The days are getting shorter and the mornings are damp telling me that fall is around the corner. My favorite time of year. Kids are gearing up for school (it looks a little different this year), and more people are working from home but, that doesn’t mean I still won’t dig out my wool sweaters and blankets that have been tucked in storage for the last 6 months.
When it comes to caring for wool, the task is somewhat easier than every day cotton and polyester. But, some care does need to be taken. Stains left untreated on woolens are a field day for moths. Most stains go undetected because of a color or print, and the next thing you know, you pull it out to wear in the fall and there is a hole.
Moths search out sugar, so you may think your sweater or gloves are clean, but and residual sweeteners left behind are a beacon for the fluttery fiends. Make sure you put your garments away clean each season.
I dry clean or delicate wash my wool garments a few times throughout the season and definitely clean them before putting away for the summer. Read the label CAREFULLY, if the care instructions are “dry clean only”, I recommend that, but with today’s use of mixed fibers, some wool can be delicately hand washed and dried flat. If the label just says “dry clean”. that is when it is safer to try washing. I use a delicate detergent like Woolite for the care of my wool sweaters. The detergent base isn’t as harsh and won’t break down the fibers as much. A small load on a delicate/hand wash cycle in cold water is your best chance for success. You are better off with a front loading washer as well since the agitation isn’t as rough as a top loader, resulting in less wrinkles. If you do have a top loader you may be better off hand washing your wool sweaters.
So far I have only touched on sweaters or gloves. Other wool items like coats, blazers, and blankets are best to be dry cleaned. Linings in coats are generally made of an acetate fabric and will shrink in a wash bath therefore compromising the structure of the jacket or coat. The lining shrinks, pulling up on the wool where it is sewn together creating puckers along them hem and sleeves. Even if you do wash your sweaters with a “dry clean” label, you may notice some shrinkage as the wool fibers pull together in water.
I always dry clean my 100% wool blankets as well. The cost of purchasing them warrants the proper cleaning method, and I don’t need to clean them as often as I would a sweater. The shape of any wool garment or blanket is compromised when put into a water bath so careful attention to re shaping the item is important as you air dry it. That is another reason to not want the hassle of washing a wool item the size of a blanket. Always reshape your sweaters while the are drying flat, this may require a few trips back to check on them as they dry.
A good brush is your best friend when it comes to you favorite sweaters. Wool tends to pill or ball up when friction is created by rubbing the fibers together. That is why you get little pills mostly on the sleeves and sides of you garments. I have a few stiff wire brushes I use on heavy wool, and as the wool gets more delicate, like a cashmere or camels hair, I use a horse hair brush. Sometimes a sweater “brick” is necessary to remove stubborn pills on knit fabrics. Carefully try the underside of the garment to ensure you will not be scratching the surface or pulling too many fibers. Check out the brick on my side bar for reference. Usually they are made of a pumice stone and have a strong odor of sulfur, but that does not come off onto your garments. Trust me, a good brush in between wearings and cleanings will extend the life of you garments and make them look like new each time. This is true of sweaters as well as jackets and coats.
I only clean my wool coats and jackets once a season. Frankly, here in the pacific northwest, it hardly gets cold enough to wear them. My sweaters may get cleaned once every 6 wearings, based on what I am doing or where I have been. I do toss them in a cool dryer between cleanings to freshen them up before wearing again.
To keep your wool garments and textiles fresh and lasting forever, always clean them before putting them away for the warmer months, this will keep the moths away. I also put them in cloth or plastic garment bags as an added layer of protection. If you can, store them out of direct light, whether it is artificial or natural. Light is what damages fabrics over time, causing either fading or yellowing.
Proper care of your garments will give you years of wear and comfort, and they will be well worth the investment in the long run.