A Complete Guide to Caring for Knitwear: How to Wash, Dry, and Store WoolKnitwear is an essential styling piece in the colder months. Its exquisite fibres are beloved for their delicate detailing, superior quality, and wonderful warmth — but there is some speculation about how best to care for it.
As with any other luxury item, it’s important to properly clean and maintain knitwear so that it can last for a long time. In turn, it’ll reward you with luxurious comfort and timeless elegance that’ll see you through many seasons to come.
Here at the House of Bruar, luxury natural fibres are our speciality. To help you give your knitted items the care that they deserve, we’ve created a comprehensive guide on the best ways to wash, dry, and care for your wool clothing to keep it at its best.
How to wash woolUsing the correct tools and methods, you can swiftly refresh your favourite woollen garments. All wool garments are made differently; some can be machine washed, while others will call for a delicate hand wash, so we strongly advise that you check the care label for the best way to clean them.
Firstly, let’s look at a few things you need to know before you get started.
What’s the best detergent to use for washing wool?When washing wool it’s best to use a specially formulated wool detergent as they are designed to gently, but effectively, clean the delicate fibres of woollen clothing. Whether you’re hand washing or using a machine, a pH-neutral and mild detergent is an excellent choice for refreshing and removing stains.
Never use regular detergents, ‘bio’ detergents containing enzymes, or any cleaning products that contain bleach, as they can be too harsh.
It’s also best to avoid using a fabric softener when washing wool.
What temperature to wash wool?It’s key that you select a temperature that’s warm enough to cleanse the material, but mild enough that it won’t damage the fibres.We do recommend that you always refer to the garment’s care label for the most accurate temperature as some articles can vary.
Some washing machines may have a dedicated wool or hand-wash cycle which you can use. The wool setting will run at a cool temperature that most wool materials will be able to withstand.
How to wash wool in the washing machineWashing wool in a washing machine is an easy and convenient way to ensure your wool clothing receives a thorough clean at a suitable temperature.
Here’s how you can ensure it’s washed properly without shrinkage.
1. Turn your wool item inside out before placing it into the drum of your washing machine. For extra precaution, you can also put your garment into a mesh laundry bag before placing it into the machine as it will protect the material further.
2. Fill the detergent compartment with the recommended amount of detergent according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
3. Set the machine to a wool cycle or cool temperature no higher than 30°C.
4. If you’re not using a dedicated wool cycle, make sure to turn off the spin setting. You can also choose to add an extra rinse to the cycle to fully rinse the article of all residual detergent.
How to handwash woolFor wool garments with hand washing only care instructions, follow our simple step-by-step guide.
1. Turn your wool item inside out.
2. Fill your sink or a large container with lukewarm water that’s no warmer than 30°C.
3. Add the correct amount of detergent or wool shampoo according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Agitate the water to create suds.
4. Place your garment into the soapy water and gently swish it around to let the suds fully seep into the material. Gently squeeze the suds through the garment, but be cautious not to stretch or rub the wool together.
5. Rinse your wool in cool water twice to wash away all residual detergent. Do not lift the garment up whilst it’s saturated with water as the weight of the liquid can stretch the fibres.
6. To remove the excess water, carefully roll it into a ball and gently squeeze or press the material. Never wring out the wool.
7. Wrap the garment in a dry towel and gently press to blot up as much water as possible.
8. Lay the item flat on the towel and reshape before drying.
How to dry woolWhether it’s silky-soft cashmere or beautifully knitted Aran wool, you should never dry any type of wool in the drier. The high temperature and rapid rotations can cause significant damage to the material.
Instead, use the flat dry method:
1. Firstly, make sure your wool is washed and you have squeezed out any excess water.
2. Lay it flat on top of a towel. Using a white towel prevents any dye from coloured cloth from bleeding into your garment. You can also use a horizontal mesh drying rack instead of a towel.
3. Reshape the item into its natural shape and remove any creases or folds.
4. As the fibres dry, gently knead the material into the correct shape and size to make sure it doesn’t shrink.
5. Leave it to air dry naturally away from heat sources and out of direct sunlight.
How to store woolAfter washing and drying your wool, there are a few things to bear in mind when putting it away. Whether you’re storing it between wears or are putting it away for the warmer months, maintain the condition of your wool with our tips below.
1. Never hang wool
After you’ve carefully washed and dried your woollen pieces, make sure that you’re putting them away correctly too. While you may be tempted to hang a wool garment up and place it into your wardrobe, as you would with any other article of clothing, this can cause the fabric to stretch and become misshapen.
Always store wool flat and folded away to prevent pulling or stretching.
2. Always wash before storing for long periods of time
If you’re storing wool away ahead of the summer season, always give it a wash before putting it away. Any residual dirt or oil can attract moths and other insects.
Also take the time to ensure that it’s completely dry, as even the slightest amount of moisture can lead to mould or mildew.
3. Store in garment bags
Wool is a natural fibre which naturally attracts moths. While keeping your garments freshly laundered will help to keep them at bay, you may also want to take further precautions to keep your treasured woollen items protected.
Place your clothes into garment bags before placing them into storage.
4. Use moth balls
As an alternative, or in addition, you can also use aromatic cedar blocks to deter moths and carpet beetles from ruining your garments. Fresh lavender is also known to help repel them.
If you think that moths have already invaded your wardrobe, place your clothing in the freezer for 48 hours to kill off any moth eggs. Follow up by washing your garments.
How to care for wool in between wearsIf you’re planning to add wool to your daily rotation, there are also a few tricks that you can follow to improve its look, feel, and longevity.
1. Air between each wear
While you may have that special wool jumper that you love to wear, it’s important to let it breathe between each outing. Air out your woollen garments after you remove them and before you put them away. This will help to remove any unwanted odours and keep them fresher for longer.
2. Spot clean small stains
The best way to preserve your garments, whether they’re woven from wool or not, is to wash them less often. It may sound counterintuitive, but the temperatures and turbulent motion of washing can take their toll on your clothing. You should only wash them if they’re visibly dirty or soiled.
If an item has been freshly washed but you’ve accidentally left a small stain on it, spot clean it to revive it.
3. Brush your wool
If you’re the proud owner of a luxurious cashmere jumper, try brushing it with a cashmere comb to keep the fibres in excellent condition. Cashmere combs are specifically made to help preserve the woollen fabric by removing excess lint.
For more information about keeping cashmere clean, take a look at our guide to caring for cashmere.
How to unshrink woolIf your beloved woollen jumper fits tighter than it did before you washed and dried it, then you may find that it shrunk during the process. No matter, follow these steps for how to unshrink wool and stretch it back to perfect condition:
1. Fill your bathtub or sink with warm water and wool shampoo or gentle detergent.
2. Let your garment soak for 20 minutes to soften the fibres.
3. Remove the plug so that the water can drain, but leave your item in place.
4. Gently press the material to extract any excess water, pat with a dry towel, and stretch your garment into its original shape while it’s still damp.
5. Leave it to air dry and return periodically to keep stretching the garment.
6. Once it’s nearly completely dry, transfer it to a drying rack to let it fully dry out.
How to remove pilling and bobbles from woollen clothesAlong with occasional shrinkage, you may also have to contend with pilling or bobbling. This is when small balls of wool fibres gather on the surface of your clothing as a result of it coming into contact with another material. Pilling can happen to lots of different fibres, but wool is especially prone to it.
Always wash your wool inside out to reduce the chances of them occurring and remove any bobbles as soon as you spot them.
You can do this by gently running an electronic bobble remover, or electric razor, over the wool’s surface to shave the excess fibres away and smooth out the fabric. A cashmere comb will also work.
Discover premium knitwear with House of Bruar
We’re proud to say that our Knitwear Hall is home to one of the largest collections of knitwear in the UK. Find the finest knitwear for every occasion, from lambswool to merino, at the House of Bruar online.