Does Merino Wool Shrink? 3 Tips To Prevent Shrinkage

When I first started my hiking journey I found a nice pair of merino wool socks that I loved. Like a lot of other people, I wasn’t sure whether I needed to be worried about the wool shrinking or not.

Since this was a brand new pair of hiking socks I wanted to figure out what steps I needed to take to prevent them from shrinking or getting damaged.

Does Merino Wool Shrink?

If Merino Wool is exposed to higher temperatures it can lead to the wool garment shrinking. In order to prevent the wool from shrinking, the merino garment should be machine washed in warm or cool water, followed by either air-drying or a low setting tumble-dry.

Now that we know it’s possible for merino wool to shrink, let’s get into the details and figure out how to keep your merino wool safe and clean.

knitting merino wool

Why Use Merino Wool?

You’ve probably heard stories about the material shrinking which is why you’re reading about this. So why is merino used in so many garments if there’s a risk of shrinking or stretching?

  1. The material is breathable. A lot of the time merino wool is used for items like hiking or climbing socks. The fibers of the wool material really help to get rid of trapped moisture. This is a huge positive if you’re doing some type of physical activity. If you have a pair of wool socks you’ll find that these keep your feet cool and dry for an entire day of using the. Even if you do manage to get them wet somehow, the material dries out pretty quickly.
  2. Antibacterial properties. The properties of the natural lanolin in the sheep’s wool works to repel odors from the material. This means you don’t have to worry as much about any unwanted smell. The lanolin will work to keep away bacteria and mitigate strong lasting odors.
  3. Soft & Lightweight. When it comes to fibers, merino wool fibers are finer than ones from any other sheep. Because of how fine they are it creates a soft feel that’s lightweight and comfortable against the skin.
  4. Durable. The structure of the fibers in merino wool is naturally strong and long-lasting. The interlocking mechanism of the fibers creates elasticity and strength that can withstand most activities.

does merino wool shrink

Will All Merino Wool Shrink?

As long as you follow the recommended washing instructions for your clothes then the merino wool will not shrink. Shrinkage occurs when the wool is put through temperatures that are too high, usually from throwing them in the dryer.

The best way to wash merino wool and avoid damaging and shrinking the garment is to hang them up to dry after washing them. Avoid the dryer completely if you want to be extra safe and keep your clothes in great condition.

Now we know that we need to be careful when drying the fabric but does merino wool shrink when washed?

Most wool is labeled as machine washable and will be fine to go through the washer. If you want to make sure your wool is fine check the instructions on the tag.

For best results, there are some simple steps that you should follow before tossing the clothes in the wash.

  1. Do turn socks and garments inside out
  2. Do machine-wash on gentle cycle(avoid hot water)
  3. Don’t use fabric softener or bleach
Durable and lightweight steel frame for hanging your merino wool garments.

How Much Does Merino Wool Shrink?

Merino wool material can shrink down a size or two from repeated washing and drying at high temperatures.

The fabric will remain the correct size and in good condition, if hand-washed in cold or warm water and then air-dried. It’s important to remove excess water from the wool fibers when you wash merino wool.

The amount that merino wool can shrink depends on how exactly you clean them. Using items like fabric softener or bleach will break down the fibers within the garment and make it more likely that they shrink.

Avoid any high temperatures when drying out the material. Leaving them in the sun or tumble-drying on high will create the perfect storm for the material to shrink to be too small. We want to avoid this at all costs because there’s no point in having clothes that don’t fit, right?

sheep in field

Does Merino Wool Shrink In The Dryer?

High heat will cause merino wool to shrink in the dryer so you should use a low-temperature setting when tumble-drying the garment. Low heat is fine for drying but if you want to avoid using the dryer the best option is to lay the wool clothing flat to dry or to hang it up to dry.

Sometimes we want our merino garments to be warm, but do avoid using the dryer. Make sure to remove any excess water from the garment before hanging it up, otherwise, the water can cause the material to stretch out from the added weight. Direct sunlight should also be avoided while air drying, as it might be strong enough to cause the merino wool to shrink.

Heavy-duty stainless steel drying rack with 42 linear feet of drying space.

Final Thoughts: Does Merino Wool Shrink?

In summary, merino wool will only shrink if the material is put through hot temperatures. Above we covered the proper instructions for washing which include machine washing in cold or warm water followed by air-drying or using a low heat tumble dry.

I’ve found that merino wool socks are my favorite for outdoor activities like camping or hiking because they are comfortable and very lightweight.

So if you just bought some new garments made from merino wool, take basic good care of them and you won’t have any problems with them shrinking over time!


What Is Merino Wool? – Smartwool

The Ultimate Guide To Merinol Wool – UnboundMerino