How to Wash a Wool Sweater So It Doesn't Pill

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When it's laundry time, wool is a worry. Sweaters and other garments made from cashmere, merino, alpaca or wool blends need special treatment to prevent pills, those little balls that develop under sleeves and other areas of friction. To keep a sweater in good condition, read the label to determine if it is 100 percent wool or if it is combined with cotton or acrylic. While it is always a safer choice to hand-wash a sweater that contains any amount of wool, a special treatment on some wool sweaters makes them washable. Don't take the risk unless the label gives the go-ahead.


Remove any existing pills with a shaver or pill remover. Fill your sink or washtub with lukewarm water and a few drops of mild soap, such as body wash or dishwashing soap. Add 1/2 cup of white vinegar for additional cleansing.

Submerge the sweater into the bath and use your hands to circulate the water, gently distributing the soap throughout the wool. Do not agitate or wring. Soak the sweater for 10 to 15 minutes.

Drain the water. Gently squeeze out the sweater, then refill the tub or sink with clean, lukewarm water. Swish the sweater to rinse. Repeat this process one more time, so that all soap is rinsed out. Drain the water again and squeeze the sweater into a ball that can be lifted out without dripping too much. Place it on a towel, then roll the towel and the sweater together into a cylinder, squeezing out water as you go.

Remove the sweater from the towel and lie it on a flat surface where air can circulate on both sides, such as a mesh screen. Do not hang it up. Gently shape the sweater, expanding or contracting areas that need adjustment. Dry completely.

Machine Washing (for Washable Sweaters)

Remove any existing pills with a shaver or pill remover. Following instructions for volume, add a detergent designed for wool products. Put in the sweater.

Set your washing machine to the delicate cycle and turn it on.

When the cycle completes, remove the sweater. Lie it flat on a mesh rack. Gently shape the sleeves, body and hemline. Dry completely.