How to Soften Wool

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Do you have wool pillows, blankets, or clothing that’s just a tad on the scratchy side? I recently discovered a quick and easy way to soften wool, and it’s apparently McNally approved.

Annoyed with scratchy wool? See how easy it is to soften wool fabrics so you can actually enjoy them!

How to Soften Wool

First a bit of a backstory. I love throw pillows but have really tried to be more intentional with what I bring into our tiny home on wheels. It’s about better, not more, right?

A few months ago I purchased a couple Southwestern Kilim throw pillows I had been eyeing for a while after they went on sale. By the way, I’ve since realized that the pricing on these pillows can vary greatly depending on who is distributing them and if they are on sale.

I knew the front was 100% wool but didn’t realize just how scratchy they would be. As soon as I got them I was like, hmmmmm these are not gonna work.

I loved the pattern and texture but they were sooooooo uncomfortable!

Surya Southwestern Kilim Pillow

I immediately went online and filled out a return form and placed the pillows back in the box before our cats could cover them in fur.

A couple days later I hadn’t made it to the post office yet and took the pillows back out, ya know, just for fun.

Bad idea.

I really loved how they looked and started to think maybe they could work… Laying on a scratchy rug isn’t so bad, is it? Okay, maybe it is.

Back in the box they went.

At this point, I was wondering how anyone could keep these pillows. Are they just for looks? Do they soften over time? Is there a secret weapon I don’t know about?

I did a quick Google search to see if there was an easy way to soften wool and came across this forum. People mentioned using various products to soften wool sweaters and this really piqued my interest.

What you can use to Soften Wool

Some people have suggested washing or soaking wool in one of the following products:

*if you’re unsure how a product will affect your material, it’s best to use caution and test on a small area first or soak for a small amount of time. 

Always up for a challenge, I headed to our local craft/yarn shop to see if I could find one of the products mentioned. I had read different viewpoints on soaking wool in conditioner and ultimately decided to try something I could easily use in our kitchen sink and wouldn’t have to rinse afterwards.

The shop had Soak in stock, and while it wasn’t cheap (I think the bottle was $16) it’s eco-friendly and a little goes a long way. Plus I was excited to have something I could use on other delicate clothing and blankets in the future.

Annoyed with scratchy wool? See how easy it is to soften wool fabrics so you can actually enjoy them!

I knew that if I attempted to wash one of these pillow covers I wouldn’t be able to return it, but that was a gamble I was willing to take. I’ll admit that part of this experiment was so I could share the results with you, but part of it was an excuse for me to keep the pillows, ha! What can I say, I was hopeful it would work.

Of course, you should follow the directions of whatever product you use, but I basically filled our kitchen sink about halfway, tossed in a couple capfuls and let it sit for about an hour. I think it says to let it sit for 15-30 minutes but our tanks got full and we were in the middle of something and then had to dump the tanks before I could empty the sink. (Gotta love RV life!)

Annoyed with scratchy wool? See how easy it is to soften wool fabrics so you can actually enjoy them!

Rather than add more water to our sink I just flipped the pillow cover over so the wool would be covered.

It says on the bottle you don’t have to rinse your fabrics, but I did a really quick rinse just to make sure there weren’t any suds on the material before I laid it out flat to dry.

Here’s a photo of the pillow back on the sofa after it was dry.

Annoyed with scratchy wool? See how easy it is to soften wool fabrics so you can actually enjoy them!

The results:

I can honestly say that using Soak absolutely softened our pillows, yay! Before, I could barely lean up against them if I was wearing a tank top. Now it’s not such a big deal. I call that a win!

With that said, they are still a little scratchy and certainly nothing I would snuggle up with. I guess that’s what McNally is for.

I’m still happy I kept the pillows and plan to try some of the other methods in the future. I’m pretty sure they’ll continue to soften up over time as they get washed, although I know most people don’t recommend overwashing wool since it can dull. Only time will tell!

In the end, I’d recommend using one of these methods if you already have wool and are looking for some solutions before tossing it out or donating it. Online shopping can be amazing in the sense that it’s easily accessible and you can comparison shop, but the downside is you can’t feel the products you’re purchasing. I recommend checking product descriptions, reading reviews or shopping locally to ensure you love the products you buy. Not all wool is created equal and some are much softer than others. These 18×18 pillows sell between $40-100  (not on sale) so I’d say price doesn’t always dictate softness.

Have you softened wool before?

Have you had any success (or fails) softening wool? Let us know what you’ve tried and what has worked in the comments below!

additional resources

How to Soften Wool | Tricksy

How to Soften Wool with Conditioner | Put this on

How to Soften Wool | Reddit Forum

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Annoyed with scratchy wool? See how easy it is to soften wool fabrics so you can actually enjoy them!
Annoyed with scratchy wool? See how easy it is to soften wool fabrics so you can actually enjoy them!
How to Soften Wool


  • Connie Collier

    I use Eucalan all the time for washing wool clothing and blankets. I don’t rinse the to avoid the water temperature changes and overhandling that can lead to shrinkage and matting.

    July 5, 2018
    • I’ll definitely have to give that a try next time, thanks!

      July 13, 2018
  • I can definitely see why you wanted to keep the pillows!

    July 8, 2018

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