How do I wash wool?
How should I wash my wool sweater?
It depends on the type of wool you have. Most wool will shrink, so carefully read the label before washing your wool sweater in hot water or tossing it into the dryer. For a specific type of wool, check out Patagonia's Product Care Guide.
Wool shrinks under these combined conditions: heat, water, and agitation. Therefore, soak your wool sweater for a half day in a basin of cold water with a bit of very gentle soap, like Ivory. Gently squeeze the sweater with your hands, without twisting it. After you squeeze it, let it soak again for an hour or so. Then. Drain the water while supporting the sweater, don't allow it to stretch. Fill the basin with cold rinse water, and squeeze it gently. Do this several times, changing the rinse water till it runs clear. Then, lift your sweater out of the basin, lay it n a heavy bath towel, and roll it up in the towel. Avoid wringing it. Repeat this with anther bath towel until it's not dripping wet. To dry your sweater, lay tin another dry towel in the floor. Turn as it dries. It may take a few days to dry, depending upon how heavy it is. Good luck!
I haven't the courage to machine wash 100% wool myself. I wash it by hand in cool water, and, too cheap to buy Woolite, I just use whatever dish soap sits next to the sink. I learned a slightly different drying method than others here mention: I expand an adjustable window screen (I've also used an old baby gate, with large plastic mesh) so that it is supported by both sides of the bathtub, and lay the sweater (or socks, whatever) on the screen so that it can air dry from both top and bottom at the same time. My thickest wool sweater is usually dry after 24 hours of that.
Cleogrrl nailed it; unless you want to be surprised by doll sized wool clothing, avoid heat and agitation as much as possible. The opposite of this is intentionally shrinking and compacting the wool fibers into a dense felt, a process formally called "fulling", but some folks just call "felting". To achieve this, should it be your goal, wash the wool in alternatively boiling (or as hot as your hands can stand) and ice cold water, and use as much agitation and friction as your hands can muster. Your wool will become felt, and the final felt product will be significantly smaller than the wool with which you began. This shrinking can happen very quickly and surprise you if you're not paying close attention, so if you wish to full (or felt) wool down to a particular size, go very slowly and keep checking the fit as you go along. I'd therefore recommend practicing with something you don't care about before fulling something you consider important.
I have washed 100% wool and 100% cashmeres in the washing machine..! I use cold water, mild detergent and use the delicate shortest cycle. Remove carefully from washer and I hang by the armholes, reshape if necessary, over the towel bar, or shower curtain bar to air dry. - Takes about 2 days to fully dry. I never experienced any shrinkage. Never put your sweaters on a hangar...when wet or dry...
For thick wool sweaters, wash in the washign machine and lay flat to dry - you're done. For lightweight wool pieces, handwash. Taking them in the shower and washing with shampoo works really well, be very careful wringing these out - do it delicately or bunch into a ball and just squeeze.
I wash wool sweater and socks all the time. I pour about 1/4 cup of mild shampoo in the washer (wool is just sheep hair) and use a short, delicate cycle. After washing I lay the items on a sweater dryer (looks like a mini trampoline and dissembles for storage. Easy!
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