How to Shrink Merino Wool

Updated April 17, 2017

Merino wool is soft, lofty and warm without being heavy. Garments made from merino wool, including sweaters and pashminas, keep you warm and cosy on cold days. However, sometimes we end up with garments that are a little too big. Don't pass up the thrift store find or re-gift that sweater if it doesn't fit: You can shrink merino wool a little without felting it by hand washing.

Check the label of the garment or yarn to make sure that the wool is not labelled "washable." This type of wool is treated to prevent shrinking and felting.

Fill a sink or basin with hot tap water, over 65.6 degrees Celsius. Add a small squirt of hand-washing detergent, if the garment needs washing, and swish it around.

Add the merino wool garment to the hot water. Push it under the water to make sure it is completely submerged.

Let the garment soak for a few minutes. Don't agitate it unless you want it to felt.

Remove the garment from the water and squeeze out some of the excess water. Don't wring it, as this may felt the wool.

Dump the hot water, and replace it with cold tap water. Add some ice cubes if your tap water is not very cold.

Submerge the garment in the cold water. The shock of going from hot to cold water shrinks the garment.

Let the garment soak for a few minutes. Do not agitate it, as this may cause the wool to felt.

Remove the garment from the water, and press out some excess water. Lay the garment out on clean towels then roll it up inside the towel. Press out the excess water.

Lay the garment out flat to dry. Shape it in the correct shape, but don't stretch it.


A merino wool garment shrinks more in length than width. If you want the garment to shrink a lot more, put it in a dryer on a high heat setting. This may also felt the garment. Alternatively you can wash the merino wool garment in the washing machine. Use a gentle cycle to reduce the chance of felting, but use a hot wash and a cold rinse.

Things You'll Need

  • Basin or sink
  • Hand-washing detergent
  • Ice cubes, optional
  • Clean towels
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About the Author

Susan Brockett worked in the computer industry as a technical writer for nearly 20 years at companies including Motorola and Dell Computer Systems. In addition, her articles have appeared in Society of Technical Communications publications. Brockett has a master's degree in English composition and communications from Kansas State University.