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How to Make Your Wool Coat Look New Again

Jun 15, 2023Jun 15, 2023

Moths love to feast on wool. Especially dirty wool. So unless you want your beautiful wool sweaters and coats to be a lepidoptera lunch, it’s important that you learn to properly clean wool.

Besides, your wool coat can lose its luster after years of wear. And despite what the laundry tag might say, you often can carefully wash wool at home. Cleaning wool is especially important before you store it away for the summer, since moths are particularly problematic when wool is stored for long periods.

Here are the steps you need to take to make your coat clean and fresh.

A fabric comb: Use a garment comb or fabric shaver to remove pills (think lint balls). We use this highly rated Comfy Clothiers model, which is easy to grip and swipe across fabric.

A cleaning cloth: To spot-clean stains, use paper towels or a lint-free cloth.

Stain remover: For tricky stains, it may help to use household items like rubbing alcohol and white vinegar as a stain remover.

Gentle laundry detergent: This will help preserve your coat’s delicate material. In our guide to hand-washing clothes, we recommend using a no-rinse detergent, like Eucalan.

Drying rack: Use a drying rack or a bath towel to lay your damp coat flat to dry. This rack is larger than most, so it provides plenty of surface area.

Total cleaning time should be no longer than an hour, unless there are a lot of pills to remove. Give your coat one to two days to dry, depending on its thickness.

Pilling is a sign your wool coat needs attention. It happens when fabric rubs against itself or other garments, causing bothersome lint balls to form.

You can remove pills with a garment comb, a fabric shaver, or other pill removers. No matter the tool you’re using, lay the coat flat, and then gently comb with short, downward strokes. Don’t comb too aggressively or you might snag the fabric.

Depending on the size of your coat and the amount of pills, it could take a while to remove them. In our testing, it took us almost 30 minutes for a women’s full-length coat.

Before cleaning your coat, spot-treat any visible stains. For a fresh stain, blot and soak up a liquid spill. Then pat the area with a little water and a dab of gentle laundry detergent or mild soap. Some stains, such as grease, oil, wine, or blood, may require rubbing alcohol or white vinegar, for a deeper cleanse. As is the case with almost any stain, the longer you wait to clean it, the harder it will be to get rid of the stain.

To wash your coat, turn it inside out, to help prevent pilling and damage. If your washing machine has a wool cycle, use it. If not, use the gentle or delicate cycle on cold. Never wash wool on hot—it will weaken the fibers and shrink the fabric.

Make sure to use a mild detergent, too. For wool, we recommend Eucalan’s no-rinse formula, which is great for hand-washing and can also be used in the machine. Most delicate detergents will also work well. Some laundry experts also suggest that you use a mesh bag to protect your coat in the washing machine.

To hand-wash your coat, use lukewarm water with your mild detergent—slightly less than a tablespoon—in a tub or large basin. You don’t need to rub or squeeze the fabric. Submerge the coat in water, and leave it to soak for about 30 minutes. Then gently agitate for a few minutes.

If you’re not using a rinse-free detergent, remove the coat and refill the basin with water. Keep rinsing until there are no more suds, replacing with clean water as necessary.

Never put a wool coat in the dryer—it could shrink. If you hand-washed your coat, avoid wringing out the water, since doing so can ruin the coat’s shape and cause excess wrinkles. Instead, gently squeeze the excess water out of each section of the coat. Lay it on a clean, dry towel and roll it up, absorbing as much water as possible. Then lay the coat flat to dry. Flip it over every 12 hours, until it’s fully dry. Depending on the thickness, this could take several days.

This article was edited by Connor Grossman and Ben Frumin.

Sri Rain Stewart

Sri Rain Stewart is an updates writer at Wirecutter covering style, gifts, and beauty. She's written on fashion, culture, and shopping for InStyle, Okayplayer, Rolling Stone, and more. Previously, she was at Barneys New York. When she’s not creative writing, obsessing over music, or a new film to stream, she’s out exploring locally and beyond.

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A fabric comb:A cleaning cloth:Stain remover:Gentle laundry detergent:Drying rack: