You might think natural fibers, like wool, need to be taken to the dry cleaners to be properly cleaned. But the truth is, you can care for most of your wool products at home just as well. Whether you’re over the expense, tired of being exposed to harsh chemicals, or simply don’t have time to run to the dry cleaners every week, following these tips can help keep your wool clothing looking flawless (using this free downloadable Laundry Care Symbols Guide can help too!)
1. Don’t wash after every wear
Because wool’s natural structure is stain- and odor-resistant there’s no need to wash your pieces after every wear. Unless there’s a serious stain or you know you’ve had a particularly sweaty day, wait until pieces are actually soiled, dirty, or begin to have an odor before laundering. Too frequent washing can shorten the life of any garment by fading the colors prematurely, creating unwanted stretch, and pulling at the seams.
Eco-benefit: up to 17% of home water usage can be attributed to the washing machine. Choosing wool items that don’t need to be washed after every wear can help you cut back on wasting water.
When it’s time to wash your wool, consider an at-home handwash. In most cases, it’s safe to handwash wool, but always double-check each garment’s label to be sure. Start by washing the item in lukewarm or cold water using a mild detergent. Soak for 3-5 minutes while gently pressing the suds through the garment (never wring your clothes, which can alter their shape!) Rinse twice in clean lukewarm or cold water. And finally, squeeze out excess water and roll the garnet in a towel to help absorb extra water.
If you determine that a handwash simply won’t do the trick, choose a dry cleaner carefully. Look for a dry cleaner that uses environmentally-friendly methods and chemicals, such as liquid carbon dioxide, or CO2, and wet cleaning. Avoid environmental toxins, such as PERC, whenever possible.
3. How to cleanse using the washing machine
Who knew wool could be washed using the machine?! It’s true, many wool garments are now machine washable, just be sure to check the tag. Get started by tossing your items in the washing machine — you can choose to toss each item in on their own, or if you want to be extra safe pop each item in its own mesh bag. Make sure you’re running the load using the delicate cycle, use a mild or neutral detergent, choose a short cycle length, and you’re all set.
Did you know: More detergent doesn’t mean cleaner clothes. Too much detergent can actually prevent a good scrub or trap dirt in conspicuous places. Take it easy on the detergent to help ensure cleaner clothes.
4. Always air dry
If your wool item shrinks, it’s often permanent — to avoid this, air dry, air dry, air dry. Whether you’ve chosen to handwash or machine wash your garment start by squeezing any excess water out, lay your item flat and re-create its original shape, and then stand back and wait for the item to dry. Or, if you’re working with woven items, such as suit jackets and pants these can be hung on a hanger to drip dry.
Pro tip: Never hang knitwear, like a sweater, on a hanger to dry or you could end up with a misshapen, saggy item. And think twice about speeding up the process by placing your item near a radiator or in direct sunlight as these tactics could cause shrinkage.
5. Store properly
Moths love to devour natural fibers like wool (along with silk, fur, and leather…) so be sure to store your treasured wool items properly to ensure they don’t become a meal — make sure each item is clean and dry, then fold and store loosely in an airtight container. Try tossing in some cedar chips instead of mothballs. Cedar is nonpoisonous, has a fresh, woodsy scent, and is a natural moth repellent.
Store your wool in; plastic bins, freezer bags, zip-up fabric bins, compression storage bags, cedar chests, sealed garment bags, canvas storage bags/bins, PEVA chests
When garment tag care instructions seem like a language all their own, this free laundry care symbols guide is your instant translator. It helps to decode laundry symbols in a quick and easy way. Download, print and hang in your laundry room today.
For more wool care tips, including on-the-spot stain removal for red wine, coffee, ink, and more click here.