How to wash merino wool
The merino wool sweaters and cardigans are currently selling like hotcakes (figuratively we mean, a clothing business would do best to be careful with messy foods). That is really good for us, but to maintain the condition of these precious cover-ups, the owner must have good discipline.
And the owner is you, so...
It is time for a good get-together. We regularly receive questions about how to wash and maintain wool. About once a month we get an email of someone asking how they can get their beautiful woolen item back in shape.
Now that's a difficult question. Keeping wool clothing in top condition requires some love & care. It's not difficult to keep your item in great shape - on the contrary - but there are a number of rules that you must adhere to for the best result.
Don't panic, we'll talk you through it... but below you'll first briefly find the general rules and we'll elaborate on them after.
- Don't wash! Only if you really insist on it.
- Temperatures higher than 30ºC are a no-no and you can only use the WOOL WASH program on your washing machine. So not the normal 30 degrees celsius program.
- A normal detergent and fabric softener are a no-no.
- soaking is a no-no.
- Dry spinning at high speed is a no-no.
- Washing is actually also a no-no, but washing it once or twice shouldn't be a problem.
But what if your guy is a no-no? There are customers who come to us saying that their hubby has done laundry, with catastrophic consequences for their favorite wool sweater. Followed by a shockingly laconic "then you buy a new sweater". In that case you can give your guy our web address. We will arrange the rest with him :-).
THE 10 COMMANDMENTS OF THE WOOL SWEATER
Thou shalt not wash your woolen garment. (more on this later)
Thou who do wash her woolen garment, will not wash it at more than 30 degrees celsius.
Thou who do wash her woolen garment 2, will not use the normal 30 degrees celsius program of the washing machine.
Thou shalt not dry spin your woolen garment higher than 600 rpm.
Thou shalt not use fabric softener on your woolen garment.
Thou who wash her woolen garment by hand will do it only in lukewarm water.
Thou shalt not soak your woolen garment.
Thou shalt not wring out your woolen garment.
Thou shalt not let your woolen garment dry on pegs or on a hanger.
Thou shalt not pull on the fluff of your wool garment, but use a special fluff clipper for it.
Actually, we still have a number eleven, but it is so obvious that we don't really need to name it, but we still will.
Thou shalt not throw your woolen garment in the dryer. Dûh.
IN THE BEGINNING..
In the beginning there was wool, and in order to understand the whims of wool, you must first get to know it a little better. (That's how it works with people too ;-))
The wool fiber (from a biological point of view, wool is actually hair, but the common term is fiber) is scaly. This means that the surface is not smooth, but consists of overlapping "flaps", a kind of barbs. The fiber itself is also frizzy. This immediately explains the reason why wool is pleasantly warm to wear: air is trapped between all those minuscule openings and assumes the same temperature as the environment. In the case of a wool garment: Your body heat.
Wool contains wool grease, so-called lanolin. That natural grease layer ensures that wool repels other types of dirt and grease and even repels moisture. It is also antibacterial: When wool becomes slightly damp, the lanolin changes into lanolin soap that expels bacteria. Wool therefore cleans itself.
Wool is a 100% natural product that - provided it is not mixed with other fibers / raw materials - will be broken down within a year if it is "returned" to nature. Synthetics takes up to 40 years to do that! Not that you are going to throw your sweater on the compost heap, but it's interesting information nonetheless.
WASHING YOU WOOL ITEMS ANYWAYS?
Imagine your woolen clothing really does need a wash, for example because there are some visible stains on it.
But you're scared to damage it.
Maybe you are afraid of the biggest doomsday scenario: The wool sweater becomes a size "washcloth". Or baby sweater, dachshund cardigan, egg warmer… Anything along those lines.
What now? You can actually wash your sweater, but below are the culprits of unwanted shrinkage, and how to avoid them. The tips & tricks on how to postpone washing precious woolen wool for as long as possible, brighten up pathetic faded woolen wool again, and safely store healthy woolen wool for future use, you can find them all here.
1. DO NOT WASH
Only if you insist on it. Wa-hat? Yes, you read that right! Wool thrives if you air it out for a few hours. Hanging outside in the mist, or in the post-shower (steam is mist too) bathroom also works wonders. Spraying with water to which you have added a few drops of organic / essential oil is also a good idea. The smells disappears without a trace.
How about that? Wool is naturally anti-bacterial, musty smells are not in the fiber but in the air between the fibers. Of course you can really wash it once in a while, but preferably as little as possible.
Below a response from one of our dear customers about this topic. Seems pretty clear, right?
Hi there, I have a tip or actually a question about the wool in you blog.
I was very surprised to see that you had written that you should wash your sweater as few as possible in your care blog.
After I have worn a sweater for a day I hang the sweater on a coat hanger, outside when the weather is dry and in the attic when it rains. And its true: all smells just disappear. I now have had the sweater for half a year and never washed it since. Really an eye opener!
2. NEVER WASH WOOL WARMER THAN 30º CELSIUS
You wash wool at max 30º celsius, otherwise your garment will shrink. The frizzy fiber curls in even further, the knit becomes more compact and therefore smaller. And this is irreversible :-(.
3. ONLY USE THE WOOL WASH PROGRAM
Only use the wool wash program on your washing machine. The washing machine manufacturers have not put that option in your washing machine just for fun ;-).
A wool wash program heats up slowly to 30º so that the wool gradually gets used to the temperature and does not immediately jump into a spiral. Don't you also check the water temperature in the bathtub before you jump in?
The detergent supply is also more gradual (more about the correct detergent later). To be sure, check whether your washing machine washes and rinses at the same temperature during the wool wash program: that should be the case with a wool wash program, but making sure can prevent trouble later on.
And finally… the speed of the wool wash program generally does not exceed 600. This also prevents the fibers from being compressed.
4. DRY SPIN ON MAX. 600 RPM
You can spin wool at a maximum speed of 600 rpm. The frizzy scaly fibers tend to intertwine so the less friction the better. If you wash your hair with shit-chic shampoo and pamper your hair with a pricey conditioner, you won't go crazy with that towel, will you? Then you get tangles: The human equivalent of felted wool.
5. DON’T USE FABRIC SOFTENER
No. Don't. Never. Fabric softener leaves a film that prevents wool from fully utilizing its positive properties. A shame for all the work those cute sheep put into the making of that wool.
A SPECIAL WOOL DETERGENT
If you've been paying attention, you know what lanolin is. Lanolin repels dirt and keeps the fiber supple.
So you want to keep that lanolin around. Special wool detergent leaves lanolin intact, there are even wool detergents where lanolin has been added so that you can provide an extra portion of lanolin to your skimpy woolen clothing. Regular detergents sometimes contain bleach, and almost always perfume: both are too aggressive for the wool fiber and make your clothes hard and stiff. Wool detergent also foams more than regular detergent, which creates less friction during washing. I bet you didn't know that, huh?
6. WASHING BY HAND?
Washing by hand seems safer, but it is not necessarily. Unless you check the temperature of the water with a thermometer, because 30º feels surprisingly cool so you are quickly tempted to add some hot water. Moreover, with washing by hand you don't prevent the aforementioned fright effect.
7. DO NOT SOAK
Soaking is also not allowed, as this weakens the fiber unnecessarily. As if you are bathing a baby: not too hot, and do not call your mother / niece / friend while washing to catch up because that always drags out and your (child) wool will drown.
8. DO NOT WRING YOU SWEATER OUT & DON'T PUT THE WOOL IN THE DRYER
And don't think that you can out-smart wet wool by wringing it out by hand: that is not only bad for the wool fiber, but also for the fit of your garment.
We don't have to add that the dryer is also a no-no. Do we? Just to make sure, the dryer is definitely a no-noooo.
9. DO NOT PUT UP FOR DRYING
Wet clothes are heavier than dry clothes. If you hang a garment wet, it can stretch. And if the width or shape of your clothes hanger does not correspond to the shoulder shape of your wool sweater, you will look like you forgot to take the hanger out. That is not a fashionable look.
Lay your wool garment flat on a drying rack - preferably with a towel underneath. Don't put a white sweater on a red towel, or your sweater will turn ... yes, red. The latter was a not-so pleasant experience for one of our customers.
You can also dry your woolen item on a special drying rack made of gauze. Not that anyone has such something like that just laying around, but we're talking about the crème de la crème of drying here.
Anyway, air is added from all sides and it dries faster. If textiles remain wet for too long, they can start to smell. Eau-de-wet-dog.
Wool pills more easily than other textiles, partly due to the "open" structure we told you about earlier. Pilling is actually locally felting, and is caused by friction. So don't always wear your shoulder bag over your wool sweater or cardigan, and let someone else take care of the heavy elbow work ;-).
You can remove pill with a special fluff clipper (our Pluismuis® for example) or - if your sweater is thin and smooth, and you have an uncomfortably steady hand - with a razor. Do not pull and pluck the pill, you will only pull more fibers out of the yarn.
WASH WOOL WITH WOOL
As mentioned before: the more friction, the more chance of felting. Wool needs a little space for itself, so give it that. Don’t not cram too much into 1 machine, and don’t wash your wool with heavy items such as jeans or items with sharp edges such as zippers or metal buttons.
Wool is a bit unconventional: it is best to wash it alone with wool.
IRON AFTER DRYING
When wool has been wet, the fibers spring back to their original frizzy state. It looks like your garment has shrunk, but that is not irreparable. If you iron it on the wool setting, you can "stretch" everything again. First lay it carefully (flat) in the desired shape, do not apply too much pressure, and add a little bit of steam. Then let it rest for a while so that it cools down, then you fix the desired shape. Leave the cuffs alone, you don't want to fix them, but keep them as elastic as possible.
So again rules in short :-)
- Do not wash! Only if you really insist on it.
- Temperatures higher than 30º celsius are a no-no and only use the WOOL WASH program on your washing machine. So not the normal 30 degrees program.
- Any normal detergent and fabric softener is a no-no.
- Soaking is a no-no.
- Dry spinning at high speed is a no-no.
- Washing in general is actually also a no-no, but once in a while is okay.
Well well, that was quite the ride.
But: as promised, we didn't make it complicated. Washing wool isn't rocket science, but you do have to keep certain thins in mind. If you treat wool with love, you get a lot of love - and warmth - in return.
Psst, while you're here: take a look at our beautiful new items.
Until next time,
Love Nic & Ilse