Save Your Shrunken Wool Clothes With A Handy Kitchen Staple

Anytime the washing machine shrinks clothes, we're heartbroken. However, it feels doubly sad when that shrunken item is wool, because the damage is often so much worse. Yet you should fear not! All is not lost for you and your now two-sizes-too-small favorite wool sweater. With the help of some versatile white vinegar, you may have more sweater days ahead. 

Unfortunately, there's a point when a wool garment is too damaged to be repaired. Trying to pull at the fabric to reclaim the original shape could damage it even more. When wool fibers get too hot and shrink, the process is called felting, and you can tell if a wool item is too far gone by examining the fibers. If they're no longer distinguishable from one another, the item is felted and likely too ruined to be repaired. This is different than shrinking, which can (to a degree) be restored. 

What makes this felting process impossible to reverse is the nature of what happens to the broken-down fibers. They not only shrink and become frizzy, but they also lose their elasticity. It's possible that by trying to reshape your sweater in a fully felted state, you'll end up ripping the sweater fibers. If you pull at one of the sleeves and there is little to no give, that's also a clear indicator of felting. So, if your beloved woolen garment has shrunk (and not felted), we may be able to help!

How to fix shrunken wool

After finding your shrunken garment, place it in a sink or container of cold water with two tablespoons of vinegar. You can also use the washing machine on a delicate cycle with two cups of vinegar. However, we've had more success just soaking it with much less vinegar waste. After 20-30 minutes, take the sweater out of the water. With the delicate nature of wool, you should press it dry in a towel but don't wring it, as you can ruin the material.

While the garment is still a little wet, place it onto a flat surface. As it lays flat, gingerly pull at each of its shrunken areas, like the arms or torso, to bring it back to its original shape. Be patient; it's a process. This might not completely fix your shrunken clothes, though if the damage is not too severe it should come back up a size or two.

How to avoid wool shrinkage

Wool is notorious for being a temperamental material. Although it's beloved for its softness, it's also loathed for being a pain in the laundry room. Yet, it takes a little TLC to keep a wool garment in pristine condition, which is the bargain you have to make when you buy a piece. That said, it isn't all that hard to keep wool apparel from becoming doll clothing.

The main thing to remember is that wool and heat do not mix. That means no washing wool in warm or hot water or putting woolen items in the dryer. Heat is what causes these items to shrink, so it must be avoided at all costs. Your best bet is to handwash your wool clothes and lay them flat to dry. You can also put them in the washing machine, preferably on delicate, in cold water only. 

Luckily, wool is excellent at preventing odors. You can wear a woolen garment several times before it needs a proper wash — making wool clothing a little less time-consuming than cheaper mixed fiber pieces.