Dryers are great time-saving inventions. But, if you’ve got a wonderful collection of wool sweaters or are trying to dry some raw wool for spinning, you’ll want to know if you can put wool in the dryer.
You can put super-wash wool and wool garments that are labeled as dryer-safe in the dryer. However, regular wool, wool labeled dry clean only, or handmade items should NOT be put in the dryer or they could felt.
Now, if that response gave you the information you needed, great, that’s what I’m here for. But, if you’re not as familiar with wool and don’t know what those words mean, keep on reading. We’ll dig in and explain what they mean and how to determine if you can put your wool in the dryer.
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Why Does Wool Shrink?
Before we can dig into if you should or should not put your wool in the dryer, let’s first talk about why wool shrinks and/or felts in the first place.
The below video does a great job at explaining some of the science behind why wool shrinks in the washing machine. And, if you’re a nerd like me, you’ll find it interesting.
Now I know what you’re thinking; “that didn’t tell me anything about putting wool in a dryer!” You would be right.
But, even if the mechanism is different (dryer versus washing machine) the science behind why wool shrinks is the same.
There is a magic recipe that makes wool shrink, the magic recipe is wool, plus water, plus heat, plus agitation equals felt.
Not too complicated but you’re probably realizing that putting your wool in the dryer is a bad idea. Dryers use heat and agitation to dry something that is wet which includes every ingredient of our wool felting recipe.
So, if you’re trying to wash just regular untreated wool, don’t put it in the dryer, and be very careful washing it in your washing machine.
A lot of wool clothing and wool yarn will say on the tag ‘lay flat to dry’ and you should absolutely listen to the tag.
However, if what you’re trying to wash is NOT regular untreated wool, there is hope. In the next section, we’ll talk about the kind of wool that can go straight into the washer and dryer.
Can You Put Wool in the Dryer?
So, what wool can go in the washer and dryer without worrying about felting? Ding, ding, you guessed it: Superwash wool.
Superwash wool can go in the washing machine without worries of felting, hence the name superwash. But, what makes superwash wool so special?
Superwash wool is created specifically to prevent felting.
This can be done in a couple of different ways but the most common is to treat with wool with an acid that removes the cuticles from the wool yarn. The wool is then usually coated with a resin or something similar to prevent felting even further.
The cuticles on wool are what cause felting, they like to stick together, and agitating the wool makes them get all hooked together. This is what causes wool to appear shrunken.
By removing the cuticles, wool can no longer felt. You can imagine why superwash wool has become such a hit. You get all the beauty of a handmade item without the fear of ruining it by washing it with your t-shirts.
A lot of commercial wool clothing brands exclusively use superwash wool in their products. The one I am most familiar with is Smartwool. I wear Smartwool socks all the time and just throw them in the washer and dryer without a problem.
If the label on your garment gives you care instructions that say you can machine wash and dry (they usually say tumble dry low), then you can put wool in the dryer.
If you rip out all the tags from your clothing like I do and have no idea if there are care instructions, you might be able to look up the brand’s website to confirm if they use superwash wool.
But, if you have no label, no brand, and no idea what to do, don’t worry. This last section will tell you everything you need to know about drying wool safely.
How to Dry Wool Safely
The thing that is most likely to cause felting is agitation. Remove the agitation and you are extremely unlikely to shrink that lovely wool sweater. You can do this by handwashing your wool and hanging it up to dry instead of throwing it in the dryer. Boom, problem solved.
Here are a few guidelines for drying your wool without felting it.
First of all, no wringing.
Yeah I know, It’s kind of weird to say. If something is wet, nothing gives us more satisfaction than to wring all the water out of it.
However, wringing wool is a bad idea. By hand washing and drying our wool, we’re trying to prevent agitation. If you wring your wool it rubs the fibers against one another creating heat and agitation which is the killer combo.
Instead of wringing, squeeze all the water you can out of it and then wrap it in a towel. I’m talking a thick bath towel just like in the above picture.
Now, with your wool garment all swaddled up, put it on the ground and walk on it.
Again, I know it’s weird. But, walking on it or even just pressing on it while it’s wrapped in the absorbent towel gets SO much water out of it.
Once your towel is pretty saturated, unroll your bundle and hang up your garment. If you’ve got a super heavy garment that might stretch if it’s put on a hanger, you can also hang it on a drying rack or towel rack or even lay it flat on a towel to dry.
If you lay it flat on a towel, make sure you flip it over after a while so it dries faster and prevents molding. This is especially important if you live somewhere humid.
Well, I’ve answered your burning question ‘can you put wool in the dryer?’ But, in case you have any doubts, here’s a quick recap.
First of all, you can put superwash wool and wool garments labeled dryer safe in the dryer. Superwash wool is specifically treated to prevent felting.
Secondly, if you’re unsure if the garment you have is superwash wool, you can check with the manufacturer or wash and dry it by hand just to be safe.
In order to dry your wool safely, make sure you gently squeeze the water out without wringing it. Then, wrap it in a towel and press more water out of it. Lastly, hang it up or lay it flat to dry.
And, tada! you’ve got nice, clean, dry wool. Now go make something awesome!