Learning how to wash wool need not be a daunting task – in fact I find it a very enjoyable time to spend with my knits. How is it wearing; any pills or repairs that need taking care of; would it benefit from a little extra conditioning to bring back its supple and lustrous nature?
Washing a wool knit is really quite similar to washing your hair (they are both protein fibres after all). You need something to clean out the dirt (a surfactant, preferably near neutral pH), something to encourage moisture & shine (a conditioner) and always handle with care.
Things you’ll need to give your knit a bath:
- A tub/sink large enough to submerge your knit
- Some very mild wool wash (I make my own – recipe to come)
- 2/3 dry towels depending on the size of your knit
- Place your knit in its bath and gently push it down until it’s fully submerged
- Let it sit undisturbed for about 10 minutes (you might see the water becoming a little clouded – your knit is cleaning itself!)
- Gently squeeze the knit as you lift it out of its bath to drain the soapy water (wool is weaker and more prone to stretching when wet so be sure to hold the entire knit, and no twisting!)
- Empty the tub and fill it again with the same temperature water (sudden temperature changes can cause felting)
- Place your knit back in the tub and gently push it down until it’s fully submerged
- Squeeze the knit lightly a few times to help rinse out the soap and then gently lift it out of the tub, gently pressing as you go to drain excess water
- Repeat the rinse step if required with a fresh tub of water
- Lay one of the towels flat and place the knit on top, cover with another towel and roll it all up and gently press to remove more water.
Generally hand knits don’t require frequent washing, but you’ll know when your knit needs a bath – maybe it will have a slight odour or a few marks.
In addition to washing when required it’s always a good idea to clean your knits before they are going to be stored for any length of time (e.g. washing your jumpers & beanies at the end of winter before they get packed away for the summer). To keep your knits at their best while in storage, always store folded and flat (no hanging unless you want your knits stretched & misshapen), in a dry space (e.g. a cupboard) and with a little satchel of dried herbs to discourage moths (my favourite is lavender).