How to wash wool and stop shrinking your favourite clothes

Have you ever taken your favourite jumper out of the wash to find it now will only fit a very small person? Oh the frustration!

Shrinkage of wool garments is caused by the wool fibres sticking together more closely, so it appears the garment has shrunk. This is usually caused by the water being too hot or the wrong detergent being used.

Whilst most woollen garments can be washed at home, by hand or in the machine, some are only suitable to be professionally dry cleaned. Always read the label on the garment to ensure you understand the washing instructions before you try to clean it yourself.

One of the advantages of wool is that it is naturally breathable, which means you need to wash it less often than other types of material. But if you do need to wash it, follow these steps for either washing by hand or in the machine...

To hand wash...

  • Use lukewarm, not hot water

  • Use a mild detergent designed for use with wool (some people suggest using a mild hair shampoo as an alternative)

  • Never pour detergent directly on to the garment

  • Wash the garment inside out

  • Submerge in the water and move around gently, without stretching

  • Leave to soak for 10 minutes

  • Rinse in clean water, repeat until all traces of detergent are gone

  • Don't wring to remove water, roll into a ball and squeeze gently.

To machine wash...

  • Wash 30 degrees celsius or less

  • Use the wool wash or hand wash setting of the machine

  • Use a mild detergent designed for use with wool (some people suggest using a mild hair shampoo as an alternative)

  • Never pour detergent directly on to the garment

  • Wash the garment inside out

  • Place in a mesh laundry bag to protect the garment from the machine.

To dry...

  • Do not tumble dry

  • To get rid of excess water, roll your garment up in a dry towel and gently press to absorb the water

  • Lay the garment flat on a fresh dry towel to dry, near a source of heat, like the sunshine

  • Re-shape while wet to the correct shape and size, keeping checking and re-shaping as the garment dries

To store...

  • Fold the garment to store (don't hang as it could stretch out of shape)

  • If you have no choice and have to hang, buy special hangers designed for wool garments

Hi! I'm Helen. I'm a contemporary fibre artist and knitwear designer, and Creative Director of Freda Moss Designs. I believe in the feelings of warmth and belonging that come from passing the tradition of knitting from person to person. I'd love it if you would join the community of knitters I'm working to bring together. Become part of the family to receive special offers, useful hints and tips, free downloads and more. https://www.fredamossdesigns.com/subscribe

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Bristol, UK