbing sock in sudsy water

Most companies recommend hand washing over machine washing as it is gentler on the fibers of the sock, resulting in a longer life. Hand washing is also eco-friendly as it uses less water and energy. To hand wash your socks, you’ll need the following:

  • Wool detergent
  • A large bowl or sink to soak the socks

When hand washing, follow these steps:

  1. Turn the socks inside out.
  2. Fill up the bowl with lukewarm water.
  3. Add laundry detergent and thoroughly stir with your hand until fully dissolved.
  4. Submerge the socks in the water and let them soak for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Gently rub the socks with your hand to cleanse.
  6. In a separate bowl or under running water, rinse socks till water runs clear.
  7. Gently squeeze, don’t wring, to remove excess water.

What is the best way to dry them?

Ideally, wool socks should be dried flat rather than hanging on a clothesline. This allows the sock to keep its overall structure as it dries. If your space does not permit lay-flat drying, then setting them on a drying rack is the next best option.

Alternatively, you may put the socks in a dryer on the lowest setting. This should be a last resort, but it is okay if done infrequently.

Frequency of washing

Thanks to the anti-microbial benefits of wool, particularly of the merino variety, you can wear your socks multiple times before washing. While there is no set number of times, as there are too many variables to consider, including the composition of the sock, climate, activity level, and body chemistry, most folks can wear a pair of socks 3-5 times before washing.

Of course, if you notice foul odors, stains, and other signs of wear, then they should be washed immediately.

Other additives while washing

Aside from a wool detergent, folks may consider adding fabric softener to the wash to make their socks feel softer. Unfortunately, by doing this, you may damage the socks or reduce their anti-microbial properties. Furthermore, bleach should never be used either, as it will damage the fibers.

What about ironing?

iron on ironing board

For a crisp look to your socks, particularly dress socks, you can iron wool socks on a low heat setting. Be sure never to use starch and iron the socks inside out. Also, never stay in one spot too long as it could burn the wool.

Special considerations for certain brands

If you have Smartwool or Darn Tough socks, then follow their specific washing instructions. For example, Smartwool recommends using cold water while washing their socks, whereas Darn Tough recommends warm water. Both recommend tumble drying on low heat or air drying.

Theo Lawson

With a five-year background in men's fashion, Theo Lawson has shifted his focus to the world of socks. To him, socks are more than just a piece of clothing - they're a way to express yourself and make a statement.

To improve his knowledge, Theo consults with manufacturers and interviews industry leaders to stay up-to-date on the latest sock trends. His dedication to the field has earned him the trust of companies, celebrities, and sock enthusiasts, making him a true testament to the impact that one person can have when passionately pursuing their expertise.

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