How to Wash Wool

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Do you know how to wash wool or are you one of those people who avoid buying pure wool because of the difficulty of washing your garments without shrinking or felting them?

Do your woollen garments lose their shape when you wash them?  If you are a spinner, does your fleece wool felt when you are trying to scour it? 

Would You Like to Know the Secret of How to Wash Wool Without Doing Damage?

Well, there is more than one actually!

  • Use a good quality wool wash and not a harsh detergent
  • Keep the water temperature the same for both washing and rinsing your wool
  • Don't under any circumstances squeeze or twist your wool!
  • Dry your garment lying flat and in the shade
  • Never, ever, dry your woollen items in a tumble dryer. It will felt!

Washing Woollen Garments

Sorry to disappoint you, but woollen garments still need to be washed by hand! The same rules apply to garments to washing a fleece or skeins of wool.

Soak your garment in warm soapy water. No squeezing, or rubbing, just soak. Replace the water as necessary until no more dirt is in the water, and then rinse in clean water at the same temperature as the soapy water.

© Mr. TinDC | Flickr - Washing Knitted Garments

To remove excess water use the spin cycle of your washing machine, again, no squeezing, or rubbing unless you want the garment to felt.

To dry the garment, lay it flat on a towel in place where it will not be disturbed. Before leaving it to dry, make sure it is in the right shape.

Washing Your Skein of Spun Wool

If you are washing your skeins of spun wool, it is generally a good idea to wash enough to complete your project at the same time. This way the color and texture of all of your wool will be the same.

© Sand and Sky | Flickr - Washing Hand Spun Wool

I have trouble with this one, I am always in a hurry to see what my completed project will look like, and tend to spin, wash, knit and then spin and wash more wool as I need it. As a result, the color of each skein is different and I end up having to re-wash whatever it is that I have made when it is finished!

You wash wool skeins in pretty much the same way as you wash a fleece. But to dry them you can hang them from a shaded clothes lines (or a door handle, or a curtain track) to dry. If you are unsure about the twist of your yarn, weighting the skein during drying will help to straighten out the excessive twist.

Pre-Shrinking Hand Spun Wool

To pre-shrink handspun wool you need to ignore most of what I have already told you about how to wash wool!

The wool from some fleeces will shrink more than others. If you want to prevent your finished garments from shrinking when you wash them, you can pre-shrink your wool before knitting or weaving.

The way to do this is to wash your skeins normally in warm soapy water. Set up two containers to dunk the skeins in, one with very hot water and one with cold. Once the skeins have been washed in your warm soapy water, dunk the skein, first in the hot water and then immediately in the very cold water. The change in temperature should cause the wool in the skein to shrink.

When you are pre-shrinking your wool you should add weights to your skein while they are drying.

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