Does Wool Shrink In The Wash? (Wash Wool Without Shrinking)

Shrinking fabrics just create new opportunities. Those clothing items that get too small can easily be given to people who are smaller than you and cannot afford new clothing. Shrinking fabrics happen and it is always best to look at the bright side of the issue.

Does wool shrink in the wash? Unfortunately, yes it will but only if you wash the wool items at the wrong temperature. To wash wool without shrinking you need to keep the washing machine water to cool or just barely warm. Anything hotter and you have something to donate.

To learn all about wool and its shrinking habit, just continue to read our article. It explores the issue so you can have the steps needed to avoid shrinking your expensive wool items and avoid the dry cleaning expense.

Does Wool Shrink in The Wash


Yes, wool does shrink, unfortunately. Natural fibers tend to shrink and that may be due to their natural properties more than anything else. Wool is no exception as it is a delicate fabric at times.

When you are washing your wool clothing or bedding, just double-check the water temperature. If it says anything other than cool or warm, then you will shrink your wool items. If the cleaning tag says hand wash only, then avoid the washing machine altogether.

Treat your wool items carefully and they should last you a long time. That will save you money in the long run, even if you have to wear the same outfit twice in a month.

Does Wool Shrink in The Dryer

The short and general answer is yes it will. Some people have recommended that you put your dryer on low heat and do a short drying cycle to minimize shrinkage. But the goal is not to have your wool items shrink sop you may want to ignore that advice.

Make sure to read the cleaning label on your wool items. If it says to avoid the dryer then hang dry those items. This may take longer to dry but it is safer and more economical.

One way to get the wool item back to its original size is to pin it to the size you want on a cork message board and let it dry. This will help the sweater, etc. Regain its original size.

Does Wool Shrink in Cold Water

No, but a better answer would be ‘it shouldn’t’. The reason we gave that second answer is that there is always some fabric style or quality that breaks the rules. Then you will be mad at us for saying cold water doesn’t shrink wool.

But the reality is cold, cool, and even warm water don't shrink this fabric. It is when you go to the hot option that wool reacts negatively and shrinks. This means you need to be wary of the material your clothing is made from and separate them into different loads as if you didn’t know that already.

Some people don’t and they need reminding.

Does Wool Shrink When Wet?

Yes, it does and that doesn't explain why sheep do not shrink when caught in a bad rainstorm. Wool will shrink when wet so if the day looks cloudy or is raining a little bit, make sure to bring an umbrella with you or change what you will wear on that day.

As you know wool is considered a delicate fabric one that is susceptible to all sorts of influences that distort its shape and change its look. That is why way back when wool clothing and other fabric items could only be hand washed.

And the age-old adage of being careful when wearing wool clothing is still valid today. Even spills can do a little damage to wool materials.

What Makes Wool Shrink


It used to be thought that it was the nature of the fabric that made wool shrink but wool is more like hair and not like cotton at all. The natural shrinking that comes with wool has nothing to do with its natural growth.

Instead, it is the processing of the raw wool into clothing fabric that creates the shrinkage problem. Manufacturers have learned how to treat the wool so that they can be washed in large loads and cold cycles.

The processing also stretch the wool out beyond its limitations so when you mistreat the fabric, the wool shrinks back to where it should be. The good news is that wool is also treated to prevent shrinking so you should see less of that reaction.

Will Wool Shrink More Than Once?

The best we can say is yes that is a possibility. We have come to that conclusion as wool can be stretched out to its original size again, in most cases, and that allows you to shrink the wool sweater a second or third time.

As we stated the original size you bought your sweater is not the natural size of the wool fibers. So if you stretch it out again, you will be overstretching the fibers and allowing them to shrink once more if you are not careful.

Tighter woven wool may not be a possibility though. This will be left up to your experience with the fabric.

Does Merino Wool Shrink?

With this style of wool and others, it is really hit and miss. Some pre-shrunk merino and other wool items have been known to shrink when washed. Others have not. A lot will have to do with the quality of the wool material and usually merino wool is pretty tough against shrinking.

Also, if you stick to cold water washing and hang drying, you should avoid any shrinking issues. Never put merino wool in the dryer even for a short cycle on low heat. Not if you want to wear that clothing item again.

Always err on the side of caution when you are cleaning wool. You never know when the quality is not as good as it was advertised to be.

Does Alpaca Wool Shrink?

If given the proper care, alpaca wool should not shrink on you. But then we are crossing our fingers as there will always be someone who will say otherwise. The reality is that alpaca wool is different from other wool sources.

It is supposed to be lighter, stronger, softer, and warmer than its wool cousins. Plus, it resists pilling which should make it a popular fabric in some homes. Like merino wool, do not put alpaca materials in the dryer.

Hang dry them to make sure they do not shrink on you. That is part of the proper care formula mentioned earlier. Wash in cold or warm and do not dry. That way you should always have positive results when you are done your laundry.

Do Wool Blends Shrink?


When wool is blended with a synthetic fiber, it is done for the express purpose to resist shrinking. The level of the blend can be as high as 60% wool and 40% polyester and you should not see any shrinking take place.

This is even after washing in hot water and putting the dryer on high heat. But you are on your own on this one as every blend will react differently due to the different blend combinations.

Plus, the material the wool is blended with will have some influence on how much the item will or will not shrink. You may see some shrinkage in a cotton-wool blend that you would not see in a nylon wool blend (just examples).

How Much Does Wool Shrink? (wool shrinkage percentage)

There is no real way to put a figure on the percentage of how much wool will shrink. Some people have claimed 30% but that may be just their experience and not a general average. Even felting doe snot have a set amount of shrink percentage.

The reason no one can really put a figure to the amount of shrinkage is that there is no way to control the amount of shrinkage. Some wool materials, if loosely woven, will shrink more than tightly woven wool.

If you want to purposefully shrink wool, go to a tailor and have the item altered. That is the only way to get the amount of shrinkage you need. Or buy a blazer, shirt, etc. In a smaller size.

What Percentage Does Wool Shrink When Felted?

With no ability to control the amount of shrinkage, there is no way to tell you how much your hat or felt material will shrink during the felting process. There are a lot of factors that come into play as well which influence how much the material will shrink.

The type and fineness of wool is one factor. The way you lay the fibers is another, as will the direction you roll the wool. Then the water temperature is still another and on it goes. There are more factors than these four or five that will contribute to the wool shrinking as you work.

The best thing we can say here is that your guess would be as good as ours when it comes to this subject.

Does Wool Shrink More Than Cotton?

Most likely it will as cotton tends to only shrink once while the wool can shrink if it is agitated too much, placed in hot water, or have the wrong soap used as well as placing it in the dryer.

But, and there is always a but on this type of question, different qualities and weaves of wool may shrink more than cotton or less than that fabric. It will all depend on which one you buy and how you treat it.

Always wash on cold and hang dry if you want to keep your wool items at their original size.

How To Wash a Wool Sweater Without Shrinking


Send it to the dry cleaners is the best answer but it is not the correct one. Avoiding washing your wool sweater will prevent it from shrinking but it may not be advisable to do this.

To wash wool use a wool cleaning soap and not your regular detergent. Then use cold water and the gentle cycle. Since agitation does cause wool to shrink, you want to keep that to a minimum.

Then hang the item up to dry. This is the long way to dry clothes but it works and it prevents shrinking, especially if you keep the wool items out of the direct sun.

How To Shrink a Wool Sweater

There are several ways to shrink a wool sweater and if you want more control over the shrinking process, use your iron and the steam function. Hover the iron over the wool sweater and press the steam button.

Let the steam penetrate the fibers until you get the desired size. Other methods include using hot water in your washer, high heat in your dryer but these methods you are at the mercy of the process. The item may shrink too far.

If you need to shrink the sweater on purpose it is safer just to buy one in a smaller size unless that is not an option.

How To Shrink Wool Hat

2 things to watch out for first. One, make sure the hat is 100% wool. Two, dark-colored hats may bleed dye during the process. You can wash your hat in the washer on gentle and warm water, then place it in the dryer on low heat.

Or you can boil a large pot of water and when the steam starts, that is when you place the hat in the water. Make sure it submerges and when it is, soak for 5 to 10 minutes. When that is done, place the hat on a rack to dry or put it in your dryer.

How do You Keep Wool From Shrinking?

Give it the proper care. That means following all the instructions on the care label and not make any deviations from those instructions. Also, keep the washer on gentle and use cold water.

Once the wool item is washed, avoid the dryer and let the item hang dry. The dryer may cause too much agitation even on a no-heat cycle and shrink the item anyways. Or simply hand wash your wool items like the good old days and then hang dry them.

This is more common sense than anything else. Just be careful when you do wash those wool items.

Does Wool Shrink When Dry Cleaned?


There is a possibility that wool items will shrink when you send them out to the dry cleaners. Those establishments use harsh chemicals that may have an adverse reaction to the wool fibers and shrink the wool.

When the cleaning tag says dry clean only, you can still hand wash the wool items and protect them from those harsh chemicals. Dry cleaning tools involve heat and agitation. Two elements that contribute to wool shrinking.

Dry cleaning is not always a safe option for delicate clothing. This is your call to make and your schedule needs to be considered if you take the handwashing route.

What To do When Wool Shrinks

Well, you could run around your basement or laundry room pulling your hair out but that would be overly dramatic and not accomplish anything. There are better options you can choose to use.

One if you can stretch it back into shape that is the best choice. If not, you can give it to one of your children who is the same size or donate the item to a thrift store, or charity. Or give it to your church for needy people.

The worst option would be to throw the item out. It is better not to waste the material.

Does a Sheep's Wool Shrink in The Rain?

It can but it would have to be a hard rain that soaks the wool item. But there are wool styles that do resist water and shouldn’t shrink in the rain and those materials are usually used to make trench coats and pea coats.

If your wool item shrinks or not will depend on how it is made, and what quality the material is. Loosely woven wool will shrink a lot when wet. So be careful of your choice of clothing when the weatherman predicts the forecast for the next day or two.

With wool, you should not take chances unless you really know it won’t shrink.

Some Final Words

Wool is beautiful, it is warm and it feels comfortable especially on a snowy day. But be careful as if that wool gets wet, it could shrink on you. Not all wool types will shrink but a lot will.

Just make sure to handle and clean wool properly so you can avoid the damage done by shrinking material. When you do that, your wool item should last a long time.

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