Summer is officially here in the Southern Hemisphere and so the time has come to store your winter woolies until next winter. But for our Northern neighbours, the colder months have only just begun. Here are 9 inexpensive ways to keep your wool sweaters looking like new, whether you are storing them over summer or pulling them out of your wardrobe to wrap up warm this holiday season, with these tips you’ll be wearing your winter woolies for many seasons to come.
1. Easy Care
The protective waxy coating on wool fibres makes wool products resistant to staining and they also pick up less dust as wool is naturally anti-static. Recent innovations mean wool items are no longer hand-wash only. Many wool products can now be machine-washed and tumble dried. Felted wool should be washed gently by hand or in a good quality washing machine using the wool cycle and not tumble dried.
Unlike cotton and man-made materials, wool does not need to be washed frequently – even wool socks can be worn many times between washing if allowed to be aired out between wearing them. Don’t assume your wool sweater needs to be washed just because you are used to washing things after wearing them once! Get used to gently spot-cleaning and airing woolens and you will be amazed at how well they last with very little care, and very infrequent washing.
2. Wash & Dry
Wool sweaters should be washed gently by hand with very little soap in cold water, to prevent shrinking, or on the wool cycle on your washing machine. Remove excess water with a towel by laying the item on a towel and rolling it up jelly-roll style, squeezing and pressing gently. Unroll then, leave in fresh air to dry.
3. Dry Flat
To keep your wool sweaters and jerseys in shape, and ensure no shrinkage occurs, high temperatures should not be used when drying. Once the garment has been gently spun, pull it into shape and allow it to dry whilst supported, allowing a natural airflow. Lay flat on a clothes horse or a banister rail is excellent for this process and you will be amazed at how quickly wool dries!
4. Spin Speeds
Most woollen jerseys are best washed and spun in your washing machine at around 600 revs per minute. Higher spin speeds could cause a heavily water laden jersey to grow. You will find wool releases moisture much more easily than cotton, and does not need such a fast spin. Check your machine before using the wool programme. When selecting the wool programme, some machines automatically switch to the correct spin speed setting for wool, whilst others will require the spin speed to be set independently from the wool programme.
Check your washing detergent or powder is wool friendly by reading the small print. Modern biological detergents, or ones containing bleaching agents, can be catastrophic to any animal-based fabric. These detergents, as well as the non-biological detergents which contain bleach, will cause the garment to become corroded and thinned. Your new wool sweater or jersey could loose its shape, and the finer wools will go into holes very quickly.
There are some excellent detergents which will condition and protect your new wool jersey. Look out for the wool mark symbol on the packaging.
All wool will pill to a certain degree. This is more common in softer yarns and can occur in contact areas e.g. where your arm rubs against your body during wear. When pills appear, the garment can soon look a little untidy, but this is only a temporary condition.
The pilling balls can be removed easily by plucking or carefully shaving the fabric with a sweater comb. Once the jersey has finished releasing these shorter fibres, the longer, higher twisted fibres will remain, and the pilling will cease. A similar process occurs during the first few weeks of walking on a new wool carpet. Washing your jumper in a washing machine speeds up the process of releasing the shorter fibres and the bobbles.
7. Needle & thread
Even someone who’s all thumbs can repair small rips, snags, and moth nibbles by darning them with matching yarn. A needle-felting starter kit includes everything you need to salvage your sweater, including felting needles, a sponge or pad, and an assortment of batts in different colors.
8. Beware the moth
The moth caterpillar can inhabit any home, and is not a sign of poor domestic hygiene! The egg-laying adult moth, attracted by a light source, can enter homes via an open window. Once the eggs are laid and larvae newly hatched, they feed on the wool fibres. Jerseys and sweaters, unworn during summer, subsequently develop holes making them un-wearable.
Instead of using noxious chemical-soaked mothballs, stave off interlopers naturally with cloves, lavender, rosemary, thyme, dried orange peel, or cedar chips, all of which repel moths. Tie any of these items in a cloth sachet or handkerchief and place it near, although not directly on, the garment.
9. Long term storage
So that the natural fibers can breathe, store your garment in a cardboard box, muslin or canvas bag, or acid-free tissue paper. This will help extend its life. We recommend that you clean your sweaters before storing them, since this will prevent moths from being attracted to them.