How to clean a wool blanket without dry cleaning (2023)

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How to clean a wool blanket without dry cleaning (1)

Practically Greenstates that "most common chemical used, perchloroethylene aka perc, is dangerous. The EPA says perc causes cancer in lab animals, and is a likely human carcinogen that impacts brain, liver, and kidney function. It’s no good for the environment, either. Yet 85 percent of U.S. dry cleaners use perc (there are an estimated 35,000 of them)." And according to Washington Post,Perc remains in dry cleaned clothes! Yikes!

So why not use "Green Dry Cleaners" then? While they might be less toxic, the chemicals they use is still derived from petrochemicals and are still not that safe.

Do you know what's the safest method then? And cheaper? "Wet" cleaning. Really. In fact, I've been hand washing "Dry Clean" only linens and silks and line drying them for years.

But I admit; I used to send heavy Pendleton wool blankets to be dry cleaned because I was afraid that they will shrink if I washed them in water. Well, it turns out, I was wrong.

I washed my Pendleton wool blankets in cold water a month of ago and they came out perfect!

I used my non-toxic detergent mixtureto wash and rinse the blanket in "COLD" water and GENTLE CYCLE. Then, I used extra rinse to make sure all the soap was rinsed out. Then, I tumble dried it under "Air Dry" setting for about 20 minutes. "Air Dry" setting has no heat but it just tumbles the blanket to give them a good shake to get all the wrinkles out. I took out the blanket, and draped it over two dining room chairs, like a tent. I let it dry over night in the living room. I don't know if line drying it outside would be a good idea since I don't know what the direct sunlight would do.

Anyway, washing it and drying it this way made the blanket come out as if it was "dry" cleaned! No wrinkles. No shrinkage. AND best part? NO CHEMICALS!! And for once, they felt cleaned! Just make sure you don't do this TOO often as wool might get 'felted' and shrink if you wash it too often. I'd wash it once every two years for normal usage.

Have you washed "Dry Clean Only" items before? What have you washed and how did they come out?

*I take no responsibility inhow your wool blanket would come out since every wool is different. Yes, this is a disclaimer. 🙂

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How to clean a wool blanket without dry cleaning (6)

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Reader Interactions


  1. Red says

    Hi Karen,

    Late to the party!

    I have to recommend the lanolin enriched Eucalan Wool Wash for those vintage wool blankets.
    Antique Pendleton and Hudson's Bay blankets need to be re-lanolized after time to preserve the wool and it's amazing properties.

    It will help the wool last much longer and avoid becoming brittle.
    I would not send my blankets to the dry cleaners with what I know now.


  2. John Wilson says

    I don't have money for dry cleaning! I inherited several wool blankets, ranging in quality. I washed all of them with Woolite, using cold water and the gentle cycle in my washer. I, too, hung them over several lines. The solid colors came out fine. The yellow stripe of the Hudson Bay blanket looked a little blotchy but that was the only difference that I noticed. If I had a blanket with sharp, multi-patterns that I cared about, I would dry clean that.

    In general, I wash any blanket coming in that smells "off." Otherwise, I wash blankets about once every 2 - 3 years, unless there are stains or other reason to wash them sooner. A "rubber" pet brush does a great job of removing cat fur. I brush out the blanket in the spring before I put it away until fall. Sometimes, I air it outside on the clothes lines and brush it out there. Again, it depends on how bad it is.

    I have three Pendleton blankets that are over 70 years old. I don't believe they have ever been dry cleaned. They are sold colors and look just fine.

  3. nicole dunnam says

    my husband received a pendalton blanket as an award from the Eastern Shawnee. it was a huge honor and i would hate to ruin it. it needs cleaned and has gotten dog hair on it from where he lays in our laps when we are covered up Any suggestions? i do have a large front loading washer with many different settings and dye free detergent. How do i wash it and get the hair removed? Thank you for your help

    • Dr. Karen says

      What an honor to receive a Pendleton blanket! Dog hair can be gently vacuumed, using a hand-held vacuum cleaner and lint brush for corners and edges. And you can follow the directions in this post to wash it. My blanket shown in this picture and my method is also Pendleton and it worked for me. Good Luck!

  4. jasonshwartz1224 says

    Wool definitely is something that can take a while to dry as well as can shrink over time. Something that really is interesting is the idea of having a blanket shrink after so long. That definitely can take the comfort out the blanket entirely. Thank you for sharing this information.

  5. john32595 says

    our pendleton blanket got some water stains on it when the roof leaked. i was wondering what to treat the wstains with and how to clean it with out dry cleaning it. we hate to put all of those nasty chemicals in it.

  6. DrOliviaFranksND says

    i've washed two of our pendleton blankets in front loaders on cold but they did blur the pattern a little and some mild shrinking it looks like. They are 'car blankets' that we got as seconds so we weren't too worried about it. But I am a little sad as I do love them so much. So my son's blnaket I have been scared to launder and was going to do the green dry cleaning but that doesn't seem like a great choice either. I might try washing it is the bathtub with cold water - it's only twin size luckily. But i think the pattern is discontinued so precious one.

  7. Resteze says

    Great post on how to clean Pendleton wool blankets . It's best to get advise from someone who has tried various procedures and discovered what works best for a particular product. Not all wool products will react the same to a specific cleaning procedure.

  8. Diana says

    We have wool emergency blankets for all of the cars. We wash them in cold in the machine and line dry. Works just fine, though we stretch it out over a couple of lines rather than just throw over one.

  9. Jackie Jamison says

    I've always handwashed wool rather than dry cleaned it, but now you've given me the courage to try the gentle cycle. Thanks!

    • ecokaren says

      Hi Jackie,

      Gentle cycle or Silk setting works. Some machines actually have a "wool" setting.

      Good Luck!

  10. deniseinark says

    One more disclaimer: check out some blogs from wool felters. Part of the felting process is that the agitation in combination of the lubrication from detergent causes the wool fibers to mat together- as they shrink the fabric becomes more compact and heavy. Be careful of this process and don't do it too often because even *just* agitation can cause your wool items to change texture, even if there is no heat to cause the fibers to shrink up.

    • ecokaren says

      When I felted my wool sweater, I had to use HOT HOT water and wash repeatedly before they got felted.....a reason why I thought felting was a total waste of energy and not that eco-friendly, but that's another post...

      But you are right; agitating the blanket too much of too often will make them felt and shrink. Maybe I should add that you have to use the gentle cycle. Thanks!!

  11. Jen Haralson - bugbaby says

    This is a great post! I've been scared to wash things like wool blankets for fear of felting, but now I'm going to try it. Maybe with your detergent recipe!

    • ecokaren says

      I think my Pendleton blankets were already tightly woven so they might get felted too much. I know that when I felted my wool sweater, I had to wash them in HOT HOT water and many times before they got felted and shrunk.

      But I washed this blanket in gentle with COLD water ONCE.

      Good Luck!

  12. Laurie says

    Thanks so much Karen! I've been looking for this info because in Canada we wear a lot of wool! I won't be afraid to hand wash now!

    • ecokaren says

      Hi Laurie,

      Just make sure you wash them in COLD with gentle laundry detergent and not too often. Depending on what type of wool, they might shrink a little.

      Good Luck!

  13. Kathy says

    Haha! I love the disclaimer! Yes, I have been handwashing drycleanables for years. And, I discovered that natural fibers such as linen, wool and cotton can be laundered in shampoo and your natural hair conditioner works beautifully as a fabric softener.

    Aren't Pendletons' the greatest? I love mine.

    • ecokaren says

      Hi Kathy,

      You know I had to use a disclaimer. 🙂 I heard about the hair conditioner for making clothes soft but never tried it.

      And YES, I LOVE my Pendleton blankets. I have four for all of us and they are great in the winter!

      I'm just glad I can wash them now.

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