Caring for your Winter Woollens
Wearing Winter woollies creates a cosy, hygge feeling of softness, comfort, and warmth. Caring for them correctly will multiply this feeling by helping you get even more wear out of each piece.
Washing and storing your knitwear properly will also save you money in the long run, by making it last and keeping it looking new for longer.
Wool, merino, cashmere – what’s the difference?
Sheep’s wool is an incredible natural fibre. It’s warm when it’s cold, breathes when it’s hot and absorbs moisture to keep you warm even when it’s damp. It resists fire, smells and stains. When it’s dry, wool can be folded, rolled and twisted, and will still bounce back to its original shape. And if you look after it, it will give you years of faithful service in your wardrobe.
Lambswool is wool that’s from a sheep’s first shearing, at around the age of seven months. It is super soft, springy, and usually costs a bit more than wool.
Merino wool has the same benefits as wool and lambswool, with an even higher warmth to weight ratio, and because its fibres only measure 15-25 microns, it’s soft, and is less irritating for people who find wool itchy. Extremely odour-resistant, merino is perfect for wearing next to skin.
The differences between wool and cashmere are that cashmere comes from the Kashmir goat, and it’s not shorn. Instead it’s the very fine soft fibres that are combed out of the goat’s outer coat. Only a small amount of cashmere can be harvested each year, which is one reason it’s so expensive. Cashmere is not known for its durability. Don’t put cashmere in a washing machine, even on a wool cycle, and never put it in the dryer.
How to handwash knitwear
The sink should be big enough so you can easily rinse or swirl the garment. To conserve water, try to wash more than one piece at a time, in the order of light to dark colours, as some may leach colour. Go for a mild liquid laundry detergent that’s been specially formulated for washing knitwear. Make sure you have a couple of big, thick towels for drying.
- Use warm water and mix it with some mild wool wash. Submerge the garment in the water and let it soak for about 5 minutes.
- Gently squeeze to work the soapy water through the fibres, but don’t agitate. If you’re washing multiple items, remove the first to a bucket (squeezing out some of the soapy water) and repeat this step with the next garment.
- When you’re done washing, replace the soapy water with clean lukewarm water, and carefully rinse each item.
- Remove from the rinse water and squeeze out as much water as you can without wringing.
- Lay it flat on one end of the towel and roll it up inside the towel. Gently squeeze or wring the towel. Unwrap, lay it flat and let it air dry in a place that has plenty of air circulation.
- Press out or squeeze to remove as much water as possible. Don’t wring it.
- Place it flat on a dry towel or airing rack away from sunlight and let it air-dry.
Tip: The water temperature is right when you can’t feel it. Think of how you’d test a baby bottle.
That sounds like work. Can I just pop it in the machine?
Sometimes you can wash merino in the washing machine (check the label first). Always use a gentle or wool cycle (this depends on your machine). If you have a temperature select function, set it to 30°C. (In some machines, “30 degrees” has a ball of wool next to it.)
If you prefer not to hand wash, some wool and cashmere can be dry cleaned (check the label though!). But apart from the harsh chemicals used in the process, dry cleaning tends to sap the life out of these natural fibres.
What to look for in a wool wash
Try to choose a mild detergent with a neutral pH, in a liquid, as it will rinse away more easily in warm or cold water, allowing hand washed items to dry without residue. It should also have been formulated against AWTA approved Woolmark test methods. Extra gentle ecostore Eucalyptus Wool & Delicates is ideal for washing delicate fibres like wool and cashmere, fabrics like lace and silk as well as black garments and baby clothes.
Naturally derived eucalyptus or lavender are excellent fragrance choices, as they not only make things smell fresh, they help to repel moths. Keeping a bunch of dried eucalyptus leaves or lavender flowers in your wardrobe helps too.
It’s a good idea to only wash knitwear a couple of times a season, so it keeps its shape and resilience. Between washes, give it a good airing and de-pilling, and check for any food or other marks. Properly washed knitwear will last for years.
Knitwear dos and don’ts, a checklist:
- Do use lukewarm water (body temperature is best).
- Do use a gentle detergent specially formulated for woollens and delicates.
- Don’t ever put lambswool or cashmere knitwear in the washing machine.
- Don’t hang knitwear in your wardrobe – it should always be dried flat and stored folded.
- Do use moth traps in your wardrobe – and make sure knitwear is clean before storing. Moths love those little bits of food on your clothes. Eeew.