Can You Put Merino Wool Socks In The Dryer?


A lot of people think that you can’t put merino wool in the washer and dryer. High heat can occasionally cause merino wool to shrink, so you need to be careful. So how do you properly dry merino wool without damaging your socks?

Can Wool Socks Go In The Dryer? Most merino wool socks can go in the dryer, but you need to check the care tag. You’re better off air-drying merino wool, but you can usually use a low-medium heat setting to tumble dry wool socks. Remember that high heat can cause merino wool to shrink, so be careful.

You just need to be careful when washing merino wool. Follow the directions on the care label and avoid high heat. In the rest of this article I explain how to dry merino wool socks without shrinking them.

Favorite Merino Wool Socks (These Can Go In The Dryer)

  • Darn Tough Hiking Socks (Most Durable): Darn Tough socks are by far the most durable merino wool socks on the market. These are the only socks that I use at work and on long hiking/backpacking trips.
  • Smartwool Socks (Most Comfortable): Smartwool socks might not be as durable, but they’re way more comfortable than Darn Tough. I’m seriously addicted to these socks, they’re just so comfortable. I have like 20 different pairs that I cycle through.
  • People Socks (All-Purpose): People socks are a budget option that I use for general all-purpose use. They’re comfortable and hold up pretty well, but they can’t hold up to serious abuse.

What’s The Best Way To Dry Merino Wool Socks?

It’s hard to say one way to dry socks is better than the other. I just toss min in the dryer, set the heat on low/medium and let it tumble. Just make sure you check the instructions on the care label so you don’t accidentally damage the socks.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the way most people recommend washing wool. Most wool sock manufacturers recommend air-drying their socks to prevent shrinkage. Socks rarely shrink, so this really isn’t necessary, but it will increase the lifespan of your socks.

There’s less risk of damaging the socks. You don’t have to worry about them snagging in the dryer. Lay them on the counter for a few hours and you’re good to go. Hanging wet wool can distort the shape of your socks.

Just avoid using artificial heaters and putting the socks in direct sunlight. A little bit of heat is a good thing, but too much can cause wool to shrink.

Do Merino Wool Socks Shrink?

Wool socks rarely shrink, but you do need to check the care instructions. It all depends on how they were made. Most manufacturers treat their socks so they won’t shrink in the wash.

They heat them up and shrink them before sending them to the store. So technically merino wool shrinks, but you won’t notice much of a difference. You may notice slight shrinkage if the socks have stretched over time. They’re just returning to their original size.

Follow the advice on the label. If it says hand-wash only, the socks will probably shrink in the washer/dryer. You might be able to get away with running a low heat cycle, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

What causes wool socks to shrink? Moisture, heat, and agitation shrink wool clothing. Heat causes the loose wool fibers to bind together and tighten up. You can loosen them back up is with wool conditioning products like Outback Goold Wool Wash & Conditioner.

It’s easy to figure out if your socks will shrink even without the care label. Think about how the socks feel and how old they are. Old and scratchy wool socks will shrink.

Most modern manufacturers have switched over to “Superwash Wool” which is designed not to shrink. If the wool feels soft and comfortable it’s probably safe to toss in the dryer.

For more info check out my post explaining how to tell if your merino wool socks will shrink.

Don’t Hang Dry Wool Socks!

You should never hang dry wool socks. Hanging up wet wool can distort the shape and stretch out your socks. Outside heat sources will further exacerbate the problem.

You’re probably wondering why hanging wool can cause damage. It’s not that big of a deal at first, but the added water weight pulls down on the fabric. You probably won’t have problems at first, but it will eventually stretch out your socks.

Lay them flat on the top of your washing machine and let them dry. It shouldn’t take longer than 2-3 hrs for wool socks to dry out. You can speed up the drying process by setting up a fan nearby.

Can They Go in The Washing Machine?

Wool socks can usually go in the washing machine. Just turn your socks inside out and toss them in the machine. Set your washing machine on the gentle cycle and wash them in warm or cool water. Avoid using hot water, because it might shrink the wool.

I like to use laundry detergents designed specifically for wool. Woolite is cheap and available everywhere, but Nikwax Wool Wash is much better. It makes the wool feel way more comfortable. It’s hard to describe, but your socks feel soft and cozy.

You can typically use regular old laundry detergent to wash merino wool socks. Don’t use anything that has bleach or fabric softener. Bleach destroys the wool, but fabric softener is even worse.

Fabric softeners coat the wool fibers and traps moisture. It completely ruins the way wool regulates moisture and body heat.

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