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How to Wash Wool Socks and Make Them Last

Reviewed by Professional Cleaner Jennifer L. Betts
Person hearing wool socks against fireplace

Proper washing is an important key to keeping wool socks in great condition for a long time. Wool socks made with merino wool or superwash treated yarn can be machine washed with proper precautions. Other types of wool socks need to be hand washed.

How to Machine Wash Treated or Merino Wool Socks

According to REI.com, the majority of wool socks are now made from merino wool. Because merino wool is a blend of wool and synthetic fibers, it is more durable (and less itchy!) than other types of wool socks. As a result, it can be machine washed. This is also true for socks made of superwash treated yarn.

Supplies

You'll need the following items to machine wash your merino wool socks.

  • Mild laundry detergent (if possible, opt for one specifically designed for wool)
  • Washing machine
Female Hands Pouring Detergent In The Bottle Cap

Instructions

Follow these steps.

  1. Turn your merino wool socks inside out.
  2. Place in the washing machine with other delicates.
  3. Add a mild laundry detergent to the washer.
  4. Set the washing machine's water temperature to cold.
  5. Wash on the wool cycle, if your washer has one. Otherwise, use the gentle cycle.
  6. Tumble dry on low or allow to air dry.
    • If you choose to use the dryer, consider using a dryer sheet to prevent static.
    • If you air dry the socks, either lay flat or hang.

Caution:

Be sure the socks are thoroughly dry before putting them away. Otherwise, they may develop a sour smell.

How to Hand Wash All Types of Wool Socks

All kinds of wool socks can be hand washed. If you are not sure what kind of wool your socks are made from, hand washing is the safest bet. Using the washing machine on wool socks that are not made from merino wool or superwash treated yarn can cause socks to shrink or unravel. Hand washing is perfectly safe for the types of wool socks that can be cleaned in a washer.

Supplies

  • Large container or laundry sink
  • Water (approximately one gallon)
  • Mild or wool-specific laundry detergent (approximately two tablespoons)

Instructions

Follow these steps:

  1. Put water in the large container or sink. (Note: the block the sink's drain to keep the water in.)
  2. Add the laundry detergent to the water.
  3. Place smelly socks in the detergent and water solution.
  4. Allow to soak for approximately 15 minutes.
  5. Using your fingers, gently scrub each sock to loosen any remaining dirt.
  6. Rinse thoroughly under cold water.
  7. Air dry by laying flat or hanging.
Female hands washing color clothes in basin

Tips/Caution:

If you are sure the socks are made from merino wool or superwash yarn, you can put them in the dryer on low. However, do not use a dryer for any other types of wool socks. If you are unsure about your socks, err on the side of caution by air drying. Make certain the socks are completely dry before putting them away. Socks that are stored while still even slightly damp can develop a sour odor.

How to Pre-Treat Extra-Smelly Wool Socks

Sweat and body odor can cause very smelly wool socks. If yours are particularly stinky, consider soaking them in a water and vinegar solution for a while before washing.

Supplies

To pre-soak smelly wool socks prior to washing, you'll need the following supplies:

  • Large container or sink
  • Water (approximately one gallon)
  • Vinegar (two cups)

Instructions

Follow these steps:

  1. Add the water to the large container or sink. (Note: the block the sink's drain to keep the water in.)
  2. Pour vinegar into the large container or sink.
  3. Place smelly socks in the vinegar and water combination.
  4. Allow to soak for half an hour.
  5. Remove from vinegar and water solution.
  6. Rinse thoroughly under cold water.
White vinegar in spray bottle to remove stains and smells

Proceed with washing the socks.

Extend the Life of Wool Socks With Proper Washing

You can help make your wool socks last through many washings by following proper laundry techniques. Whether washing them by hand or using a washing machine, it's important to use a high-quality gentle laundry soap that is safe for use with wool. Avoid using bleach or fabric softener when washing wool, as these substances can damage the material.

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How to Wash Wool Socks and Make Them Last