Revive Your Wool Coat With Tips to Clean It & Keep It Fresh

Tired of dealing with dry cleaners? Learn how to clean wool coats at home, keep them smelling fresh, and keep the pilling at bay.

Published January 5, 2024
Cleaning coat on hanger with lint roller

There’s nothing that makes us summer people more excited for the dreaded winter season than getting to break out all the warm coats in our closets. But if you’re guilty of tossing dirty coats into storage like we are, you better roll up your sleeves. It’s time to learn how to clean wool coats at home and why it’s such a delicate process.

How to Clean a Wool Coat Without Ruining It

Don’t ruin your winter vacation photos with a stained and shrunken wool coat. Instead, get the lowdown on how you’re supposed to wash a wool coat and why machine washing shouldn’t be your first option.

Always Check the Tags First

A good rule of thumb when washing any new clothing item is to look at the tags. They usually have care instructions written out, such as if it can be tumbled dry, machine washed, and so on.

Laundry symbols close up

Dry Clean Wool Coats Whenever Possible

When it comes to wool coats, most manufacturers recommend that you get them dry-cleaned. If you’ve thrifted something and the tag is missing, err on the side of caution and head to the dry cleaners. You don’t want to accidentally discolor, shrink, or damage a perfectly good wool coat because you took a chance.

Hand Washing Is the Best At-Home Option

It only takes one bad dry-cleaning experience to ruin the entire concept for most people. If you’ve got some dry-cleaning baggage or are on a tight budget, you can hand wash your wool coats at home. cleaning a thrifted vintage wool coat #thrifted #thrifttok #vintage #woolcoat #vintagewoolcoat #recycle #sustainable #reuse #charityshop original sound - Amy


  1. Fill a tub or large container with cool to tepid water.
  2. While the water’s running, add wool-safe detergent.
  3. Soak the wool coat for 15-30 minutes, making sure the entire thing is submerged.
  4. Rinse until the water runs clear.
  5. Lay flat to dry.
Need to Know

Before filling the tub, make sure you’ve got a wool-specific detergent, like The Laundress’s Wool & Cashmere Shampoo, on hand. Your regular liquid detergent might be too harsh to use on wool. 

You Can Machine Wash Wool Coats (but It's Precarious)

Technically, you can machine wash wool coats. However, it’s not well suited for every type of coat or washing machine. Tailored coats with layers of lining might not take well to being tossed around, and front loaders aren’t suited to clean them.

That being said, if you want to tempt fate and wash your wool coat in a top-loading washing machine, you don’t have to deviate too much from your regular wash cycle.

If you’ve got a wool setting on your machine, select that. But if not, delicate is the way to go. Make sure you’re running it on cool and using a wool-safe liquid detergent. Give your wool coats a better chance of making it out unscathed by securing them inside a mesh laundry bag. This will keep linings and trims from snagging or detaching during the cycle.

Once the cycle is over, lay the coat flat to dry.

Never Dry Wool Coats in the Dryer

A big no-no when you’re washing wool is tossing it in the dryer. The dryer’s heat can cause it to shrink, and the friction can increase any pilling. With wool, you want to dry things the old-school way. If you’re worried about structure, lay your coat flat to dry. Depending on how thick the wool is, this can take a little while, so don’t drape it over any high-traffic areas.

You can also lay the wool coat to dry until it’s damp and then transfer it to a soft hanger. Padded hangers won’t stretch the wet wool as much as metal or wood will.

Say Goodbye to Stinky Wool Coats

As an outer garment, coats take a serious beating. They can soak up all sorts of pungent smells from our environment and storage. Keep your coats from singeing your nose hairs with one of these re-freshening methods.

  • Use a steamer to refresh. Sometimes, all you need is a little steam to take away that damp storage smell.
  • Spray vodka on it. It sounds unhinged, but vodka can deodorize. Just make sure to patch test on an interior seam to check for any adverse reactions.
  • Pour baking soda on the coat. Baking soda is the bad smell cure-all, and it can work for your wool coats, too. We suggest trying this in tandem with cleaning your coat so you can make sure all the little baking soda particles get washed out.
  • Hang it in the sun for a few hours. The sun’s UV rays do more than give you a sunburn; they can also kill odors. Although a few hours in the sun shouldn’t fade your coat’s color, it’s best not to make this your weekly deodorizing method.

Must Haves to Keep Pilling Down

No matter how careful you are, natural fibers are going to pill. Win the war against pilling with these useful tools.

Woman cleaning coat fabric with a small brush
  • Fabric shaver: Professionals use fabric shavers to remove pills straight from the source. If you’re not used to using one, test it out on something less delicate than your coat first.
  • Lint roller: After every time you wear the coat, break out a lint roller. Removing those loose fibers means there’s nothing there for friction to turn into a pill.
  • Lice comb: This is definitely the wackiest tool some people use to brush out the pilled fibers on their wool coats. But, if you’ve just noticed pilling in some areas, you can nip it in the bud with a really fine tooth comb.
  • Double-edge razor blade: If you’ve got hands as steady as a surgeon's, then you can take a double-edge razor blade straight to the pills.

Give Your Winter Wardrobe Some TLC

People have been washing wool for centuries, and if your ancestors mastered the art, then you can, too. If dry cleaning isn’t in the cards for you, then there are other ways you can safely clean wool coats at home. Whether it’s hand or machine washing, you can transform even the dingiest wool coats into wonderous winter staples in just a few hours.

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Revive Your Wool Coat With Tips to Clean It & Keep It Fresh