Normal laundry detergents contain ingredients, which help get dirt out of heavily soiled clothes but at the same time, make the washing solution alkaline. Alkaline solutions can affect the dyes used in wool and can result in colours fading or running. At high dosages, alkaline solutions can even attack the basic wool fibre, leaving the whole structure weakened and susceptible to breaking. This not only means your garment will wear out faster but it also won't look or feel as nice. Do not use hot water when washing woollens as it can cause dyes to run and damage the wool fibres. Instead, the water should be at a temperature that is comfortably warm to the touch.
Tip: Avoid letting water run directly on to your woollens as this can matt the wool fibres.
Hand or machine washing?
Wool is a delicate fibre and should always be handled with care. Some wool garments are machine washable (always check the label carefully first). However, before putting any woollens in the machine, make sure:
- The care label states that it is washable
- The directions on the care label are followed
- The correct wash program is followed - the gentler the better. If in doubt, machine manufacturer's instruction booklet.
- If the wool garment is not machine washable or you are in doubt, hand wash. This should be done by gently massaging the garment in a washing tub or bucket for a few minutes and then gently squeezing it to get rid of as much water as possible.
- Wet wool garments should never be twisted or wrung as this can lead to the garments being pulled out of shape
Rinsing: Be gentle
After hand washing, rinse woollens well. Have the water at the same temperature as for washing. Squeeze gently to remove as much water as possible.
Drying: Do not spin delicate wools
The spin cycle of a washing machine is not recommended for very delicate wools, such as mohair and angora. Instead, simply roll in a towel and gently squeeze out as much water as possible. To remove excess moisture from other types of wools, you can use a very low spin cycle (check your care label for instructions). When the excess water has been removed, turn the garment inside out and place on a flat surface to dry, easing it into its original shape and size. Make sure you dry woollen garments away from direct sunlight to prevent discolouration. Never dry woollens in a clothes dryer, or near a fire or radiator.
Ironing: Steam's the thing
Many woollen garments do not require ironing, but very smooth fabrics may look better if pressed. Always make sure you use moist heat. If a steam iron is not available, place a clean, damp cloth on top of the garment and iron lightly, lifting and lowering rather that pushing it along. Do not iron wet garments; wait until they are dry or nearly dry.
Acrylic is prone to stretching, so take care to follow the care label instructions on each garment carefully. It could mean the difference between a cardigan that fits like a glove and a cardigan that just hangs baggily.
Trimmings on garments can affect how they are washed or which product is used. For example, if a garment has a leather collar the care label may say 'Dry Clean Only' even if the rest of the garment is washable.