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:
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 and you can simply air them out by laying flat on a bed or towel for an hour to dispel any lingering odours. If you do need to wash, keep the following in mind:
Hand wash – It’s easier than you think – put your sweater in a bowl with cold water and one drop of wool washing up liquid. Then rinse properly a couple of times and after rinsing with your hands, lay the sweater in a towel, fold it and leave it to dry like this before airing it again (see DRY). Or just hang it once it’s not too wet (otherwise it will loose shape).
Choose a gentle cycle – If you have a modern washing machine, you can use a handwash or wool cycle.
Wash in lower temperatures – To avoid shrinking, only wash wool in cold temperatures.
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.
Air dry – Tumble driers are not the best for wool products as they tend to shrink them, so it is best to air dry.
Dry flat – Place the garment flat on a clean towel, re-shape it by laying it out in its normal shape and leave to air dry. If you washed the item by hand, roll it up in the towel and squeeze out excess water first.
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. 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.
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.
Wool can last for years, so before disposing of your old jumpers try swapping with a friend or donating to a local charity shop. A WRAP report said that extending the life of clothing by an extra nine months would reduce carbon, waste and water footprints by around 20-30% each. Many high-end manufacturers will carry out invisible repairs so don’t despair if you find a hole – check with the manufacturer to see if they offer wool surgery or take to a local repair shop such as Invisible Mending. If your woollen is beyond repair, send it off to be recycled into new wool products.
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.