My name is Solanah, I run the blog Vixen Vintage, and Casey has kindly invited me to post on Elegant Musings!
Right now in the northern hemisphere we've hit winter, and I'm sure you've all gotten some good use out of your sweaters, socks, and mittens. It's time to freshen them up, and make sure they last for many more winters to come!
Wool is a keratin fiber, which also makes up our fingernails and hair. So it does not respond well to harsh chemicals, such as alkaline, found in laundry detergents, and perspiration. Alkaline opens up the little scales on the fibers, like those hair commercials, with the before picture showing a microscopic image of an unhealthy hair, all prickly and dry. Thats what happens when alkaline is introduced to wool.
So instead of laundry soap, use dish detergent, this will successfully clear away the greasiness from normal wear, without harming the wool fibers. This method is gentler (and more economical) than dry cleaning, which does weaken the fibers. It is also said that hand washing correctly can make wools softer, and there's nothing better than your favorite cardigan getting softer and softer with each washing.*
Instructions for washing wool knits:
1. Fill a bowl or sink with a colander, and warm water, and add a few drops of dish detergent, or even mild shampoo (no conditioner), and swish around a bit.
2. Place your knit item in the colander, and gently immerse in water, don't squeeze, wring, or really move in any way. You can gently press it down to make sure it's covered in water, but otherwise just let it soak for a bit, 10, 20 minutes, longer if it needs a really good soak.
3. When it's done soaking, lift the colander out of the bowl or sink and set aside, draining the sink, or empty bowl. I put my colander in another empty bowl, so it wouldn't drip on the counter.
4. Fill your container again with warm water, and let it sit some more, the soap will find it's way our of the wool. Repeat if you feel necessary. If you have "hard water", add a bit of vinegar to the rinse, to soften it up.
5. Once you have sufficiently coaxed the bubbles out of hiding, drain any water from the sink or bowl, and just let the item sit in the colander dripping excess water. Press down to quicken the drip process if needed. Wool is weaker when wet, so avoid lifting when it's soaking and heavy.
6. Once it has dripped well, gently lift the item as a whole (eg. Don't hold a sweater by it's shoulders, leaving the body of it to hang), and place it flat on a clean, dry towel. Roll the towel and press.
7. Take the item and lay it on a dry towel, on a flat surface. Flip every few hours until completely dry.
And voila! My cashmere sweater has a new fluff and fresh feel :)
*I would not recommend this method for multi-colored items as they may run. Test the item before proceeding, in a spot that is hidden if the colors do run, such as under a collar, toe of a sock, etc.