Will my boiled wool shrink if I wash it at home?
More than likely, yes.
That surprised us, too. One would guess since the fabric is called 'boiled wool' and has a felted, non-fray texture, that it is pre-shrunk and would not shrink further. Not so - please be well aware! Here's what we found:
We tried three kinds of gentle washing:
- Front loading machine wash 'wool cycle', 30 degrees, with wool wash liquid, rinse, spin.
- Gentle hand wash, warm, with wool wash liquid, rinse, press dry in a towel.
- Front loading machine wash 'wool cycle' cold, with wool wash liquid, rinse, spin.
The cold wash showed slightly less shrinkage (5 -10%).
The shrinkage did not cause any noticable difference in texture or drape of the fabric.
Will the fabric shrink further if washed again?
You're probably wondering then, if you pre-wash before cutting and sewing, will your garment be safe from further shrinkage? Well, we tried this for you too.
On a second (warm machine) wash, our fabric seemed to shrink a teeny bit more, but was easily flattened back to previous one-wash length. So while we wouldn't recommend frequent washing, it seems a pre-wash can save you from large unexpected shrinkages later.
Overall, here are our suggestions for boiled wool care:
- Boiled wool, like most wool fabrics, naturally repels a lot of dirt and odours. So if you think your garment needs cleaning, first see if you can brush away marks, air the garment outdoors or hang it for a while in a steamy bathroom. Gently sponging marks would also be a good step to try before resorting to washing or dry-cleaning.
- Occasional dry-cleaning should be fine (e.g. once a year).
- If you wish to be able to wash your garment at home, buy 20% more fabric than you need, to allow for shrinkage. Then pre-wash in the gentle, wool-friendly manner you intend to continue. Dry flat and steam iron on wool setting.
- Do not wash in a top loader, which will agitate the fabric too much.
- If you need to wash your garment, try a gentle cold-to-lukewarm bath (an actual bath would be good where it can spread out and not need moving about much) with a specific wool wash. Avoid agitation or wringing. Carefully rinse and roll and press in a towel to remove excess water. Lay garment flat and gently pull into shape, and leave flat to dry. Once dry, iron carefully on a wool setting with steam.
Please note of course this is intended as helpful advice rather than any guarantee of exactly how your own boiled wool will behave. We hope your wool gives you years of warm, natural, low-care pleasure!
- Jane & Fiona xx