When you want to wash a woolen sweater by hand:
- Fill your kitchen sink or some sort of large container with tepid water.
- If your woolen’s very dirty, you could increase the temperature of the water. You don’t want to pour hot water directly onto or too near the sweater.
- Push your sweater to the side, and as you add in warmer water, use your hand to mix it in with the cooler water.
- Add either a gentle liquid dish soap or a liquid soap designed for washing wool. (I’m partial to Eucalan.)
- Gently lower in your woolen. Let it soak for a bit, then gently squish the soapy water and woolen. (Don’t wring it.)
- If you use a liquid dish soap, you will need to rinse the sweater at least once. Holding the sweater to the side, drain, refill with tepid water, and rinse.
- If you use Eucalan, you don’t need to rinse.
- If you find the color running, drain, refill with tepid water, and add some vinegar. Adding (white) vinegar to the last rinse will also, according to Bette Hochberg, “help remove any remaining soap film caused by hard water” (Fibre Facts, p. 38).
After the final draining, gently squeeze the excess water from the woolen, gather it up (no hanging arms or other parts), and then move it to a thick towel. Lay out the sweater, shape it and then roll it up in the towel. If it is a thick sweater, I leave it rolled up over night; if it’s not so thick, I let it sit in a roll for about 1 or 2 hours.
Once you unroll the towel, lay the sweater flat on a nylon or wooden mesh rack. (See, for example, the racks a Linen N Things or Bed Bath & Beyond.) Do not hang the sweater either over a dowel or on a hanger.
If it’s winter, don’t set the racks too close to the heater, furnace or fireplace. I have a full day dedicated to sweater (etc.) washing at the end of the cold season. Then I set the racks outside (in the shade if the sun’s too strong), and the woolens dry quickly.
When the woolens are dry, I fold and put them, along with a little block of maple, some dried lavender or a few Eucalyptus leaves or nuts, into a zippered storage bag (not a zip lock bag) until the cold weather comes back.