Clean Wool at Home





Introduction: Clean Wool at Home

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That amazing wool sweater cost you an arm and a leg, and now its dry-cleaning bill will cost you even more extremities! Suddenly, you start avoiding wearing that soft, amazingly warm Sheep's Sacrifice fearing that it'll sustain an impossible stain, or worse, a perspiration stench.

The paradox is unnerving. Until now.

Did you know that you could clean wool at home? Of course you didn't. Thats why you're here. Let me show you how.

Step 1: Soak

1 tbsp of dish soap
1 tbsp white vinegar
luke warm water. Take care to ensure the water is barely warm, no where near hot. This will do crazy things to the woolen fibers.

Submerge your sweater (or whatever other woolen article of clothing) into a tub filled with the water, dish soap, and white vinegar. Gently swish it around with your hand. Never wring! Let it stand for at least an hour.

Step 2: Wash

After about an hour take the sweater out, and empty out the tub. Refill the tub with warm water, and put the sweater back in. Swish with your hand, gently. We're just trying to remove any soap residue. Never wring!

Once you're tired of swishing (really, it should take you only a couple of minutes) take out the sweater and ball it up in your hands, squeezing but not wringing. Never wring! Once it is no longer dripping water, we're ready to dry! This is the fun part. Relatively.

Step 3: Dry

Lay out your sweater on a bath towel, evening out any wrinkles and creases with the back of your hand. Fold the arms in like you would if you were wearing it while waiting for the bride to walk down the aisle, and you're the best man. (Pat on the back for a great analogy)

I'm on a roll. Well, we're all about to be. Taking one edge of your towel, roll it all the way to the other end, rolling the sweater up as you go. Wool is delicate and needs to be handled in kind or the threads can get out of whack. Squeeze as you roll up. Repeat a couple of times, until the sweater is barely damp. If your towel doesn't seem to be absorbing any more water, grab another.

Step 4: Wear!

For a final touch, I usually take the second, dryer towel, and place it over my sweater, and run a warm iron over it to get any remaining wrinkles out.

You're now ready to don your clean, freshly smelling sweater. And fear not of stains henceforth. You now are proficient in the art of wool-cleaning.



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    21 Discussions

    This is quite a good tutorial on washing wool, however I do feel there are many better products on the market for washing expensive woollies rather than dish washing detergent. Products such as Soak, Eucalan, Kookaburra, The Laundress Wool & Cashmere Shampoo, Forever New Delicate Fabric Wash, Namaste Farms Wool Shampoo, and the like are all far superior to dish soaps and even Woolite as they are made for woollies and/or delicates such as silks, cashmere. Several of these washes are designed in such a way that one mixes them in the water, places the dirty woolens in, soak for the specified period of time, squeeze the water out, lay flat to dry. No rinsing, and you are left with beautifully clean, wonderfully fresh smelling fabrics. This, additionally makes them perfect for travel. And while initial research may appear that these products are costly, they truly aren't. A very little bit is used and goes a long way. When caring for your wools & finer fabrics, whether store-bought or handmade, consider the investment and take good loving care of them; invest the few extra minutes for a longer lasting life.

    Hmmm... every time I see a tutorial like this I think "wow, I really abuse my clothes, don't I" I generally whack normal clothes into the washing machine on a 40ºC-ish cycle with "some" detergent(powder) and conditioner. I do treat my wool jumpers better though, and use the "woollens" cycle for them. but then again, I object to buying expensive clothes, so I'm not protecting any investments

    I expect a lot of us have been doing this for years, I like the addition of white vinegar, but it might be a bit harsh, so not too much. There's dish soap and dish soap, so I would say to be careful you should use a detergent specifically for wool. With regard to using conditioners I would say don't. Most of the expensive wools and alpaca that I hand knit with tell you should not use conditioner. Apparently conditioners are made of silica (?) and they eventually build up on the fibres and destroy the soft texture. Apart from that most of the comments are spot on :-)

    2 replies

    Vinegar actually is not harsh to wool. Protein fibres react negatively with basic solutions (this is why modern detergents are preferred to using soap for wool), but adding a bit of vinegar actually functions to neutralize the pH of the tapwater, which is often chlorinated and therefor not good for protein fibre.

    It's the same principle as rinsing one's hair with vinegar.

    I take your point, but white vinegar is also used in really tough cleaning jobs to cut all the grease. I wouldn't put it on my hair, although I have used ordinary malt vinegar diluted. The white vinegar we buy here is over 6%. By the way, do you know that conkers keep the moths away, too!

    Always good to save on unnecessary bills...I add a few drops of eucalyptis oil to the wash and rinse water as it helps clean but also conditions the wool and I believe helps keep moths away

    1 reply

    why do you need the vinegar? I am interested in the science of this

    My grandfather was the manager of a woollen mill and we were taught to never dry clean wool. Just wash gently ( no wringing) in tepid warm water then rinse. Do not leave to soak for one hour.. that is bad. squeeze water out and roll on towel and dry flat. It makes me mad that wool sweaters say "" in the USA when what they mean is that if you do it hot, or wring/scrub it will be messed up. Better to mess up the planet with dry cleaning solvents. This goes for silk too. I dye silk and we use boiling water so there is no need to dry clean unless you feel your dry cleaner is very poor and needs a donation.

    Don't swish! Some wools felt easily. Press down gently and let up a few times. Cool water is better than just warm. The soaking is right. Rinse in cool water. Lay out the sweater on a towel and roll it up to squeeze out water. Lay flat to dry. The cool water and pressing down may not matter with a J. Crew sweater, but will really matter for merino wool.

    I am a spinner and knitter and have been making and washing sweaters for more than 20 years.

    1 reply

    USE COLD WATER ONLY, a very clean wool wash or lingerie wash. Soak, rinse in cold, soak, rinse in cold. lay out thirsty towel, fold towel and press out any remaining water. Lay out a sweater dryer, which is a unit you can buy at any store which sells the wool wash. You need to block out your sweaters. That means make sure they are flat, no folds, (wool shrinks up at the ribbing. That also needs to be stretched out a bit. As your garment dries, the ribbing will still shrink up a bit as that is the character of ribbing. Blocking out your garment is essential, pressing will ruin it. This is for 100% wool, cashmere, cashmere silk blend. Anything with 50% or more acrylic or poly is easily washed in the washer on the delicates cycle, but do block those out also.

    I have been using your method. I use Woolite instead. Works like a charm. After 1 towel rolling I use another towel to lay the sweater on and leave it on the floor in front of a sliding glass door. Works like a charm.

    Recently bought a designer wool/cashmere sweater dress at a thrift store and it has been sitting by in the laundry room waiting for me to do something..anything. So , Yay! and thank you for this!

    You can use shampoo. It's designed to remove body oil more gently than some dish detergents and it usually smells better.

    We live in the NORTH country. Our long johns and winter underwear and socks shirts, sweaters, etc etc are all wool (or silk, but that is another matter). In the winter, I do a wool wash each night, in 70 °F water on the gentle cycle, using woolite. I run them through the gentle rinse cycle a second time, in COLD water, to assure that there is no residue of any kind, especially softener. Then I carefully hang each item on a hanger, or place them on a flat net, and place a large fan in the laundry room, and turn it on to high, keeping all of the doors in the room OPEN. Within one hour, all of the clothes are dry! (This is in the winter, when the relative humidity is extremely low. In the summer, (or in southern climes), it takes up to three hours). This saves on using towels and helps increase the humidity in the air for breathing, too! Our winter underwear lasts longer by far than our summer underwear (cotton), and we are far more comfortable in our clean long johns and wool bras and wool undies and wool sweaters than our colleagues in their high tech winter clothes. (I have not tackled cleaning our rabbit fur hats, any ideas?) Better for the environment as well! Just stick to the basics (cold water and a fan!)!

    I just use my machine on the cold setting and a full water level with a small amount of conditioning shampoo, and only put a few sweaters in the load. I set it for the shortest setting and everything come out perfect every time. I am a size small, so i can put five or 6 sweaters in, if your sweaters are bigger, you have to wash fewer at a time.

    1 reply

    I wash my woolly things in the washing machine too with a special wool powder and I put them in a bag. In fact, it is better for the wool than the manual process. But, in France our washing machines are different.

    This is awesome. I just have one tip to include here: Add hair conditioner to the rinse cycle. It really makes the sweater more comfy to wear.

    1 reply