It’s no secret that merino wool is considered one of the finest fibers on the planet. It’s excellent at regulating temperature, keeping you toasty when it’s cold out and cool when it’s sweltering, and helps you better manage sweat when you’re being active. An added bonus?

You don’t have to wash merino nearly as often as clothes made of other materials. Merino wool is naturally antimicrobial, stain-resistant and odor-resistant, meaning it can handle more hikes, climbs and runs between washes. You will want to clean your merino wool gear eventually, of course. The occasional spiff-up is important to helping you maintain your apparel so it stays in great shape no matter what you throw its way. But if you’ve ever owned wool, you know that it is notoriously finicky and, without the proper care, can shrink or warp beyond repair. So does the same go for merino wool? Will your favorite pair of merino wool socks shrink to doll-size with the first wash?

With Proper Care, Merino Wool Will Not Shrink

As long as you treat it with care, it’s easy to keep merino wool clothing from shrinking in the wash. Contrary to popular belief, you can run your merino wool clothing through the washing machine as long as you follow the care instructions on the label. The main thing, like with most clothing, is to avoid heat and washing with hot water. Always wash your merino wool clothing on cold. You should make sure to keep your merino out of the dryer and always air-dry far away from the iron, fabric softener and bleach. Want more information on keeping your merino wool gear in the game for longer? We’ve got you covered with a thorough guide on how to gently wash merino wool to keep your favorite pieces looking and smelling their best without the risk of shrinkage and other kinds of damage.

What Happens When You Wash Merino Wool on Hot?

Even the most diligent and temperature-conscious laundry-doers sometimes make mistakes. What happens if you mindlessly toss your favorite merino wool sweater into the laundry on high heat with your towels and underwear? High temperatures can cause irreparable damage to your wool pieces, but merino is relatively forgiving. The experts say that this is because wool has an outer layer of scales, which can interlock with one another when exposed to heat, making it very hard to unshrink. However, the thickness of the scales varies widely from one variety of sheep to the next. Merino wool is one of the more resilient wool fibers out there and therefore is more likely to maintain its shape than other kinds of wool. That said, it’s crucial that you always wash on cold and air dry your merino goods so you can keep wearing them for years to come.

What to Do If Your Merino Wool Shrinks

Not all shrinkage scenarios are a lost cause. If your merino wool sweater or tee accidentally shrinks or gets misshapen, there are a few ways you may be able to salvage it. One of the most reliable seems to be the hair conditioner method. It’s pretty simple: You just have to make a solution of hair conditioner and lukewarm water, soak your wool apparel in it for a few minutes, reshape it, and then air dry it. If you’re in doubt, you can always call the customer service line to ask for guidance. 

Go for the Quality Merino

The best way to make sure you’re wearing wool that will last for years, even decades, is to start by buying high-quality merino wool garments from brands you trust. While merino in and of itself signifies a higher quality of wool, there is still plenty of variation from one kind of merino wool to the next. Look for suppliers that offer a low-micron wool (24 microns or less) to ensure that you’re getting a fine product that’ll hold up for many wears and washes.