When washing your delicate wool sweater you have to use the utmost of care to avoid the dreaded ‘fulling’ effect. Fulling is when there are patches of your nicely woven wool sweater that have been allowed to fluff up and look horrendous. This is easily avoided and contrary to popular belief, this is really caused by abrasion and not water temperature.
Follow this process to ensure your wool sweater comes out as good as new:
• Preparation for wash: Fill your bath tub with hot water…yes hot. Again, this is not the cause of fulling, it is abrasion that causes this. Hot water has the power to dissolve grease and other grime so don’t be afraid of it, use it.
• Soap: Soap will hurt the sweater, even the most supposed ‘gentle’ soaps available. Woolite is not as gentle as they say but is definitely better than regular washing machine soap. Even better though is good old detergent. The best brand to use is Dawn. Stay away from the colored and fruity fragrances and stick with original blue or yellow if blue is not available. Use one squirt in the tub of hot water and only give a quick swish to dispense the soap, but avoid sudding up the water.
• Washing: Here is where you have to have discipline. Gently place your wool sweater in the hot water with Dawn and let it be. Don’t swirl it, mash it, or ring it as that is abrasion and a sure path to fulling. Let the Dawn do its job by letting the wool sweater just soak. Soak it for several hours and overnight if it has been a while since the garment has been cleaned.
• Rinsing: Once the sweater has soaked for a while, gently transfer it onto some clean towels and be sure it doesn’t bunch up. Now empty the tub and re-fill it with fresh hot water. Then gently take the sweater and place it in the clean water and let it sit for about 20 minutes. You may have to repeat this step two or three times; basically until the water looks clear.
• Drying: Get some towels! Gently lay the sweater down on a big towel and then carefully roll the towel and press the towel to assist in the drying. Make sure to use pressure only and do not rub or shift your motion as this will cause fulling. Once the sweater is only damp, place it on dry towels and let it sit being sure to flip it every 12 hours or so. The air will do the rest and in about 24 to 48 hours your wool sweater should be dry.
If this all sounds like it is too much or your wool sweater has a significant stain on it, consult a dry cleaner that is better able to handle you sweater and will have access to chemicals that you can’t get. Just remember that when it comes to your wool sweater, patience is your friend and abrasion is your mortal enemy.