Fabric as beautiful as wool deserves to be cared for properly. Here’s how:
- Let the item relax in a nice, lukewarm bath in a basin or clean sink with a smidgen of delicate-wash detergent* for 15 minutes or so
- Gently remove the item with both hands and squeeze out some of the water, but whatever you do, don’t wring it
- Lay the item flat on a towel and roll it to remove more of the water
- Place it flat on another dry towel to air dry
- Reposition it every few hours to maximise air flow if you’re a micromanager like me
It’s easy, satisfying and the safest way to treat your woollens.
Having said all that, I’ve certainly gone through seasons of life where if something can’t go in the washer it’s dead to me. So, can you machine wash a pure wool item? Yes, but only if you accept you’re taking a bit of a risk. It will shrink a little, but because the yarns I use are fairly tightly spun, the shrinkage shouldn’t be too too bad, especially if you air dry flat, as above.
Throwing a woollen item in the washer and dryer is pretty well guaranteed to shrink it, which is okay if it’s too big and you’re willing to take a gamble. Be careful trying this with a new-ish item, though, because in my experience knitwear, like people, tends to get shorter and wider with time and use. I try to compensate for this effect by making everything a bit narrower and longer to start.
*I’ve used Eucalan no-rinse wool wash for years and it never disappoints. It’s available at most yarn shops.