Reading the tags before you attempt to wash your woollen items is the best way to avoid those little accidents. Washing symbols will indicate whether it’s appropriate to machine wash, hand wash or dry clean your woollens.
Wool is one of the most resilient materials, since it is hardwearing and durable. But it still needs to be cared for to keep it in tip top condition.
Hand-washing is usually recommended for knitwear. Some washing machines also have a setting for woollen items that is gentle enough not to damage the material. Follow manufacturer recommendations for washing in a machine, and use mild detergent. You should wash your knitwear after two to five wears.
HOW TO HAND-WASH KNITWEAR:
STEP 1: Fill your sink or bucket with lukewarm or cold water and add the recommended amount of specially formulated wool wash, or a small amount of baby shampoo.
Hint: Normal laundry detergent can be rough on non-acrylic wools. This is because this soap contains enzymes that break down biological molecules, which includes the biological molecules in animal’s wool.
STEP 2: Soak for ten to twenty minutes.
STEP 3: Drain the sink, rinse and press the jumper against the sides of the sink to remove excess water, before drying.
HOW TO DRY KNITWEAR:
To avoid shrinking your knitwear, it’s best to avoid heat when drying it. To best dry your knitwear:
STEP 1: Place a towel onto a bench or table, and then lie the knitwear down on the towel flat.
STEP 2: Roll up the towel and the knitwear, and gently press to remove water.
Hint: Never wring out knitwear as this will damage the shape.
STEP 3: Unroll, and leave knitwear on a flat surface to air dry. This will ensure your knitwear doesn’t stretch out, shrink or become misshapen.
Dry-cleaning occasionally is an effective way to refresh your knitwear. You won’t need to wash your woollen clothing very often as long as you allow it to aerate after every wear.
Hint: When washing, never use hot water and never tumble-dry! This will shrink your garment and you don’t want that!
Pilling is very common with acrylic materials, but it can also happen with wool. It happens often, and isn’t necessarily a sign of poor quality.
Natural woollen fibres will pill as fibres attempt to escape the knit, become tangled and bobbled, but over time your woollen knit will lose its pills and will stop pilling altogether.
You can sometimes prevent pilling by washing your knitwear inside out, but it’s likely it will still occur in normal wear.
Investing in a fabric shaver, or de-piller is a great way to get rid of pills. You can also use a safety razor to remove pills, just be careful not to damage the underlying fabric.
Wool needs to be stored correctly to avoid damage. Never hang your knitwear, either from a hanger, or a clothesline. Wool stretches easily, so the weight of your garment may cause it to stretch.
Instead, fold your woollen garment. This way it will keep its shape and continue to look great. Store in a cool place, away from moisture and out of sunlight to avoid colour fading.
If storing for a long period, like over summer, it might be worth picking up some moth balls.
Wool garments have a tendency to shrink when exposed to water and heat. This is because wool fibres have microscopic “scales”, when agitated these fibres interlock causing the garment to appear to shrink.
To unshrink a woollen garment, you have to essentially loosen these interlocked fibres until they are undone and you’re able to reshape the material.
If your garment is shrunk, you can unshrink it by soaking it in lukewarm water with some hair conditioner. Then press out the excess water, and while it is still damp, stretch it out to its original shape.
This method can also work if it has been stretched or lost its shape due to hanging.
If you actually want to shrink your jumper, for whatever reason, just stick it in a dryer after washing it and voila! You’ll have a jumper 2-3 sizes smaller.
You’ll have difficulty controlling the shrinkage, but you can always stretch it back to the desirable size if it comes out too small.
The wool of animals can often develop a very distinguishable smell when it gets wet. You may recognise it as the smell of a wet dog.
This happens when water is absorbed by wool, and breaks the bonds of other chemicals held within wool fibres. This releases molecules into the air which we can smell.
Often the scent is strongest when the wool has lanolin residue still on it. The best way to combat this scent is to try to remove the lanolin.
While the lanolin does protect the wool, if the smell is too much for you, you can remove with a soap specially formulated to remove grease.
Soaking in bicarb soda mixed with water, and airing out the knitwear can help you remove the smell as well.
Cashmere should be washed after every third wear. Cashmere looks and feels its best when dry-cleaned. However, you can hand wash it.
Step 1: Fill your sink with cold water, and add a low-alkaline detergent, such as specially-formulated wool wash or baby shampoo.
Step 2: Agitate the water and garment gently and thoroughly, before removing your cashmere garment from the water.
Step 3: Remove excess water from your cashmere garment. Don’t wring or hang and don’t scrunch. Instead, gently press excess water out and then lay flat to dry.
Step 4: Use a cashmere comb when dry to prevent pilling, and store folded, away from direct sunlight.
Acrylic wool is a synthetic fibre so it’s much more manageable than wool from an animal. You can generally wash it normally, although it can be stretched if washed in hot water, so it’s smart to stick to lukewarm or cold water.
It’s best to follow the label’s washing instructions for acrylic knitwear, as it can often be blended with different materials and require different treatments.
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