How to take care of Merino Wool

mike wearing icebreaker merino wool shirt

Merino wool is the most common base layer used today.  Merino wool took the place of synthetic as number one base layer for good reason – they resist odour and are soft and supple on the skin. For more benefits, read our article on choosing base layers.

Merino wool needs gentle care. They are designed to be easy to care for, so take note of what you need to keep your base layers clean and performing at their best.

Tips on how to take care of your Merino Wool

1. Wash After 3 Uses When New

When new, you should wash your merino wool base layer after about the first 2-3 uses.  You should wash the item separately. This will ensure that the short fibres of the wool don’t come to the surface – this is what creates piling.

2. Use Regular Detergent

Use a regular detergent or powder, there is no need for a wool specific washing detergent. Use a warm or cool water setting, never hot.  Hot water will shrink the fabric.  Don’t use fabric softener – your merino wool layer is already soft – or bleach, and separate light and dark colours as per usual.

washing merino wool layers

3. Keep Away from Heat

Keep your merino wool away from heat. Do not wash with hot water, and never tumble dry.  For best results, line dry or dry flat in the shade.  Don’t dry it in the sun as this will cause the fabric to shrink. The only merino wool item that can be tumble dried are socks – and do so on a low setting.

4. Machine Wash is Best

One of the main advantages of merino wool is that they don’t retain odour.  Merino fabrics have the characteristic of drawing moisture away from your body and either absorbing it or releasing it, keeping you from feeling clammy and keeping the fabric odour-free.

This is why it is strongly recommended that you wash your merino in the washing machine on a normal cycle, with regular detergent, and refrain from hand washing.  Hand washing doesn’t do a good enough job at cleaning which can cause residual perspiration to build up and contribute to an odour problem.

5.  How to Prevent Piling

Piling is probably the greatest enemy facing merino wool. It’s caused by the shorter fibres of the garment creeping up to the surface.  The best way to prevent it, is to wash your merino within the first 2-3 wears.   Also, wash your garment with coarser fibres – like denim. Throw your merino wool layer into the washing machine with your jeans, making sure all the zippers on your jeans are closed.

Where to Buy

Want to know more about how to choose a base layer and how to layer it? What is the best base layer? Read our posts and find yourself the perfect base layer, like the Icebreaker, which you sale you can find it on sale at several on-line stores, and on the Icebreaker website. If you live in Canada, Live Out There is also having an Icebreaker sale.

Coupons or sales expired? For the latest sales check on our outdoor gear price checker.

merino wool layers

Wearing our merino wool layers on cool summer hike.



Alicja is an economist, enjoys climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, cycling and gets out into the backcountry as much as possible. See all of Alicja's Blog Posts
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