Erin Doman on November 4, 2015 2 Comments Many people avoid buying wool clothing and blankets because they do not want to deal with the hassle and expense of dry cleaning them. You might wonder if it is possible to wash wool by hand without shrinking it, and you should know that this can be a much simpler process than it is normally made out to be. Before you begin the washing process, be sure to check the fiber content of your wool product. If your clothing or blanket contains more than 50 percent wool or animal fiber, it is at risk of shrinking. If your sweater is a wool blend of acetate or acrylic, then it is less likely to shrink. However, if the acrylic content is high and the wool content low, you still cannot wash the piece with hot water because acrylic loses its elasticity when exposed to heat. Never dry wool in the dryer as the heat will cause it to shrink. Considerations for Washing Wool Answering the questions below can prove beneficial when you are deciding whether you should wash your wool items by hand or if you should dry clean them. Of course, always read and follow the directions written on the clothing or blanket tag. The manufacturers provide this advice for a reason. After you have consulted the direction on the tag, you can determine your method of cleaning by following a couple of guidelines. The first points that you need to consider before deciding to wash wool items at home include: Is it woven or knitted? Is the weave or knit open or tight? Is the wool fabric heavy and furry, or smooth and thin? Does the garment have a sewn-in lining? Is there more than 50 percent animal fiber or wool? Is it blended with acrylic or an acetate? It is important to understand that wool shrinks more than any other fiber. For instance, wool knits are more likely to shrink than woven wool. The reason for this is that the knitwear yarn is more fuzzy and bulky and has considerably less twist when produced. While woven fabric can still shrink, it will not shrink as noticeably as a crocheted or knitted piece would because the yarn design is tighter and more compact. Also, treating wool suiting during the finishing process helps prevent shrinkage. Recommended Washing Tips 1. Wash Gently Always clean sweaters before storage, because bugs feed off sweat and stains. Dry cleaning works well but can be expensive. In most cases, it is safe to hand wash wool and wool blends, but let the care label be your guide. Add the recommended amount of a soap formulated for delicates to a sink filled with lukewarm water. Soak the item inside out if it is a piece of clothing for about 10 minutes, and then rinse at least two times. Wool that is wet stretches quite easily so press the water out without wringing or twisting it. 2. Dry Flat Don’t dry your wool piece in your dryer unit. Instead, place the clean, wet piece on a dry towel and roll it to extract water. Carefully unroll and let dry on a mesh rack or a fresh towel. Now is a good time to adjust the fit, either slightly smaller or bigger, and reshape or block the knit. As the piece dries, the sizing and shape will set in place. 3. De-pill and Store Safely At this point, you can safely shave off pill balls with a specially designed device. For storing your clean woolens, realize that bugs can sneak their way through cracks in a cedar chest. Also, the effectiveness of cedar wears off over time. As an alternative, fold woolen items and place them in airtight plastic bins or vacuum-sealed bags. You can also toss in a sachet filled with dry lavender to deter bugs and store in a cool, dry place. Another method of deterring bugs when storing wool is to pack it away with mothballs and cedar shavings to repel and kill insects. However, make sure that the mothballs do not come in direct contact with the wool. 4. Removing Stains Try to treat stains as quickly as possible to prevent them from settling into the wool. With a clean cloth, blot up as much of the stain as you can without rubbing. If you use a spot removal solution, ensure that the product is safe for wool fabrics. Be sure the stain is completely removed before pressing, because heat will set the stains permanently in wool. How To Wash Wool Wool is available in many varieties, making it extremely critical to be aware of the manufacturer recommended cleaning instructions that are on the attached tag before you begin to clean your blankets or clothes. Wool is typically stain-resistant and doesn’t absorb liquid easily. However, you need to clean up stains as soon as possible or else they will set into the weave. If you notice a difficult stain on your blanket or clothing, it is best to take the item to a professional cleaning business. Wool will typically shed its wrinkles without much effort. For example, all you need to do is hang the wrinkled wool item in a steamed-up bathroom, which can easily be accomplished by running a warm shower for a couple minutes, and eventually the wrinkles will fall out on their own. Follow these simple steps to wash wool items by hand. Using tepid water only, fill a sink. It should feel just slightly warm on your hands. Add the suggested amount of detergent that is safe for wool and swish to mix it. Place your item on the top of the water and then gently push it down. Do not scrub; simply press down on the wool. When the washing is complete, lift the sweater up and squeeze out the water. Run another sink full of lukewarm water and use the same motions to rinse the sweater/blanket. Rinse by pressing down, lifting and squeezing until the water runs clear. Squeeze out as much water as possible without wringing it. Lay your sweater on a thick, dry towel and roll up the towel. Squeeze the towel to remove more moisture. Unroll the towel to reshape your item. Leave to dry flat out of direct sunlight to avoid fading. There are consequences to washing wool pieces incorrectly. But as long as you wash woolens in tepid water, do not wring or stretch them when wet and dry flat to keep them from elongating, you can avoid most laundering mishaps.