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Fashion

How To Care for Wool

By Kelly Green
15.10.18

Eco-Age textile consultants Charlotte Turner and Philippa Grogan and NICE Fashion founder Tone Tobiasson share their tips for how to care for wool when washing, drying, storing and discarding with our step-by-step guide.

 

Winter is looming which means it’s almost time to dig out that faithful old wool jumper that’s been hanging in your closet for years, the luxurious wool scarf that’s been carefully stowed away since Spring, and wrap up warm in your beautiful investment wool coat that you’ve been waiting to show off.

But if the worry of shrinking your wool garments leaves you quivering in your cashmere socks - fear not! Caring for wool is actually much easier than you might think.  

The wool scene is growing, and whilst is applications are broadening, the need for responsible wear and care remains unchanged. Smart, casual, athletic, loungewear or outerwear, we want you to love and care for your wool for years to come, so here are a few tips and tricks for caring for all your wool garments:

1. WASH

Wool as a fibre keeps itself clean naturally, expelling odours through moisture control, and is naturally stain and wrinkle resistant. This means you shouldn’t have to wash your woollies as often.

Airing: Let the woolen item hang indoors or outdoors, or let it lie on a chair, bed or a place where air can circulate after use and before you put it away. Damp air (in the bathroom) is fine, as is fresh air; however the bedroom is also fine. Air is more effective than both water and detergents in removing sweat odors from wool. If you do need to wash, keep the following in mind:

Stain-removal: Remove stains by wiping off before they can absorb into the fibre. If the stain has set, you can “thread” the item around the sink-tap and let lukewarm water flow through the stain. This is an effective method to get rid of stains on the foot of tights for example.

Machine wash: Select the wool/silk program on the machine, and if you do not have a wool/silk program, use the delicate or “handwash” cycle, at lukewarm temperature (no higher than 30 degrees). If none of these are available, wash by hand (see next point). Always use wool detergent and choose as high a spin speed as the machine allows to thoroughly remove the rinse-water, which will contain detergent and other residue. 

Hand wash: It isn’t as pain-staking as you might think - put your woolen wear in a bowl with lukewarm water and one drop of wool washing up liquid (top tip: like human hair, wool is a protein fibre, so if you can’t get your hands on wool detergent, a drop or two of shampoo will do). Move the wool clothing gently in the water so that water and detergent flows through the material and the fibres don’t shrink or felt. Scoop the wool clothing from underneath with your hands with your fingers spread out, so the water drains through – the less you wring or in other ways stress the wool, the better. Press your hands together so the water is pressed out. Then rinse properly a couple of times. Use the same temperature for washing and rinsing and don’t wring the wool item. To remove excess water you can lay the sweater in a towel then roll it into a sausage and press lightly. 

Choose a gentle cycle: If you have a modern washing machine, you can use a handwash or wool cycle. Wool fibres can shrink or felt if they are over agitated and so it’s always best to opt for gentle cycles.

Wash in lower temperatures – Laundering wool in lukewarm temperatures not only preserves fibre integrity and fabric quality, but also stands to save you money on your energy bills. Although laundering using cold water might seem tempting from an environmental standpoint, it is actually more effective to use warm water to sufficiently clean woolen fibres.

Use a dedicated detergent - Use a detergent designed for woollens. Contrary to popular belief, what we learnt when visiting the technical Woolmark Company lab in Melbourne last year is that we are never supposed to use softener!  We personally recommend using Ms Brown or Ecover as these are the kindest to the environment.

Avoid traditional dry cleaning - It's a myth that wool needs to be dry-cleaned. Traditional dry cleaning is a highly chemical intensive process that can have negative impact on the environment, textile fibres and your skin. If dry-cleaning is required, look for an eco-friendly service such as BLANC. Woolen fabrics can be “steamed” clean (for free!) in a moisture-rich environment such as a bathroom, and this avoids synthetic cleaning chemicals used for conventional dry cleaning (and the accompanying bill).

2. DRY

Before you dry the piece of clothing, pull it into the desired shape if it has lost its shape. If it has shrunk, you can pull it back into its original size while it is still wet. 

Air dry: Tumble driers are not the best for wool products as they tend to shrink them, so it is best to air dry. Hang to dry on a hanger or a drying rack. Big and heavy garments in loose materials should be flat when drying. Using a drying rack and spreading the weight out is the best alternative, however don’t lay on a towel – this hinders air from below.

3. STORE

When the weather gets warmer and you want to pack away your winter woollens, bear the following in mind:

Protect from moths: Unfortunately, moths love wool and can cause holes if you don’t properly store your woolies when not in use. Keep your wool garments in cotton bags or use cedar wood balls to help keep moths at bay. Make sure they are clean before you store them. If you do find moths have taken up residence in an item, pop it in the freezer for 24 hours, take it out and bring to room temperature, and then repeat again. If you do get a hole, mending is fairly easy using a needle and thread. Make the repair on the inside and choose a thin thread that is a little darker and subdued than the wool item itself. Use an orange to stabilize if the hole is large and you don’t have a darning ball. 

Hang on padded hangers or fold: Knitted wool garments should be gently folded away in drawers. Woven garments can be hung in your wardrobe, but only on padded coat hangers. Thin, hard hangers can cause stretching or mis-shaping – be sure to be gentle with your wool.

 

Want to know more about wool? Watch Fashion-scapes: Forever Tasmania to follow Livia Firth as she journeys to one of the earth’s most biodiverse regions to meet wool growers turned earth-defenders.

Discover more tips for how to care for your clothes to keep them for longer.

How To Care for Wool