How to Wash a Wool Coat

Alternate post titles:

  • How to Wash a Wool…Whatever
  • How to Wash Wool in General
  • How to Wash Wool Without Paying a Small Fortune or the Soul of Your Firstborn Child to a Dry Cleaner
  • How to Wash Wool Winningly Without a Weary Wallet

Ahem. Moving on.

A disclaimer: If you have a wool item that needs to be cleaned and it is irreplaceable, a family heirloom, something you cannot afford to replace should you ruin it, something that is worth a lot of money, something that can beam you up to the mothership, or is just in general an item you would be supremely pissed and/or distraught if it were ruined; TAKE IT TO A DRY CLEANER!!!!

This post was written because I am a major cheap-o. When a garment’s care tag says ‘Dry Clean Only,’ my first reaction is, ‘Wanna bet?’ I live in a very small town and the nearest dry cleaner is rather expensive, and I would have to go out of my way to get there. I also have this funny notion that people were cleaning wool for hundreds of years before the advent of dry cleaners, so I don’t see why I can’t clean wool myself at home.

In conclusion, I cannot be held responsible if you try this and ruin something. Mmmkay? Not my fault. This method works for me, and I cannot promise it will work for you. Attempt this at your own risk.

Alrighty. Now that that’s out of the way.

First, grab your coat or whatever item needs cleaning. This is my nice winter coat. It’s a wool/nylon/cashmere blend that I bought last fall in Wyoming. It hasn’t been cleaned since I bought it. At all.


You can see it’s a bit, ah, gross.

So, first things first. Wool has a major, major tendency to shrink. I did a bit of digging around online and read that wool shrinks because of too much agitation. (I have no idea if that’s true. But I grabbed that ball and ran with it.) When cleaning wool, remember three very important things – use cold water, agitate the item as little as humanly possible, and use a small amount of a very mild detergent. For a light cleaning you could use just water and forget the detergent altogether.

Because this is a large coat, I cleaned it in my bathtub. I filled the tub with a few inches of cold water, and added a teeny tiny amount of mild detergent (affiliate link).


I put the coat in, wool-side down. I made sure to lay it as flat as possible. Instead of swishing it around in the water, I just gently moved the entire coat back and forth in the water for a few minutes.

Then I removed the coat, which was a feat in itself because it weighed about 430 pounds. At this point you can give it a rinse in fresh water if you like.

I let most of the excess water drip from the coat, then quickly ran it into the laundry room. I put it in the wash machine and spun it on the gentle cycle. Spinning is not agitating, so this step should not harm the coat.

If you would rather not spin your item, here’s what you can do: Lay down towels flat on the floor. Put your coat on the towels and make sure it’s nice and flat. Then roll it up in the towels to squeeze out the excess water.

That’s what the water in the tub looked like after I took the coat out. All together on three: 1, 2, 3: ewwww.
Once the water is removed, either by machine or by hand, lay the coat flat on towels. Shape it into its natural form, and let it dry. It may take several days to dry, so turn it over every once in awhile so it can dry evenly. By the way, it may smell like a musty, wet, stinky dog. Just so ya know. This smell should completely dissipate once the coat is dry.
When the coat is dry, try it on to make sure everything is copacetic. My coat fit fabulously after its cleaning, without any shrinking whatsoever.
Clean on, people!

15 thoughts on “How to Wash a Wool Coat

  1. i'm glad someone else things that the world didn't exist before the dry-cleaning profession. i've always heard that 'washing' anything with a lining in it is dangerous territory, but perhaps i'll take out that old pea-coat with the shiny collar and give it a try.

  2. Thanks!I followed these instructions for an old jcrew pea-coat (94% wool, 6% nylon, and 100% acetate lining) and it came out great with no shrinking

  3. I just tried this tonight with my good coat. This is embarrassing but my puppy decided to lift his little leg on it. My best coat. That's what I get for hanging it on the chair and not in the closet. I'm really thankful for this post. Now- on to research puppy training.

    1. Just a little follow-up: THANK YOU! I used woolite and washed it in the bathtub. The water was truly nasty when I was done. It didn't shrink, it smells fresh and not the slightest hint of puppy pee. It took a long time to dry but it turned out beautiful. I'm so glad, I love that coat. 🙂

  4. I have sort of the same black wool/cashmere/nylon coat as the blogger. turned out fine with the instruction she gave. after i let it drip dry, than towel dry , I did hang it over an outdoor clothes stand on a windy/sunny day & it dried in 6 hrs. thank you so much ,the cleaners wanted $ 50.

  5. Gonna give this a try with my Camel colored 'Lands End' Pea Coat. 68% wool, 20% nylon, 12% cashmere. Like you, I am in n a small town and would need to drive over 3 hours each way to a cleaners. Maybe I need to let it go for something a little more casual care. Hopefully I won't need to. Will let know how it works.Kathy in Richwood, West Virginia

  6. Thank you so much for giving me the courage to try washing my wool coat. I did it just like you did in the bathtub. The water was gross looking, but I know its clean now. I pressed as much water out as I could, then folded it neatly and put it inside a delicate wash netted laundry bag and ran it through the spin cycle in the washer. It Dried air dried quickly, I then pressed the lining and the outer coat. WONDERFUL!!!

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