One of the many reasons I love wool is that it has seemingly magical properties that Mother Nature has bestowed upon it. For instance, wool is naturally antibacterial, antimicrobial, and soil-resistant. As such, it is not necessary to wash your wool handknits after every wear. In fact, frequent washing can cause more damage. I normally wash my knits seasonally.
Freshen Up Your Knitwear
To keep your knitwear fresh in between wears, simply let them air out by laying them flat overnight.
Steaming is also a great way to freshen up knitwear between seasonal washing. The warmth and moisture of the steam relaxes the fabric of your piece, flattening wrinkles and smoothing creases from folding. This can be as simple as laying your garment flat in a steamy bathroom. Alternatively you can use a steam iron. For this method, lay your garment flat over an ironing board and hold the iron about an inch above it as you surge the steam. Do not allow the iron to come in contact with the knitwear! While the knitwear is warm and damp, use your hands to smooth it out and reshape to your liking. Leave your handknit to air dry.
Because wool is naturally soil-resistant, it repels moisture, meaning that if you happen to spill liquid on your knitwear, you’ll have time toquickly blot before a stain sets. Simply pat the area with a paper towel, letting the moisture wick off. Try not to rub or agitate the fabric, so as not to felt or weaken it.
Due to friction, pills, or small balls of fluff, may develop on the surface of your wool garments over time, such as the sides of a sweater that rub against your arms when you move. To remove them, simply brush off gently with a sweater stone or a sweater brush.
All of the knitwear sold at Misty Isle Cottage is handwash only. But don’t be discouraged. Handwashing is much easier than you think!
When choosing a detergent for washing your wool items, look for a mild laundry liquid specifically designed for delicate and wool fibres, ideally displaying the Woolmark symbol. Avoid powder detergents (the powder is unlikely to dissolve in cool water and will stick to the wool fibres) and capsules (the soluble packaging can damage the wool). Tuft Woolens is a great plastic free option. Some other detergents I like are: Ecover’s Delicate Laundry Liquid, Eucalan Delicate Wash, or Soak, the rinse-free laundry soap.
Step by step: Handwashing
- Use a clean sink, bathtub, or basin large enough to completely submerge the item you’re washing, and fill with cool water.
- Follow the instructions on your detergent’s packaging for how much to add.
- Soak for 15 minutes. To soak, submerge the fabric, gently squeezing out any air bubbles so that the piece can remain under the water without being held there.
- If the soap you are using is not rinseless, you will need to re-submerge the piece in clean water once or twice to remove the soap from your fabric.
- Gently squeeze out as much water as you can without wringing or twisting. Avoid lifting and letting the item hang, as the weight of the water will stretch it out.
- Lay your item flat on a dry towel and roll it up, pressing firmly as you roll, so that the towel absorbs most of the water.
Things to Avoid
- Never place any wool item under running water as this motion may felt or full the wool.
- No dry cleaning, no harsh detergents, no hot dryer
- No fabric softener – it will coat the fabric’s fibers, affecting its natural properties and damaging your item
- Do not scrub, twist, or wring your item when washing it
Reshape & Dry
- Lay a dry towel on a flat surface with good air circulation (like a drying rack).
- Place the item on the towel, reshaping as you go, gently patting it into shape. Avoid excessive pulling or stretching.
- Allow the item to dry for at least 12 hours and then turn it over to allow the other side to fully dry.
- If not completely dry after 24 hours then put a new dry towel underneath, turn and reshape the item again.
Once your wool garment is completely dry, you can fold it and store it away. Folding is key here as hanging your knitwear will cause the fibers to stretch and the item to become mishaped.
As an added protection against fiber-loving critters, you can place blocks of aromatic cedar — a natural bug repellent — in among your knits. I also throw in a lavender sachet to keep them smelling lovely. If you’re storing your knitwear for longer periods of time, place them in a cotton or linen storage bag (as opposed to an airtight plastic bin) so they can breathe.
Knitwear Care Complete
That’s it! Treating your knitwear with a little love and care goes a long way to ensuring it stays looking and feeling great for years. If you have any questions about caring for your hand knits, please feel welcome to reach out to me by email or by sending me a message on Instagram.
Olivia Smart says
Thank you for explaining that you shouldn’t place your wool items under running water. I’ve been wondering how I can care for my new wool sweater vest, since I really want to keep it looking as vibrant and new for as long as possible. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind for all of my wool clothing from now on.