A woolly question - can I wash my woollen jumper?
Once upon a time (what a lovely way to start any story) there was a little land called New Zealand/Aotearoa or, if you prefer, Land of the long white cloud that produced some of the finest wool in the world. We had more sheep than humans - 70 million more in fact and wool was the staple for winter jumpers. They were itchy, scratchy and uncomfortable but they were wool so they were warm and they were "what we did".
Then somebody decided in their infinite wisdom to use coal and petroleum to create something called Polyester. Yes it is cheaper to produce but really? Makes you wonder what their thinking was - a bit like the first person who looked at an Oyster and said 'hmmm I think I will eat that'. (Our sincerest apologies to the Oyster world.)
However polyester and many other synthetic fibres became the more popular option for creating clothing. It was a sad day for New Zealand and our sheep industry took a huge hit. However today's society have recognised that petroleum products and synthetics are not the answer we all thought they were and natural products are now coming back to the fore.
But we haven't gone back to the days of itchy scratchy!
Natural fibres from animals include - wool from sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas, and other animals. Silk is also a natural product produced by insects as a material for their nests and cocoons. The most common type of silk is made by silkworms. These fibres are all natural, sustainable, renewable and they break down so they are also totally environmentally friendly.
But the question is - can I wash wool like I do my synthetic clothes? That would be a very firm NO depending on the type of natural fibre you are wanting to wash. (Have you noticed there is always a caveat?)
100% EXTRA FINE SUPER SOFT MERINO
A very soft yarn with superior fibre strength. This yarn is very light and comfortable to wear. Many people who usually cannot wear wool can often wear garments knitted from this yarn.
Fill a basin with cool or tepid water and mix in an approved wool detergent.
Turn the garment inside out and submerge in the water.
Keep the garment submerged while using a gently squeezing action to wash the garment.
Leave the garment in the basin while draining the water. Squeeze to remove excess water but do not wring.
Refill basin with cool water to rinse, using the gentle squeezing action again.
Repeat until all detergent is removed.
Roll in a towel to remove all excess water. Can be spun on a short gentle setting inside a pillow case of mesh bag..
Gently reshape and lay flat on a towel to dry in the shade.
Warm steam iron on reverse with a damp cloth.
Do not tumble dry.
Do not bleach.
Can be drycleaned.
Store your knitwear folded not hung, to help it maintain its shape.
100% FINE MERINO
A soft, non-scratchy yarn known for its resilience that is used predominantly for coats and jackets. A merino garment will hold its shape and colour for years if you treat it well.
Turn garment inside out.
Can be machine washed on wool cycle or warm hand wash, with a specialised wool detergent.
Dry flat in shade.
Warm iron with a damp cloth.
Do not tumble dry, do not bleach.
DO NOT HOT WASH Merino lambs! They don't like it.
100% BABY ALPACA
Turn the garment inside out. Cold hand wash ONLY.
Use approved wool detergent.
Short spin. Can be spun on a short gentle setting inside a pillow case of mesh bag.
Dry flat in shade. Do not line dry.
Do not tumble or bleach. (Alpacas don't fit well into washing machines)
Possum Merino blend.
Cool gentle hand wash only.
Use mild wool detergent.
Squeeze, do not rub.
Rinse well in cold water
Place in a pillow case or similar and use short gentle spin.
Lay out flat to dry out of the sun.
Do not bleach and do not tumble dry.
(Possums too don't take kindly to being washed and tumble dried)
Can I use Fabric softener on Wool?
In short it isn't recommended. The idea behind fabric softener was that it coated the synthetic materials to help stop static electricity plus also make it smell nicer. Synthetics are non wicking so they get smelly quickly from sweat and skin so to cover this up fabric softeners are designed to cover that up. Wool is a natural fibre and is also naturally wicking so it doesn't form static electricity and because it breathes it doesn't retain odours. Fabric softeners have their place but not on wool and may even shorten the life of your garment so lets not go there.
Lambs don't need any more softness and bounce.
So some wool can be washed but for longevity, really, hand washing is the way to go with the really fine wools. Plus did you know that wool is odour resistant? Seriously have you ever met a smelly sheep? No, didn't think so and that's because they wear wool. Wool fibre can absorb large quantities of water vapour – twice as much as cotton and thirty times as much as polyester – helping to keep the skin drier and prevent the build-up of sweat, bacteria and unpleasant smells. This means you can wear your wool more often and still be comfortable that you are not being offensive.
Treat your woollens with love and attention and they truly are a garment you will have for decades. NZ made and NZ loved.
A very special thank you to Darryl Cash for our cover photo this week.