How to Wash Wool Socks: 5 Easy Steps to Clean Socks

Do Merino wool socks need any special care? If you want to boost the life of your wool socks, you'll need to wash them correctly. Here's how to wash wool socks for the deepest clean while still keeping your socks in tact.
How to Wash Wool Socks: 5 Easy Steps to Clean Socks

How to wash Merino wool socks

  1. Turn your wool socks inside out
  2. Wash on a cold or warm setting---don’t wash on hot
  3. Optional: use Woolite or a wool-specific detergent if you have enough wool to make a full laundry load. If you don’t, just use a neutral PH or mild detergent (nothing fancy---just whatever you can get in stores)
  4. Tumble dry on low heat or hang dry
  5. Fold your socks to store


One Christmas, my mother-in-law got me a really nice Merino wool sweater. I threw it in the wash so I could wear it to dinner the next day, and when I brought it out of the dryer, the sweater was literally half the size it was supposed to be. 

I immediately ruined it (which, to be honest, it ugly and I’m glad I never had to wear it). 

From then on, I’ve been careful with every wool piece I wash. And that includes my Merino wool socks. 

The good news is, washing wool socks isn’t hard, and you don’t need to take a ton of extra steps to make sure they don’t shrink or get ruined. 

If you wash your wool socks correctly, they can last a lot longer than you’d think---that’s why we back our Camel City Mill work socks with a 10-year guarantee. 

Let’s get sudsy.

What You’ll Need to Wash Your Wool Socks

Washing your wool socks shouldn’t be an all-day thing. And you don’t even need to separate out your wool socks from the rest of your laundry.

I throw all my Camel City Mill socks in with my jeans, shirts, etc. What can I say? I’m lazy like that. 

But there are a few precautions I take with Merino wool socks that also help boost the longevity of all my clothes. 

To wash your Merino wool socks, you’ll need:

  • A mild detergent (I use Arm & Hammer Natural, but most non-scented are fine)
  • Washer and dryer

If you really want your socks to last a long time, you can skip the dryer. Merino wool is naturally odor resistant and fairly water-repellent. Even when wool gets soaked, the water evaporates from it quick, especially when compared to cotton socks. 

So you can hang-dry your wool socks too if you’d like to save on energy. But the dryer is also fine if you’re in a rush. 

5 Simple Steps to Clean Wool Socks

Camel City Mill Lightweight sock in grey

Step 1: Fold Your Socks Inside-Out

If you’re like me, you do this naturally. After a long day of work, I peel my socks off my feet and throw them in the hamper already inside-out. 

My wife hates it. But I tell her it’s all the name of durability, baby. You can imagine the kind of eye-rolls I get. 

If you’re not a heathen like me, then before you throw your Merino wool socks in the washer, flip them inside-out. This will help keep the external fibers of the sock from fraying and rubbing against other clothes in the wash. 

Interestingly, the inside of a wool sock is a lot like a piece of leather. You may have noticed in your boots that there’s a smooth side to the leather and a rough side. The rough side of the leather is the most durable. 

Because the way socks are knit, the more durable portion is on the interior of the sock. 

And when there’s minor fraying after lots of wear, it’ll mostly be on the inside where you don’t notice (trust me, since starting a sock company, I’ve spent so much more time thinking about socks than I ever expected to).

Step 2: Throw Your Socks in the Washing Machine with Mild Detergent

No need to go straight-Amish and bust out the tin wash basin. Sure, if you want to re-enact what the early settlers did to show the kids how easy they have it, go for it. 

But for me, I’m all about the washing machine. 

I use mild detergent for all my clothes. I think I have Arm & Hammer Naturals. I’m not 100% on that, but I usually just pick up whatever scent-free detergent is at Costco. 

I say all of that to get this point across: you don’t have to wash your wool socks with anything special. You can use whatever you normally do. 

That said, if you regularly build up a load of wool clothes every week (or however often you wash your clothes), you can get a wool-specific detergent like Woolite or Nikwax. 

Step 3: Wash Your Socks with Cold or Warm Water

Hot water can shrink your socks and shorten their longevity. Plus, most wool socks are something other than white. And weren’t you taught to always wash your colors in cold water? 

Don’t worry, I forget all the time, too. 

Cold is the best setting for wool socks specifically, but I always pick the water temperature based on whatever my favorite item going into the washer is. 

So if I have some particularly dirty jeans going in (along with my wool socks), I’ll set the temperature to “warm” to make sure I get all the grime out. 

But if it’s just a bunch of shirts and my clothes are only “office work” level dirty, then I just stick with cold water. 

Step 4: Tumble Dry on Low or Hang Dry

The drying process is the most important part of the entire washing process, though anyone smelling your dirty socks might beg to differ. 

I’ve noticed that Camel City Mill Merino wool socks don’t shrink much if dried on a high heat setting. But there is some shrinkage involved (same thing I said like 5,000 times during the high school beach trip). 

Merino wool socks are resilient---especially Camel City Mill socks---but most brands won’t shrink so much if dried on high that they become a completely unwearable size. They just might fit a little too snug. 

I tumble dry on a low heat setting. To me, this is helpful for all my clothes, and I stick to the high setting only when I’m washing bedding or towels. 

You can also hang dry your wool socks if you prefer. If you live in a more humid climate, your socks won’t get that nasty mildew smell that cotton does. 

Wool is highly evaporative---way better than cotton, nylon, and polyester. This means two things: your feet won’t get sweaty wearing wool socks, and when your socks do get wet, they dry faster than other fabrics. 

You’d be surprised at how quickly wool socks dry on the line, even in more humid climates. Heck, I tested this at Camel City Mill headquarters in North Carolina where our socks are made in the middle of the August humidity and they were dry within the hour. 

Step 5: Fold and Store

When your socks are dry, I recommend folding them in half rather than rolling them up. Definitely avoid bunching them together by flipping over the elastic---that’ll wear out the elastic quickly. 

Folding is my preferred method of storing my socks and while it takes up a little more room, I’ve found that I need fewer socks overall to meet my weekly needs. That’s the benefit of investing in a great wool sock like the Camel City Mill Lightweight. 

3 Other Tricks to Boost the Lifetime of Your Wool Socks

1. Don’t Wash them Every Wear

Wool is odor-resistant, and because it’s the most evaporative fiber, you won’t be sweating in your boots. In other words, your stink factor should reduce significantly when you switch to Merino wool socks. 

I wash my wool socks every two or three wears. And yes, I mean that even on the days where I’ve got my work boots on for 10 hours at a time. 

2. Clip Your Toenails Regularly

Ok, this is more of a “note-to-self” than anything. I busted through a lot of socks in my day because I didn’t clip my big toenail often enough. When my toe rubbed against my boot, I’d get a big hole in the front of my sock like I was some character in a Charles Dickens novel. 

Honestly, that’s why I started Camel City Mill. I was tired of getting a big stupid hole in my socks. 

So I developed a sock that just doesn’t get holes in it. Even for guys who put in 12 hours on the jobsite. 

And I’m so confident in Camel City Mill work socks, I put a 10-year guarantee on them. So even if they do somehow get a hole in them, you can send the socks back and we’ll replace them.

3. Get the Correct Size for Your Boots

You’d be surprised at the number of guys who walk around with boots that fit either too tight or too loose. 

I’d see it all the time at the job site. 

If your socks are wearing out quickly, chances are your boots are too loose. Excessive wear around the ankle is usually a sign that your foot is moving around in your boots a bit too much. 

Usually if a boot is too small, you’ll notice it before your sock wears out. If your feet ever get tingly, you’re wearing the wrong size. 

Get Washing

Washing your wool socks is easy. I don’t do anything special. 

I just make sure I:

  1. Turn my socks inside out
  2. Wash with a mild detergent with cold or warm water
  3. Tumble dry on low or hang dry
  4. Fold my socks to store

And that’s it. I don’t do a special load just for my wool socks---I usually throw them all in with the rest of my color clothes. 

Get the best Merino wool work sock available. I was so tired of getting holes in the toe of my socks and blisters on my heels because of sweaty feet and bad socks, I started a sock company that only focuses on work socks. 

Camel City Mill has two socks: the Lightweight and the Heavyweight. 

I use the Lightweight for everyday use---they’re breathable, comfortable, and they offer padding at the heel and toe, plus compression around the arch and calf for faster recovery after a long day on your feet. 

The Heavyweight is my go-to in the winter or if I’m wearing a pair of steel toe boots. It has a ton of padding through the toe, arch, and heel, so it can handle some rugged boots through those long shifts. 

Both are backed with the Camel City Mill 10-year Guarantee, so if they get a hole in them, you can just send ‘em back. 


Can you wash wool socks in the washing machine? 

Yes, you can wash wool socks in the washing machine. Use cold or warm water, a mild detergent, and tumble dry on low when your socks are clean. 

Do wool socks shrink in the wash? 

If you wash your wool socks on cold, they won’t shrink in a washer. Also, tumble dry on low or air dry your wool socks to make sure they don’t shrink at all. High heat drying will shrink your wool socks. 

Why turn wool socks inside out to wash? 

There’s a lot of agitation and friction in a washing machine, so by turning your wool socks inside out, you’re making sure that the outside doesn’t pill and the external fibers don’t fray as much. This helps boost the lifetime of your socks.