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The Best Way to Wash SmartWool Socks & Clothing

April 1, 2019

SmartWool is an apparel company that is known for their wool clothing. Based in Colorado, the brand sells a variety of items for men, women, and children—from socks to jackets. In addition to that, they produce accessories such as beanies, neck gaiters, gloves, blankets, and more.

Over the years, they’ve collaborated with many athletes including Bryan Fox, Angel Collinson, Conrad Anker, Bryan Iguchi, and Nick Russell.

More About SmartWool

SmartWool was founded by Patty and Peter Duke, two New England ski instructors, in 1994. After many years of operation, the brand was acquired by The Timberland Company in 2005. Today, their products can be found in many big-name retailers including Atmosphere, REI, Altitude Sports, Short Chek, MEC, and more. Customers can also purchase from their official website. 

More About SmartWool Clothing

SmartWool offers a variety of clothing that is geared toward hiking and other outdoor activities. As one would expect by their name, most, if not all of their products are made from merino wool. In fact, they even have an exclusive contract with the New Zealand Merino Company.

more about smartwool

Unlike regular wool, however, the ones they use are pre-treated to be itch-free. Not only that, but they’re resistant to shrinking. According to their official website, their garments are also odor-reducing, moisture-wicking, and anti-microbial. For this reason, they are marketed as activewear.

Taking Care of SmartWool Clothing

While their products aren’t expensive, they’re not particularly cheap either. To give you a better idea, you’re looking at around $60 for a pair of merino wool shorts. Similarly, their socks, one of their most popular items, go for a little under $20 a pair.

To get your money’s worth, it’s absolutely crucial that you take proper care of the garments. This is especially true since we’re dealing with merino wool—a natural fiber that is known for being susceptible to damage. One of the easiest ways to ruin wool products is to wash them incorrectly. For this reason, you always want to pay extra attention when you’re washing SmartWool clothing.

Unsure of how to wash their apparel? Don’t worry—we’ll be going over the washing instructions for different SmartWool products below. Before we do that, though, let’s learn a little more about merino wool, and some of the other fabrics used by the company.

Fabrics Used by SmartWool

Merino Wool

Merino wool is a special type of wool that comes from Merino sheep. Famed for their incredibly soft wool, these animals are recognized by their curly horns and wrinkly skins. They can be found in Spain, South Africa, Chile, Australia, and New Zealand.

As far as the wool goes, it is naturally long. Incredibly fine, it is perfect for all types of clothing. Not only is it more resilient than regular yarn, but it also stretches more easily, the latter of which is due to their natural curl or “fiber crimp.”

On top of all that, merino wool is excellent at managing moisture. Because of this, it is often referred to as being anti-microbial. In other words, odor-causing bacteria are not able to thrive on the wool.


Polyester is one of the most common types of technical fiber used in athletic clothing. Super durable, it is resistant to shrinking, wrinkles, and abrasions. It’s also much cheaper than other types of materials. By nature, the fiber is also moisture-wicking, which makes it fantastic for activewear.


Elastane is a type of stretchy material that is often incorporated in sportswear. Also known as spandex or Lycra, it offers great comfort and freedom of movement. Incredibly strong, it’s also known for its stretch and ability to recover. For this reason, almost every type of activewear contains some degree of elastane or spandex.


Nylon is similar to polyester in that it is highly durable. Super lightweight, it does not wrinkle like other materials; it retains its smooth appearance even during physical activities. More often than not, it is combined with other fibers such as polyester, cotton, or spandex. It is worth noting, however, that it is prone to staining.

How to Wash SmartWool Socks

Now that we know more about the materials, let’s take a look at how you wash SmartWool Products. Let’s begin with one of their best sellers—socks.

how to wash smartwool socks

Putting SmartWool Socks in the Washing Machine

Turn the socks inside out; this not only reduces piling but will prevent lint from accumulating on the outside. You can wash them with other Merino wool items as long as they are of like colors. Avoid putting them in the same load as jackets, denim, or anything with hardware. If you want, you can put the socks in a laundry bag—that will keep them together in the washer.

Add one scoop of ACTIVE detergent to the soap compartment. Wash the SmartWool socks with cold water on a gentle cycle. While their wool is more resistant to shrinking (more so than regular wool), there is still a chance that it might happen. For this reason, you want to avoid using hot water. It’ll also save you some money on your electricity bill!

Pro-tip: Do not use bleach—it will destroy the Merino wool fibers. Similarly, you want to avoid fabric softeners; these products will reduce the fibers’ natural ability to regulate body temperature (i.e. wick away moisture).

Take the SmartWool socks out once the cycle is done. Ideally, you want to lay them flat on a clean surface to dry (wool can become distorted if hung up on a clothesline). Not only will this extend the life of your garments, but it’s much better for the environment. With that said, they can be tumble dried. You probably don’t want to do it too often, though.

Note: Always check the care label before putting your garments in the dryer! Some might not be able to tolerate the heat.

Washing SmartWool Socks by Hand

Their Merino wool socks can also be washed by hand—quite easily, in fact!

First things first, gather up your socks. From there, you want to fill the sink (or a bucket) with cold water. Add a scoop of ACTIVE detergent as directed on the packaging. Swirl the mixture with your hand to mix. Once that’s done, you can plop your socks in. Lightly press down on them to ensure that they are all fully submerged. Soak them for approximately 30 minutes.

Pick up the socks from the sink; wash the fabric by massaging it with your fingers. When you’re finished, rinse off the ACTIVE detergent with plain water. You might have to run it under the faucet a few times to get rid of all of the suds. Gently squeeze out the excess water before laying them flat on a towel. Allow them to air dry. Try not to put them in the dryer if possible.

The Best Ways to Clean SmartWool Underwear

The company also sells underwear for men and women. As with the rest of their products, they all contain some amount of Merino wool.

best way to wash smartwool underwear

Can You Put SmartWool Underwear in the Washer?

Yes, you can wash their underwear with the washing machine. To prevent them from stretching, it’s a good idea to pop them into a lingerie bag. It’s perfectly fine to wash them with other garments such as their socks, as long as you’re not mixing colors. You probably want to avoid washing them with coarse items (e.g. jeans, jackets), though.

As directed on the label, add one scoop of ACTIVE detergent to the washer. Put the SmartWool underwear in and select a delicate cycle. Wash the load with cold water. Avoid using hot water as that can cause the wool to shrink. Do not use bleach or fabric conditioners for the reasons mentioned earlier.

Wait for the cycle to finish fully before taking out the undergarments. Lay them flat or hang them up to dry. Every once in a while, you can put them in the dryer on the lowest setting. Do note, however, that that will make it deteriorate faster.

Hand Washing SmartWool Underwear

Don’t want to turn on the washer just for a couple pair of SmartWool underwear? Why not wash them by hand? It’s easier than you think!

Begin by filling the sink with cold water—you’ll be using it to “pre-treat” the garments. Add a scoop of ACTIVE detergent and mix with your hands. Immerse the underwear in the soapy solution. Try not to overload the sink area (you can prevent this by filling it 3/4 full with water). Let it sit for at 15 to 30 minutes.

You can wash your SmartWool underwear once they’ve been soaked. Swirl it around in the mixture and massage the fabric with your hands. When you’re finished with that, rinse off all of the detergent with plain water. You might have to repeat a few times until the water comes out clear.

Lay the underwear flat on a towel. Press down lightly and some of the excess water should come out. Hang the garments up on a clothesline and wait for them to air dry. Do not put them in the dryer—these items are delicate!

Washing Instructions fo SmartWool Hats, Gloves and Scarves

SmartWool also sells hats, gloves, and scarves, all of which can be washed in the same way.

hand wash smart wool gloves

First things first, you want to soak the items in detergent. Fill a small bucket or container with cold water and mix in one scoop of ACTIVE detergent. Agitate it with your hands to create soap suds. Submerge your hat, gloves, or scarf fully in the water. Let it soak for about 15 minutes.

Drain or pour away the dirty water. Rinse the detergent off by holding the items under tap water. Run it under the faucet until the water turns clear—you might have to do this for a minute or two to get rid of all the suds. When you’re done, squeeze the water out. Be as gentle as possible; don’t wring it too hard or it’ll damage the fabric.

Lay the items on a clean towel; you can use it to eliminate some of the dampness. While you can hang up gloves and hats, it’s probably best to lay your scarf flat to dry. Avoid putting them in the dryer.

Best Laundry Detergent for SmartWool

SmartWool is known for using Merino wool in their products. Having said that, they also incorporate technical fibers in their items. For instance, their socks are made from Merino wool, nylon, and elastane. This makes ACTIVE detergent a great choice.

active detergent for lululemon clothing

What’s so special about this detergent? It’s specially formulated for activewear—in other words, garments that are made from technical fibers. The way it works, plant enzymes are able to dissolve the dirt, bacteria, sweat, and oils that are trapped within. All-natural, ACTIVE detergent does not contain any chemicals that will cause skin irritation or pollute the waterways. It’s even great for sensitive skin!

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Comments (3)

  • Scott Reply

    I have a Smartwool sweater. Can I wash it in an auto washing machine? Do I use warm/cold settings? FYI, I am Nick Russell’s Dad !!

    February 20, 2022 at 7:07 am
  • Mary Smith Reply

    You did not say in this article on how to wash Smartwool sweater. Can I put it in the washing machine? Or does it need to be dry cleaned?

    November 18, 2021 at 4:20 pm
  • Stephen Ryan Reply

    Wash winter gloves made of acrylic wool. You can hand-wash Acrylic wool with mild detergent, too. And the method is similar to washing Merino wools; as long as you do not use hot water, you are fine.To machine-wash the pair, you should put it into a cloth bag to prevent the washing cycle from sagging the glove textiles. Besides, please set the delicate and gentle cycle with a short spin. You can dry the piece with an absorbent towel, too.

    October 4, 2021 at 6:42 am

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