Caring for woollens & throws
As winter approaches we are frequently asked how to care for woollen blankets and throws. Here are a few useful tips for keeping your woollens looking great.
1. Shake and Hang
Often ventilating wool is enough. Shake it vigorously. Hang it somewhere with good air flow.
2. Spot Clean by Spraying
Sometimes wool just requires freshening. This is easily achieved by giving it a little spray—whether all over or in spots that need cleaning—before hanging it up to dry.
Wool is hydrophobic, meaning the exterior of the fibre actually repels water. Lanolin occurs naturally, and most wool is treated after production to restore this element. Lanolin acts as a protectant—it’s antibacterial and works to repel dirt and water, which is why wool is considered self-cleaning.
Hot water will cause the fibre to expand, and dry heat will cause the fibres to shorten and shrink, so a light spray is preferred over a soaking, and the clothes dryer should not be used. When spot-cleaning dirt or oil, use vinegar diluted with water (1/3 vinegar, 2/3 water), and start slowly. If the piece is dyed, make sure it’s colorfast (the dye won’t bleed). Do this by spot testing with a damp white cloth. If the dye comes off, then it’s not colorfast and you’ll need to dry clean. If you are dealing with a fresh stain, Seltzer works well on wool—the air bubbles literally trap and lift away the mark.
3. Wash with Just a Hint of Soap
If you woollens are still soiled or musty, wash them, but make sure the soap is mild and ideally pH neutral—Use just a fraction of what you think you need: If it starts getting sudsy you’ve used too much. When you use detergent, you are essentially stripping the fibre of the oils that are keeping it clean in the first place. Do not scrub or agitate, that will damage the fibre and ruin the shape. Just let your woollens soak and the dirt will lift out.
4. Roll, Don’t Wring
Wool can hold up to a third of its weight in water. After you rinse your blanket, do not wring it out. You’ll damage the shape and you may never quite get it back again. Just roll it up in a towel to absorb the moisture—this often requires repeating the process with several towels.
Hang the blotted blanket to dry. The ideal is a horizontal netted rack on legs—not something most of us have available. But if you have outdoor space, consider setting up a clothesline. If possible, set up two clotheslines with a few feet between them—draping the blanket over the pair relieves a lot of the weight on the wet textile. It is not recommended to hang wool in direct sunlight, but a few minutes exposure to UV light from the sun works with the water to remove any mustiness.