Felted Sweater? Natural Remedies to Prevent and Reverse Felting

Unshrinking a sweater is possible with a few practical remedies: here are some methods to try

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By Linda Ferraro

felted sweater

Have you got a felted sweater? It’s often a consequence of a minor mistake during the washing process, resulting in an unpleasant surprise of finding the sweater smaller and tougher due to the compacting of wool. Let’s explore how to address this issue.

What Does Felted Sweater Mean Exactly?

The term “felted sweater” describes a scenario where the fabric, akin to felt, becomes tightly compacted.

Causes of Felting

A felted sweater often results from temperature fluctuations or selecting an inappropriate washing temperature for our pure wool attire. Key causes linked to water and detergent include:

  • Incorrect water temperature: Excessively hot water or abrupt temperature changes can lead to wool felting.
  • Alkaline pH: A pH level that is too alkaline may cause wool fibers to shrink.
  • Aggressive detergent: The use of harsh detergents contributes to felting.

Tips for Wool Washing

Washing woolen items demands extra care. To delicately wash wool, consider the following:

  • Check clothing labels to determine if the item is machine washable.
  • For pure wool, handwashing in cold water with appropriate detergents and fabric softeners is recommended. Alternatively, machine wash using a cold water setting.
  • Maintain a consistent temperature during both washing and rinsing phases.

Preventing Felting

To preserve the quality of your sweater or any pure wool garment, adopt these habits to prevent felting:

  • Ensure water temperature does not exceed 30°C.
  • Avoid sudden temperature changes during washing, as they are a primary cause of wool felting.
  • Prefer handwashing, but if machine washing is necessary, use the machine’s wool cycle, recognizing the washing machine symbols.
  • Employ gentle and suitable detergents.
  • After washing, refrain from wringing out sweaters; instead, wrap them in a towel to remove excess water.
  • Lay garments horizontally on the clothesline, initially wrapping the sweater in a towel for a few hours to retain moisture and prevent stitch deformation.

Bonus Tip: To prevent wool felting, add half a lemon to your regular laundry, whether in the washing machine or handwashing. Lemon also possesses whitening properties, ideal for white clothing.

Felted Sweater: Natural Remedies

Is it possible to rescue a felted sweater, or is discarding it the only viable choice? You can certainly attempt to revive a felted sweater with simple natural remedies.

Here are a few:

Bicarbonate and Tartaric Acid

To restore softness to a felted sweater, immerse it in a basin with 2 liters of cold water and 20 grams of bicarbonate. Let it soak overnight. The next morning, wash it with laundry or Marseille soap.

After the initial wash, soak the garment again in a new solution containing 2 liters of water and 10 tablespoons of tartaric acid. Mix every hour for a total of 6 hours. Rinse thoroughly and dry horizontally. Iron with plenty of steam.

Turpentine, Alcohol, and Ammonia

Revive a felted sweater by immersing it in a basin with 10 liters of warm soapy water, 1/2 tablespoon of alcohol, 1 tablespoon of turpentine, and 3 tablespoons of ammonia. Let it soak for a whole day without turning or touching it. Rinse in cold water the next morning, pat dry with a towel, and dry horizontally away from direct sunlight or heat. Iron with steam.

felted sweater natural remedies
Can a felted sweater be saved, or is throwing it away the only recourse?


Restore softness by immersing the felted sweater in a basin with water and a couple of caps of ammonia for a whole day. Rinse and dry the next day.

Fabric Softener

To recover a mistakenly felted pure wool, cashmere, or vicuña sweater, use hot water and fabric softener. Fill a basin with hot water, immerse the garment, and add fabric softener when the water cools. Let it soak overnight. Rinse thoroughly the next morning and hang to dry.


Soak the felted sweater in cold water and milk for about 2 hours, with the water volume three times higher than that of milk.

DIY Remedy

Save a felted sweater with a simple DIY recipe. Immerse the sweater in a solution of 1 liter of warm water, 50 ml of apple cider vinegar, 1 cup of hair conditioner, and the juice of 2 lemons. Let it soak for 1 hour, then repeat with warm water, 4 tablespoons of hair conditioner, and the juice of 1 lemon for 30 minutes. Lay it out vertically without wringing to avoid shrinking.

Commercial Wool Care Products

Various products on the market cater to wool care, including detergents usable with fabric softeners, and anti-felting lotions to prevent natural felting, hardness, and shrinkage.

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