Wool has been a popular fiber for clothing for thousands of years. As a natural fiber, it is breathable and absorbent. Wool is warm even when wet, making it ideal for winter coats and ski sweaters. Wool can also be spun into fine yarn for socks and baby clothing, or even for fine lace shawls. Wool garments and accessories can last a long time, given proper care. Here are the essential of wool fabric care.
Cleaning Wool Fabric
Wool clothing care includes cleaning as needed. Wool coats and jackets can be brushed with a clothing brush and hung on a shaped or padded hanger to air out before returning to the clothes closet. When brushing and airing are not enough, coats and jackets should be professionally dry cleaned. A dry cleaner will be able to handle not only the wool but the various linings and interfacings that make up a structured garment like a coat or jacket.
Other wool garments can often be hand washed in lukewarm water and mild soap or detergent. Special washes such as Eucalan are made to be mild enough for hand washing delicate clothing. (Surprisingly, according to one of your readers, despite the name, Woolite, which was designed for washing nylon lingerie, is actually not a good option for washing wool.) Be sure to check care labels before washing, however, as there may be cautions due to non-washable trimmings or other blended fibers. Sweaters can be washed according to their care labels.
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If you knit your own wool garments, lucky you! Simply save the wrapper from your ball of yarn for care instructions. Superwash wool has already been treated so it may even be machine washed. Assume all wool is hand wash only unless you have a label that says otherwise.
Hand Washing Technique
Fill a clean sink or plastic dishpan with lukewarm water. Have a clean plastic basin of lukewarm water nearby for rinsing. Add a small amount of mild detergent, such as a teaspoonful of baby shampoo, to the first sink or basin. Place the garment in the sudsy water and squeeze gently until water has reached all parts of the garment. Place hands under the garment to support the weight of the item and prevent stretching as you lift the item from the sudsy water and place it in the clean water. Squeeze the rinse water through the garment. If necessary, empty the first basin, refill with clear water, and do a second rinse,
For drying, lift the garment and squeeze out excess water, but do not wring or twist. Lay garments flat on a towel and roll up the towel to absorb more water. Now lay the garment flat to dry if it is a sweater or other stretchy garment. Firmly woven fabrics may be hung to drip dry instead. Again, check the care label, if available.
Final Thoughts on Wool Fabric Care
Other animal fibers are cared for in similar fashion, including cashmere, alpaca, angora, and llama as well as blends of these fibers with sheep’s wool. All wool-like fibers share the trait of shrinking or felting if subjected to friction in combination with extremes of water temperature. Wool is turned into felt by intentionally washing in hot water, agitating, then rinsing in cold water. To prevent this, simply do the opposite, as detailed above.
Wool clothing care usually does not include pressing or ironing, but occasionally a bit of steam may help a garment spring back into shape. Use the wool setting on the iron and a damp press cloth between the clothing and the iron. There are also Teflon covers available to help prevent accidental scorching. If you have a hand steamer, hold it a few inches away from any wrinkles and let the steam relax the fibers.
Store wool clothing folded flat (sweaters and other knits) or hanging on a proper hanger of shaped wood, molded plastic, or padded wood or wire. Darkness prevents color fading. Be sure to watch out for moths in storage areas and consult a professional before they damage your garments.
Enjoy the beauty and comfort of wool. Protect your investment in quality clothing with a bit of intelligent wool fabric care in washing and storage. If you have any other tips that would help the other readers, please be so kind as to leave them in the comments below.