How to Care for Wool Garments

A white bowl with the word wool carved into it; full of rusty colored wool against a red background

Storing Wool

During cooler seasons, when you are wearing woolen hand-knits, keep garments folded on a shelf.  Hanging knits causes stretching and can leave hanger marks in the shoulders.  If you find you have significant creases or wrinkles when pulling the piece back out again, hang it up and use a steamer to smooth over those spots. If you can hang your garment away from a wall or door, this is ideal.  Steaming against drywall, wood or other materials could damage the material behind your knit! 

If you are going to store your knits for extended periods of time, it is best to wash them first (see instructions below) to avoid attracting wool hungry pests, and then store in an airtight container.  It is not recommended to store in fully airtight containers for years at a time without giving the pieces occasional time to breathe–knits stored without ventilation can collect condensation that may eventually eat away at the integrity of the fiber.

Consider storing your knits with cedar chips , lavender sachets, or moth balls for an extra layer of protection. My favorite is lavender. In addition to warding off moths, they will leave your garments smelling divine when you remove them from storage! Place a sachet between the folds of the fabric before putting them in your storage box. 

Spot-Cleaning Wool

There are moments when those of us with less finesse find ourselves at the mercy of stains, whether that be as a result of chocolate, wine, or a general predisposition to accidents.  With most stains, it is recommended to mix a 50/50 solution of lukewarm (not hot!) water and white vinegar, soak a clean washcloth or rag in the solution, and then blot the stain until it has cleared.

My personal tip with red wine is to saturate the stain with cold water. You can do this by dabbing a soaked sponge or washcloth on the spot, or putting it under some cold running water until you see the spot fade.  You can then blot with a clean rag/towel. This may require some repeating, but I find it works with a lot of fabrics as long as the stain is fairly fresh.

Washing Wool

If your hand-knits need a more thorough wash, head to the sink, take out a dish-washing bin, or grab a large mixing bowl.  Fill your basin with lukewarm water–water that is too hot could felt your wool and destroy your creation!

If you have concerns about bleeding dyes, especially with any hand-dyed yarns, I recommend washing in cold water to prevent excess dye-bleed. 

Place a small amount of your favorite wool wash or laundry detergent in the water and submerge your piece, agitating just slightly to ensure the soap is taken in by the fiber. The bonus of many wool washes is that they typically do not require rinsing, and wool wash actually increases how much water your piece soaks up.  If you feel you need to rinse, you can either run another clear basin of water (without soap) and place the garment back in and agitate slightly one more time. 

Drying Wool

It’s important to make sure your garment is completely dry before placing it back into storage or wardrobe rotation. Remove it from the water, then lay the piece flat on a towel and slowly roll the towel up, pressing gently as you go to soak up excess water. Remove the piece from inside the towel and place on a clean, absorbent surface like another towel or blanket. Typically, I turn the piece over or continue to replace the towel underneath periodically until fully dry. And lest you be  tempted to hang hand-knits on a hanger or over a chair, please refer back to the first section of this article!

My wool hand-knits do not tend to be a daily staple in my wardrobe.  Unless I stained them, or got really sweaty that day, I don’t typically find the need to wash them after every single wear. In this way, their care is more convenient than the laundry you do every week! These special, handmade pieces just need a little more attention, and they’re absolutely worth it! 

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