Care & Cleaning of Woolens: Part 1

All of us know people who prefer clothes made from cotton, synthetic or artificial yarns, because – they fear the care or cleaning of woolens (and silks). Surprisingly, though raised by my grandmother in Norway (and mormor was a master of most handarbeider [hand work], and a graduate of a husmorskole [literally “house mother school” – aka a home economics academy], my mother was one of them.

But care of wool isn’t as hard as people seem to think. (My mother must have missed that class at husmorskole.) Remember that wool comes from the back of animals who frolic in the sun, rain and wind; they also roll in the mud and dirt. People have been wearing wool for much longer than they’ve had washing machines and dry cleaning establishments. (Source of pic)

Here are some hints on the wear and care of woolens.

First, a few basics:

Avoid Woolite. In every fiber class I’ve had, the instructor seems to work that into the first five minutes. It is very alkaline and, over time, damages wool.

My mormor (grandmother) told me:

* Never ever have my wool sweaters dry cleaned. Chemical cleaning is bad for wool.

* Don’t think I have to wash woolen sweaters as soon as I wear them.

* When I come home and take off woolens clothes, do not immediately fold and tuck them away; allow them to air out (and dry).

* Do not store sweaters on hangers. Keep them folded on a shelf or in a chest.

Next post:  cleaning tips!


About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
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24 Responses to Care & Cleaning of Woolens: Part 1

  1. Thanks for popping buy and reading (and commenting!)!

    I have used Woolite in the past (though only for “fine lingerie”), though I don’t think I’ve bought it in about 20 years. (I was really surprised when I read its ingredient list.) >


  2. fabrickated says:

    Oh dear I love Woolite. Really does the trick for me. Not sure I care if the jumper doesn’t last for ever because I have not knitted them. But good information for the day when I surely will complete one.


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  4. Apparently so but I’ve not seen it anywhere even on online yet, I’m loathed to just to put in orders for just one thing! Do you prefer Eucalane to Soak, that seems to be the other big one that I see used in the States? 🙂


  5. Can you get Eucalane?


  6. Ah sorry it wasn’t clear, the Woolite stuff. And yep, I’m UK based. I was a little shocked to read about that! 🙂


  7. What’s the only cleaner you can get “over here” ? (And is “over here” the UK?)


  8. It’s easy to forget when we’re in LYS admiringly stroking lovely colored skeins of wool! 🙂


  9. Mine’s an oval version of this: I can’t believe how expensive it is though! We get them for a couple of quid. 🙂


  10. I’ve seen those in magazines, I think!


  11. I hadn’t thought of the fan – what a great idea! A wool cycle, now there’s a find!


  12. yambean says:

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  13. A small electric fan can speed the drying of sweaters and sock immensely. My washing machine has a wool cycle, and while it’s meant for machine washable wool only, there is so little agitation, I use it for everything except my lace shawls.


  14. They’re quite common in the cheapy shops where we are, I don’t know what they’re officially called but they’re a plastic oval with lots of clips/pegs and a chain and hook to hang them up with. Happy hunting! 🙂


  15. Interesting! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sock-specific dryer before. I will have to check it out.


  16. If you’re prepared to do some clever folding of sleeves and longer parts and then to move it around if it isn’t drying evenly, I find that one of those sock dryers are good for drying jumpers on (flat across the top not using the hooks). You can hang them up every where. 🙂


  17. That’s the only cleaner we can get over here, I’ve saved my last bottle, eking it out for special projects, rats! Ah well. Live and learn. At least I’ve never been afraid of hand washing, my father raised me well. 🙂


  18. Clever! I always seem to need the bathtub before my sweaters dry. Possibly a result of living on the humid coast. Currently I’ve got a weird little station set up in the dining room, since we don’t actually use the dining room very often.


  19. Sometimes I think the dry cleaning and chemical companies are in cahoots to persuade consumers there is no other way but theirs to clean clothes!


  20. I know the space dilemma! I have used the tub on several occasions, either setting the racks on the rim of the tub or, if the tub is large enough, setting them in the tub. In grad school, I put a hook in the bathroom ceiling over the tub area, tied cords to each of the four corners of the rack, and then tied the opposite ends of the cords together and slipped over the hook. 🙂


  21. Northern Narratives says:

    A very good point to remind everyone that wool was on the back of the animal in all weather conditions.


  22. Good advice! The struggle for me is always finding space to lay out my sweaters to dry.


  23. this is so great! I just was telling my partner these rules yesterday (as he hung up a sweater of his that I had washed, to dry and I freaked out!).
    It’s so strange though- I have been a knitter for 10+ years. My mother was a weaver and spinner. I’ve been around wool my whole life. I’ve never had problems washing wooly sweaters and socks etc… but when it came to washing my wool pants and skirts (ie. woven fabric) a couple of years ago, I actually had a moment of pause, thinking “will the washer (on delicate, low spin and cool water) wreck them?” and I had to reassure myself they were no different than anything else!! Of course, they washed up just beautifully. So strange how easily even the most wool-educated people can be brainwashed by a consumer culture!! We are so well-trained to think that we MUST dryclean or else everything will be ruined! ha ha!


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