Ever since I got into this, I'm often asked how to care for our wool. I think, what people really mean when they ask is: Isn't it a huge pain in the neck?
No, it's really not.
Once you know a few basics, washing wool is no more of a hassle than washing a load of whites.
Discover how to care for your wool when washing, drying and storing.
The first thing to know is that wool does not need to be washed as often as other fabrics. Since wool naturally repels moisture and odor-causing bacteria, it limits the number of washes it needs. However, you can keep these tips in mind when washing it.
Using the right wool detergent
You’ll want to stay away from bleach and fabric softeners completely, as they tend to make your wool itchy. Instead, we would recommend using a special wool detergent to preserve the wool fibers’ softness.
The important thing is that the product you use preserves (or replenishes) the wool's natural lanolin – a wax that occurs naturally in wool, and which keeps it soft, durable, and water repellant. (In fact, lanolin is commonly used as protective baby skin treatment.)
There are many other good products on the market. One example is The Laundress' Wool & Cashmere Shampoo (aff.*).
Unfortunately, there are some detergents being marketed as being good for wool, which are not so good, so if you find a brand you like and trust, stick with it and tell your friends.
Because of the near-magical properties of lanolin, many spots and spills on a wool garment can simply be brushed off, wiped off with a damp cloth, or rinsed away with tap water.
You can often see a small spill be repelled, and bead off of the fabric instead of being absorbed. Similarly, a dried stain may appear as small crumbs in the finest fibers, on the outside of the wool itself.
Once it is rinsed off, simply hang your wool to air out a little bit, and it will be as good as new.
All Ella's Wool products can be machine washed, but there may be times when you'll just want to wash a few pieces by hand. Or perhaps you have some other wool clothes that are handwash only.
Make sure you sink is clean, and fill it with luke warm water. Add a few drops of mild detergent, and massage the wool a little. Let the garment soak for 15-20 minutes, while gently stirring the water from time to time.
Wool will absorb a lot of water, so when you're finished, it'll be soaking, dripping wet. To get all the water out, try not to wring it, as that might stretch it out of shape – at least for a while. Instead, try folding and rolling the wool, and squeezing the water out, without all the pulling and strething that goes into wringing.
Know your temperature
To avoid shrinkage, avoid hot water and rapid temperature changes. Most of our wool can be washed on a warm cycle, but I recommend running your wool on a cold-cold delicate cycle – that's what I do with all my wool.
Personally, we hang dry all of our wool on a simple, collapsible rack. That is the best way to make sure the wool clothes last a long time, and keep their shape and softness.
Particularly delicate woolens, like certain wool dresses or cashmere sweaters, we will dry flat – but none of the products we sell here at Ella's Wool require that.
Many racks have an area on top for drying flat where the clothes gets air from both sides. But you can also simply lay your wool on a towel on any flat surface, and turn it over from time to time.
Tumble dry on low heat
While not all wool can be tumble dried, all Ella's Wool products can be tumble dried on low heat.
Tumble driers are, however, tough on all clothes – not just wool – so if you have the time and space to hang your baby’s woolens to dry, you may want to consider it.
Avoid direct sunlight
When drying, it is best to avoid direct sunlight, magnified sunlight or direct heat. Avoid placing your wool garment over a radiator to dry. The part of the garment that is folded over the top of the radiator tends to dry the quickest, and the high heat may damage the garment in this area.
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Storing your wool
We get a lot of questions about how to best store wool in-between seasons.
Wool is quite robust and doesn't need much special treatment. As long as you keep it clean and dry while it's in storage, it'll typically stay in good shape.
Repel clothes moths with cedar
The only threat worthy of any particular concern is moths. Clothes moths won't take a bite out of all of your clothes, but they love wool. We always store our wool with bags of cedar chips to keep moths away.
You can also use other cedar products, like hangers or hanger rings. The cedar oil in the wood repels the clothes moths.
When we pack much of our wool away in the basement for the summer, we usually pack the wool and some cedar chips into airtight containers, such as vacuum-sealed bags that keep the clothes dry and clean.
- Cedar chips at Amazon (aff.*)
Many people still use mothballs to keep the clothes moths away. There are several reasons why we strongly recommend you avoid them.
Mothballs often give clothes a strong, unmistakable smell, that may remind you of your grandmother's old fur coat, or an attic that hasn't been cleaned out in decades. But don't romanticize it.
The chemicals used to make mothballs are not just highly flammable, they are flat out bad for your and your children's health.
The two most common ingredients – naphtalene and 1,4-dichlorobenzene – are both considered to be carcinogens (meaning they cause cancer). Additionally, naphtalene is known to cause anemia in people who are predisposed, and damage to the eyes (cataracts and retinal hemorrage).
It's clearly better, then, to stick with cedar, which has been used to repel moths for at least 3000 years, with no such adverse effects.
Ready for a new season
When we take our wool back out from storage, we just give each item a shake to fluff it out before we fold it and put it back in the closet.
Wool doesn't easily crease or wrinkle, but if there are any wrinkles, we just hang it a little while to let it straighten itself out.
Particularly stubborn creases will usually succumb to a little moisture, such as a spray or splash of water, or the steam from a shower.
*) Links marked with "aff." are affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you follow the links and make a purchase. Rest assured, however, that we will never recommend a product we do not believe in as much as we believe in our own products.