Compression socks made from Merino wool are a perfect match for active lifestyles or for those looking to simply keep feet warm and dry in any environment. The natural fibers in this specific type of wool are soft and malleable, which makes any Merino wool garment really comfortable against the skin. But, how can you keep those socks feeling as lovely as when you first got them?
To wash Merino wool socks and care for them properly, you need to be mindful that this is a sensitive fabric. They need to go into a gentle machine wash cycle or be washed by hand, avoiding hot water that can shrink them or strong detergents, bleach or fabric softener.
Read on to get all the details about caring for your Merino wool compression socks.
How to Wash Merino Socks by Hand or With a Machine
In most cases, you can put Merino wool socks in the washing machine on a gentle cycle, preferably in cold water. You can also wash them by hand in lukewarm water if you are traveling and want to get your socks ready for the next day (they will dry quickly!). Here’s how:
- Fill a large pot with cool water;
- Add white vinegar (no more than one cup) and mix it in;
- Put your socks in and let them soak for 30 minutes;
- Rinse, squeeze out the water and hang to dry.
Alternatively, a gentle liquid detergent or regular soap also works well. Use a pot of cool water and wash your socks directly if they’re only lightly worn. You can also soak them for 20-30 minutes, then rinse and squeeze dry, before hanging out.
For best results, when machine washing Merino socks, always double check the instructions on the label. This is especially important if there is a blend of fabrics involved.
You should avoid using bleach or strong detergents for your compression socks in general. And there is no need to add softener, either. Merino wool is naturally soft and flexible, so your socks will feel as comfortable as on day 1 if you have washed them and cared for them properly.
Another way to clean Merino socks in the washing machine is to skip the detergent and use white vinegar instead. Simply add one cup of white vinegar in the detergent drawer and wash your socks in cold water on a regular cycle for 2-3 minutes. Rinse with cold water and hang to dry.
To protect your socks when you wash them with other garments, we also recommend placing them in a mesh bag to separate them from clothing that could have zippers and other elements that can get tangled and damage your socks.
How to Dry Merino Wool Socks
Merino wool fibers are flexible and allow water to pass through them efficiently. This means that they don’t retain moisture. It’s why they keep your feet dry in both hot and cold conditions. It also means that they dry quickly after a wash.
Compared to regular wool, Merino wool compression socks take very little time to dry once hung up on a washing line. We recommend air drying them if you’re not in a hurry, but they can also go in the tumble dryer on a gentle cycle. Check instructions on the label to make sure you’re doing the right thing for your socks.
Do Merino Wool Compression Socks Require Different Care?
Unlike cotton, which is hardier and can withstand higher temperatures in the washing machine, Merino wool is made up of thin, supple fibers that don’t need to be washed in hot water to be cleaned. Also, since Merino wool is antibacterial (among many other benefits), it doesn’t pick up and retain as much dirt or bacteria as other materials. So, there is definitely no need for that extra hot wash.
Compared to wool, which should always be hand washed and air dried, Merino wool is a little simpler to care for. You can wash your Merino socks by hand in cold or lukewarm water, then hang them to dry. Or you can add them to a gentle machine wash without any bleach or softener (check our advice above!).
We generally recommend that all compression socks should be washed by hand and air dried, simply because this interferes the least with the material and their elasticity. To help your socks last longer, it’s a good idea to always wash them after every use, too.
How Often to Wash Merino Wool Socks
To keep your favorite socks in top shape, it makes sense to wash them after every use. However, Merino wool has the added benefit of being antibacterial and keeping odors at bay, so you won’t absolutely need to wash them every single time.
For example, if you’re traveling or hiking and have just worn your socks all day long, you might be able to wear them again the next day, too. Just make sure you leave them to air out a bit in the evening. However, after two or three wears, it’s definitely time for a wash.
The best way to keep your socks fresh and to maintain the elasticity of compression socks, in particular, is to remove dirt and bacteria after wearing them. This will keep the fabric in the best shape. Luckily, with Merino wool, you could delay a little. However, if you’re at home and you have no reason not to wash your socks right away, it’s still best practice to clean them.
Can Merino Wool Socks Be Dry Cleaned?
Most wool garments can be dry cleaned, although you should check the label for instructions first. However, dry cleaning can reduce the lifespan of your clothing, and it’s probably one step too far when it comes to socks.
Firstly, Merino wool dries quickly and bounces back to the original shape much easier than other fabrics. This is why Merino socks are easy and convenient to clean at home.
Secondly, there is not much need to dry clean socks, especially those made of Merino wool, since you can wash them really easily (as per the steps above). They dry quickly, too, so it’s less hassle to care for them at home than to drive to a dry cleaner’s for them!
How to Prevent Shrinking
The wrong washing machine settings (too hot, too aggressive of a spin cycle) can lead to shrinking your socks and losing the original compression levels, too. This can also happen if you dry clean Merino wool socks.
However, hand washing or washing in the machine on a gentle cycle with cold water will keep your socks in their original size and shape. We always recommend hanging your socks out to dry. Merino wool will dry quicker than other fabrics, and even quicker if you softly pat the socks against a dry towel once you’ve rinsed and squeezed the water out.
One final tip is not to roll socks together when you place them in your drawers. Rolling them up stretches the material a little more than it needs to be, which can lead to losing elasticity sooner. Instead, fold them and store them flat.
How to Prevent Pilling
Pilling is a nuisance reserved to wool garments. Also known as bobbling, it occurs when small fuzzy balls form out of the natural fiber of the clothing, leading to them looking worn. It’s caused by rubbing as you wear your socks or other items, or during the cleaning and washing process.
To prevent pilling, you should first turn your socks inside out before washing them. This leads to the inside of the socks rubbing against other garments in the wash, so hopefully no unsightly bubbles will appear on the surface. You should also avoid using fabric softener (but that goes without saying for Merino wool socks).
Generally, Merino wool socks will get some pilling because they rub against the inside of your shoes. This is more likely when you’re active and run or hike in your compression socks. However, you can remove pills gently with a comb, by hand, or with a fabric shaver (although we recommend being extra careful with an electric device like the latter, as it can catch the seams and cause damage to your more delicate clothing).
Can You Unshrink Merino Wool Socks?
Let’s say you’ve followed all this advice many times when caring for your Merino wool compression socks, but somehow failed to do it once and disaster struck. If you’ve shrunk your socks, there is still hope!
Merino wool is very flexible, so you can restore socks to their original shape. The process is called knit blocking. You will need some detergent, hair conditioner (or baby shampoo) and a thick bath towel. Here’s how to do it:
- Fill a pot with lukewarm water, enough to cover your socks;
- Add a good amount of conditioner or baby shampoo, along with a small amount of detergent (for cleaning - you don’t need it if the socks are clean);
- Mix everything well, then add your socks in;
- Knead the fabric, working the conditioner into the wool fibers;
- Let them sock for up to 30 minutes;
- Drain the socks, then gently press them down into the empty pot (don’t squeeze or wring them);
- Lay your socks onto the bath towel, then fold the towel over them creating a cover;
- Press down onto the towel and socks, squeezing water out of the socks until the towel has absorbed it;
- If your socks are still retaining water, repeat this process with a second towel;
- Once almost no water is left in the socks, lay them on a flat surface and pull them gently, to recreate the original shape and size. Do this a few times before they dry completely;
- To finish off, wash the socks in cold water by hand and let them air dry. This will remove the conditioner or baby shampoo.
Merino wool compression socks are comfortable, thermoregulating and versatile in all weather conditions and for most activities. Wash them and care for them carefully to keep them fresher for longer.