Wool blankets are incredibly warm, lightweight, and affordable. Wool is also a renewable resource. However, many people choose not to use wool blankets because they itch. The scratchiness of wool is determined by the thickness of each individual wool fiber. Fine wool is made of small fibers which do not cause itching. If wool has thicker fibers, then it tends to itch more. But there are things that can be done to reduce the itchiness. Because wool blankets can be especially itchy when they are brand new or have just been brought out of storage, it may be necessary to wash wool blankets several times to soften them before use. The washing and care methods make a significant difference in the feel of wool blankets.
An important decision one must make before washing a wool blanket is what type of detergent to use. There are detergents specifically designed for use on wool, or choose a gentle detergent free of enzymes, brighteners, and other additives. Another option is to use shampoo because wool is sheep’s hair.
It is very important to wash a wool blanket using a delicate cycle or to hand wash it by soaking and rinsing it. Do not twist or ring out the blanket as it may damage the wool. Always use cold water and hang dry the blanket (not in direct sunlight) since heat causes wool to shrink.
If a blanket is especially itchy, it may benefit from a conditioning treatment. Fill a tub or a washing machine with cool water and add about a cup of normal hair conditioner. Make sure to use a high quality conditioner that is not meant for special hair (such as dyed or permed hair). Allow the blanket to soak for a few hours (or even overnight), rinse well, and allow it to air dry.
Another option to reduce itchiness is to add about 2 cups of white vinegar to the rinse. This not only softens the blanket but also removes odor and strips it of soap or detergent buildup.
After a wool blanket has been washed and dried, brush it using a garment brush. This will help soften the blanket and will remove additional dirt or buildup. If the blanket has any pills, remove them at this time.
It is important to remember that wool is simply sheep’s hair, so treat it gently and lovingly like human hair. After a few proper washes, a wool blanket should soften up and be perfect to snuggle under.