The Complete Washing Guide for Wool Shoes & Sneakers

Wool is one of the most versatile fibers out there. It can be used to make a variety of products from rugs to skirts. Not only that but the fibers themselves are also great in several ways. For one thing, they’re wrinkle-resistant. No matter how much you stretch wool, it’ll spring back quickly. On top of that, the fibers are incredibly resilient. They resist wear and tear and retain their shape even after washing. What’s more, is that they’re comfortable and repel moisture.

Wool Fibers For Shoes

Wool is commonly used for clothes but did you know that it can also be used for shoes? That’s right, wool shoes are a thing. They might not be as widespread per se, but they’re definitely gaining traction. One brand, in particular, is known for these items—Allbirds. Put it simply, they’re a shoe company that specializes in wool shoes. There are several reasons why they’re better than traditional footwear. 

Benefits of Wool Shoes:

  • Wool’s insulating properties help to regulate the wearer’s body temperature
  • Easier to wash than traditional shoes
  • Less stinky—wool fibers absorb and lock away odors, which are released during washing
  • Socks are completely optional (your foot will be kept dry and comfortable even without them)
  • Naturally moisture-wicking
  • They’re environmentally friendly!

Where to Buy Wool Shoes/Sneakers

Wool shoes are becoming more and more popular but they can still be hard to find in stores. Your best bet is probably to shop online—just make sure that the size is right before you make your purchase. Look at the size chart if you have to.

Store-wise, there are many companies that specialize in them such as Allbirds, which we already mentioned earlier. Amazon also has various styles that are available from multiple brands. At the end of the day, it depends on what kind of shoe you’re looking for. Sandals? Sneakers? Flats? Once you’ve figured that out, you can refine your search.

Popular Brands of Wool Sneakers

Here are are some of the most popular brands that sell wool shoes and sneakers:

Allbirds

Allbirds is a U.S. company that specializes in wool footwear. They sell a variety of styles including toppers, runners, skippers, and loungers for men and women. As of 2019, they have retail stores in Shanghai, New York, Beijing, San Francisco, Seattle, and London.

Mahabis

Mahabis is a brand that’s based in London. Most if not all of their shoes are made in a Scandinavian style, which is both stylish and practical. To date, they’ve sold more than 1 million pairs of slippers around the world.

Giesswein

Giessen is known for their 100% merino wool shoes and accessories. In addition to shoes, they also sell footbeds and accessories such as hats. Aside from their stores, you can also find their products at various retailers including Nordstrom and Amazon.

Merino Shoes

Merino Shoes, as you can probably guess, specialize in merino wool shoes. More specifically, they sell slip ons and lace ups for men and women. A relatively new brand, they’ve only been around for a couple of years.

Baabuk

Baabuk sells wool footwear that’s made sustainably and responsibly. Designed in Switzerland, all of their shoes are crafted in Portugal and Nepal and are made for comfort. Aside from sneakers, they also sell slippers and boots.

Care Tips for Wool Shoes

Wool shoes will get dirty just like regular shoes. This is especially true for ones that are light-colored. For example, it’s not uncommon for mud or dirt to stain the fabric. That’s why shoe protector sprays are a thing. Simply spray it on the fabric and it’ll instantly be more resistant to the elements.

With that said, it’s still a good idea to wash your shoes on a regular basis. You don’t have to do it as often as say your clothes, but still, it’s something you don’t want to neglect. Remember, the longer you leave a stain, the harder it will be to remove! Not to mention that there’s the issue of smell. Sure, wool is odor-resistant but that doesn’t mean that it’s totally odor-proof. Chances are, the sweat will have an effect after a while.

Types of Wool Used For Shoes

There are a few kinds of wool that are used for shoes. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones:

Merino Wool

Merino wool is made from a special breed of sheep. Soft with insulation properties, it warms the body without overheating the wearer—this is especially true if it’s worn against the skin. On top of that, it’s moisture-wicking and displays a great luster.

Lamb’s Wool

Lamb’s wool is softer and more elastic than regular wool. Made from the first sheering (usually when the lamb is 6-7 months old), it’s a tad shorter in length but very warm and durable. Smooth and flexible, it’s excellent for regulating body temperature.

Alpaca Wool

Alpaca wool is softer than cashmere and lighter than sheep wool. Hypoallergenic, the fibers are warm, durable, and extremely soft. On top of that, they’re insulating. In other words, your feet will be kept warm even on chilly days!

How to Wash Wool Shoes and Sneakers in the Washing Machine

Bought your first pair of wool shoes? Not sure how to go about washing them? We’ve got all the information that you need below!

Are Wool Shoes/Sneakers Machine Washable?

Yes, it’s perfectly fine to put wool shoes in the washing machine. Does that surprise you? After all, lots of clothes are made of

The first thing that you want to do is to take out the shoelaces (assuming that your shoes has them). It’s not a cardinal sin to leave them on, but you’ll get much better results if you wash them separately. The detergent will be able to get at the fabric better, which will give you much cleaner shoes. Similarly, you want to take out the wool insole, if your shoe has one. Put them together with the shoelaces in a small laundry bag and put them in the machine—that will prevent them from being tossed around during the wash cycle.

Pro-tip: If you want, you can also wash the shoelaces and insoles in the sink. Create a soapy solution by mixing a scoop of ACTIVE detergent with water and soak the two items. Soak them for at least 15 minutes and rinse them clean. Allow them to dry naturally.

The next step is to place the shoes into the machine. Make sure to put them in a laundry bag, otherwise, they’ll get thrown all over the place; it’ll also keep the two together. As a general rule, you want to wash them separate from your clothes. However, you can put in a few towels. If anything, that will help to “balance” the load.

Once you’ve got everything in, add the detergent. Use something that works well for wood fibers such as ACTIVE detergent. Skip the fabric conditioner as that will work against the wool’s moisture-wicking abilities. Similarly, you want to avoid bleach as it will damage the delicate material. If necessary, you can soften your wool shoes by adding a cup of white vinegar. Don’t worry, it won’t leave any lingering smells!

As far as settings go, you want to use a wool cycle. If your machine doesn’t offer that, use the gentlest option. Make sure to use cold water as heat can cause the wool fibers to contract and shrink. Press the start button and wait for the cycle to finish. Remove the shoes along with the laces and insole from the machine and allow them to air dry. Do not put them in the dryer; heat and wool don’t exactly go hand in hand.

wool! Compared to other fabrics, however, it’s a bit more delicate so you’ll want to be careful with what you do with them. For one thing, you never want to twist or wring wool—that will cause the fibers to contract, which will shrink your shoes.

How to Wash Wool Shoes By Hand

Wool shoes can also be hand washed. If anything, you can just treat them like wool clothing. While it’s a little more tedious compared to using the washing machine, it’s much more gentle, which means that your shoes will likely last longer.

First things first—fill the tub with cool water (or if you want, a bucket or sink works too). Never use hot water as it’ll result in shrinking of the fibers. The next step is to add a bit of ACTIVE detergent. Don’t pour in too much, though—that’ll just have the opposite effect. Dissolve the product by swirling your hand in the water. You should start to see soap suds.

Next, you want to prepare your shoes. Depending on how dirty they are, it might be a good idea to brush them off first before submerging them in the water—that way, you’ll be able to get rid of any large particles that might be stuck on the fabric. Once you’ve done that, take off the shoelaces. Similarly, you want to remove the insoles if there’s one.

Place the shoes in the soapy solution, making sure that all surfaces are fully submerged. Repeat with the shoelaces and insoles. Let everything soak for at least 15-20 minutes. That will let the detergent to do its thing—remove the dirt from the wool.

Take the shoes out of the dirty water and rinse them under the faucet. It’s important that all of the detergent is rinsed off; you don’t want there to be any leftover on the fabric. Do the same thing with the insoles and laces. Place everything in a well-ventilated room and allow them to air dry. Put the laces and insoles back on the shoes once they’re fully dry.

Pro-tip: If there are stains, you can remove them by scrubbing the area gently with a soft-bristled brush (make sure to saturate it with detergent first).

The Best Ways to Deodorize Wool Shoes/Sneakers

Wool shoes are odor-resistant but let’s face it—they’re probably going to develop a smell after a while. Well, as it turns out, there are a few ways that you can fix that:

Using Baking Soda

Baking soda is one of the best things to use when it comes to odors. The process is easy too. Essentially, all you have to do is sprinkle it into the shoe. Leave the powder in overnight for the best results (the longer it’s in, the more effective it’ll be). Proceed to dump everything out in the morning.

There’s also the option of creating a “deodorizing pack”. Find a pair of old socks (make sure there are no holes!) and stuff them with baking soda. Tie them up so that the powder is secure inside and place them into each shoe. Leave the bags in overnight and remove them in the morning. The great thing about this method is that you won’t get any of the actual baking soda in your shoe!

Using Dryer Sheets

Fabric softeners sheets can also be used to remove odors. Simply place them in each shoe and they will neutralize the smell. Ideally, you want to leave them in for a few hours before taking them out.

Using Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is great because it can kill odor-causing bacteria. Dampen a cloth with the solution and proceed to wipe the inside of the shoe. Pay extra attention to the toe and heel areas. Given how fast rubbing alcohol dries, you won’t have to wait that long before you can wear it again!

Using White Vinegar

White vinegar is another great deodorizing agent. Similar to rubbing alcohol, you want to use it with a cloth. Once it’s dampened, wipe the inside of each shoe. If necessary, you can stuff them with newspaper to hasten the drying process afterward. Avoid apple cider or balsamic vinegar as they can stain the wool.

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