If you're the proud owner of a favorite wool sweater, merino wool base layer, silk long underwear, or even fancy bamboo clothing, pay attention:

It only takes one bad wool washing experience to decide to never clean your wool clothing again. It either shrunk five sizes, morphed into sandpaper, or started shedding (felting/pilling) faster than a German Shepherd in the summertime. Well, say goodbye to that dirty mid-layer and get ready to feel liberated.

The 'Why': Natural fibers require using a very gentle cleaner; without it, they will shrink, get brittle, break, and then exfoliate your skin. Not into that? Neither are we. Backpacking Light founder and research scientist Ryan Jordan describes it this way; “You can see how household detergents damage surface fibers of wool under a scanning electron microscope. It’s like the difference between Lance Armstrong’s shaven legs and Grizzly Adams’ face.” Thanks for putting it that way, Ryan.

The 'How': Here's how to wash wool, silk and bamboo clothes with a gentle cleaner. Always follow the manufacturer's care instructions. Many new garments allow machine washing, if that's the case we recommend cold water, a delicate cycle and washing the garment by itself. Remember, the less agitation the better.

NOTE: Garments labeled SUPERWASH® can go right from the washing machine to the dryer without the worry of felting shrinkage. The SUPERWASH® label is a certification mark of The Wool Bureau, Inc. It indicates a certain standard of machine-washability performance.

If hand washing is required, follow these steps:

Step 1: Fill sink or tub with enough water to submerge items and add ReviveX® Synthetic Fabric Cleaner; soak for 5 minutes. Gently knead items to remove dirt and stains.

Step 2:  Drain sink and carefully squeeze soapy water out. Rinse until water runs clear.

Step 3: Place item on a clean bath towel. Roll up gently to expel water. Repeat with dry towels.

Step 4: Air dry flat on a fresh towel away from sunlight or direct heat.

Originally Published: Mar 13, 2012

Products from this article