How to Wash Merino Wool Socks: Frequency & Tips to Make Them Last

How to Wash Merino Wool Socks

You love your merino wool socks and wear them often - especially during the winter season as temperatures cool down and you’re forced to bundle up. And because you love these thick winter socks so much, you want to do everything possible to take care of them so they stand the test of time. 

But as you may already know, washing merino wool socks is a bit different than other types of garments. This fabric is ultra-sensitive to heat and agitation. If you don’t know how to wash merino wool socks properly, you could end up shrinking them or damaging them after just a few wears - that’s the last thing you want.

That’s why today, we’re going to guide you through the proper process of washing merino wool socks. We’ll touch on how often to wash merino wool socks too. Because as you’ll soon find out, you can actually wear these socks multiple times before washing them. 

We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s start with a simple question we see circulating our community: do you need to wash merino wool socks? 

Do You Need to Wash Merino Wool Socks?

We know what you’re thinking…of course you need to wash your merino wool socks! What kind of question is that? 

But hear us out. While yes - you do need to wash your merino wool socks at some point - they have some very unique properties that allow you to wear them multiple times without sacrificing good hygiene.

How is this possible? Simple - merino wool is a fabric that’s capable of absorbing and killing odor-causing bacteria. These fibers work around the clock to prevent the reproduction and spread of these bacteria. All of this means that merino wool garments - including your underwear, pajamas, sweaters, etc - stink less, and thus, can be washed less often.

Now, the question becomes how often to wash merino wool socks - because while your socks naturally fight off odors, you still need to wash them on a routine basis.

How Often to Wash Merino Wool Socks

The question of how often to wash merino wool socks is a tricky one. There isn’t a one size fits all answer. It is affected by your unique habits. 

  • How long are you wearing them on your feet per use? If you put them on to run errands for an hour or two and then promptly take them off when you arrive back home, your recommended frequency for washing merino wool socks will vary from someone who wears their socks at work for 8 hours.
  • What are you doing while wearing them? If you’re lounging around the house watching TV or doing some work, your socks won’t get nearly as dirty or stinky as if you wear your socks while hiking or playing in the snow. And, if you’re layering socks for winter, you obviously don’t need to wash the outer layers as frequently as the inner layers.
  • What’s the climate like? Cooler temperatures inherently mean your feet aren’t getting as sweaty as they would in warmer temperatures. As such, how often to wash merino wool socks varies in summer vs winter.
  • What is your own comfort level for re-wearing clothing? Even after discovering the natural hygienic properties of merino wool, you may still be skeptical about re-wearing the same socks more than once. We totally get it. With that said, some of us have no shame wearing our socks a few times before washing them - especially when you consider how much longer this keeps them intact.

All things considered, the answer to how often to wash merino wool socks should be influenced by your judgment based on the factors we talked about above. 

And with that said, we say that a full 2-3 days of use is a good starting point. We’ve seen people suggest wearing these socks as many as 20 times before washing them! And, you can work to find your own frequency through trial and error.

If you find that your stocks are super stinky after just 1 use, you can wash them every time. On the other hand, if you discover that your stocks still remain somewhat fresh after 3 days, keep pushing the limits! Because as you’ll learn below, washing merino wool socks - even when done as directed - can compromise the quality of your socks.

Why Learning How to Wash Merino Wool Socks Correctly is so Important

Why are we making such a fuss about how often to wash merino wool socks - or how to wash merino wool socks in general? It’s because wool is a very delicate material that you need to take precautionary measures in order to keep it intact. 

Following the same protocol for merino wool socks vs cotton socks could spell disaster for your merino wool garments. While 100% cotton shrinks too, it’s not to the same extent. To understand why that is we need to take a deeper look at the merino wool fibers themselves.

These fibers are unlike any other: you now know they have the ability to fight odors, but they also have thermoregulation properties - meaning they keep your feet warm on cold days, and cool on hot days. Pretty cool, right? 

But, these very same properties contribute to the delicacy of this type of fabric. The wool fibers are tightly woven together - and can lose their strength by coming into contact with heat, agitation, or worse - both at the same time. 

And, as you know, those are the two elements you’ll find in any washing machine and dryer. Even washing merino wool socks on cold subjects your garments to tumbling around and coming into contact with other garments - slowly but surely taking a toll on your socks. When it comes to socks specifically, merino wool is especially delicate. And because you worked hard to find the best toddler wool socks or adult wool socks, it’s only right to take proper care of them!

On top of all this, fewer laundry cycles are simply a good thing for our planet as a whole. You are probably already familiar with the amount of water and energy used to do a load of laundry. If you can stretch your clothing further between washes, you can feel good about doing your part to minimize your footprint on the planet. 

And with that said, let’s get into what you came here for: to learn how to wash merino wool socks properly.

How to Wash Merino Wool Socks to Keep Them Intact for Years to Come: Step-by-Step Guide

washing merino wool socks

There is no worse feeling than taking your garments out of the dryer and preparing to fold them, only to discover you’ve shrunk or damaged them beyond repair. The good news? We’re here to help you avoid this frustrating feeling for good. Follow our advice on how to wash merino wool socks and you’ll keep loving them for years to come. First things first: read the care label!

Read the Care Label

Part of what makes figuring out how to wash merino wool socks properly so difficult is the differences between manufacturers. If you were to compare our merino wool socks to another brand, you may find different recommendations. That’s because specific formulations vary. 

So, default to the recommendations on the specific care label on your garment. If you’re unable to locate one, that’s ok - the advice we provide below is universally accepted!

Handwashing vs Machine Washing

There are two approaches you can take to washing any garment: by hand or by machine. There is an obvious trade-off here. 

While handwashing is undoubtedly more labor-intensive and time-consuming, it is the safest, most gentle approach to cleaning your garments. Using the washing machine puts the process on autopilot so you can focus on other chores or get some much-needed relaxation. But the tumbling of your washing machine can agitate the socks and stretch the tiny merino wool fibers out.

When you’re in a rush, you can wash your socks in the washing machine on the most gentle setting possible with cold water. However, we recommend handwashing when possible. It only takes a few minutes and will keep your socks intact for years and years to come. 

Use Cold Water & a Natural Detergent

There are a few ways you can go about handwashing your merino wool socks. You can fill up a sink or grab a bowl. Either way, you want the water to be cold. Then, turn the socks inside out and completely submerge them in the water to soak. Turning the socks inside out protects the outer layer of the sock, which is more prone to damage during the washing process.

Once the socks are soaked, you can add a dollop of mild, natural detergent to the basin of water and swirl the socks around in it. While rubbing the socks against themselves or with your hand definitely gets a deeper clean, it can also damage the sensitive wool fibers. No need to scrub them - just let the soak work its magic.

Rinse the Socks Under Cold Water

After you’re content with the cleaning job, rinse the socks under cold water to remove any residual detergent. You can then gently press out any excess water before letting the socks dry.

Air Dry the Socks Flat

The drying phase is actually where the most damage can occur to your socks - so pay close attention to the recommendations below.

We recommend letting the socks air dry on a flat surface. This can take a while - especially in colder climates - so be sure to budget the rest of your socks accordingly! Avoid hanging the socks to dry, as the weight of the water will cause the socks to stretch and distort the fibers.

And whatever you do, avoid heat. This can damage the fibers and cause shrinkage. If you are in a time crunch (we know that feeling!), you can tumble dry the socks on low heat.

Final Thoughts on How to Wash Merino Wool Socks

There you have it - how to hand wash merino wool socks to keep them as comfy and cozy as the first time you wore them. Merino wool is undoubtedly the best material for warm winter socks - but it does require a bit more care.

By following the advice above on washing merino wool socks, you can ensure your garments remain intact for years to come - no damage to fibers, no shrinkage. We’ve also discussed how often to wash merino wool socks, so you can stretch your socks as far as possible between wash cycles. 

We hope this article helped you feel more confident in caring for your merino wool socks. If you want to stock up on new and fun styles, explore the selection we have available at Q for Quinn! We also have merino wool socks for toddlers so the entire family can get in on the fun. 

And, we don’t just have the best winter socks for men, women, and children alike. You can explore other types of socks in our catalog - like 100 percent cotton socks, eczema socks, seamless socks, organic cotton underwear for women, and more! Q for Quinn is your one-stop-shop for all things gentle, natural garments for you and your loved ones.

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