Woolly hats and scarves are essential for the cold winter months – they not only help to keep those icy chills away, but they look great, too. Unfortunately, wool is quite a delicate fabric and is a bit temperamental when it comes to washing. Although the material itself is very strong and very effective in keeping us warm and snug even in the coldest of conditions, it can become damaged easily if the wrong cleaning products, or the wrong cleaning techniques, are used. Here’s your guide to washing your wool hats and scarves while protecting them from damage and making sure they last year after year.
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How to Hand Wash Wool
Hand washing is often considered to be the safest method of washing wool accessories because it offers complete control over how the material is handled. While the newer washing machines today offer settings and cycles that mimic hand washing, a good old bucket of water is still the preferred method for many wool lovers.
- Fill a bowl with water that is just warm to the touch. As you may know, wool can shrink in very high temperatures, so it’s always best to use lukewarm water rather than hot. If you’re worried that this will affect the cleaning process, don’t be – many laundry detergents are designed to work in cooler temperatures as manufacturers strive to encourage homeowners to wash at lower temperatures to conserve energy.
- Add laundry detergent to the warm water. It’s best to use a laundry detergent that is specifically designed for wool, like Persil Non-Bio, or that is designed for delicate fabrics. Follow the directions on the label for accurate dosing advice. If using a powdered detergent, use your hands to agitate the water and encourage the grains to dissolve. Make sure you wear rubber gloves to protect your skin.
- Add your woolly hat or scarf to the bowl, and gently swirl it around in the soapy water, ensuring it becomes well-saturated in all areas. Be very gentle as you don’t want to stretch the wool. If your hat or scarf is stained, pay particular attention to this area, gently massaging the soapy water into the fabric, helping to lift the stain. You can leave your hat or scarf in the water to soak for a while, which will allow the stains to loosen.
Washing Wool in a Washing Machine
If you don’t have time to hand-wash your woolly accessories, or simply prefer to use your washing machine, then there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t machine wash wool hats or scarves. However, you can’t just pop them in the wash as you would your normal laundry load. Remember that wool is quite delicate, and just as it requires a little extra attention when hand washing, it also requires a little extra attention when being machine washed. Here’s what to do:
- Put your hat and scarf into the drum of the washing machine. While you can place the accessories directly into the machine, you may wish to use a laundry bag to add an extra layer of protection. Laundry bags are made of mesh, which allows the detergent and water to saturate and clean the clothes, but protects delicate fabrics from the internal workings of the machine; preventing snagging and damage.
- Add a mild laundry detergent to your machine, making sure to add the liquid or powder either into the detergent compartment in the exterior drawer, or by using a machine compatible dosing device which sits on top of your laundry load and is distributed around the machine during the wash cycle. Never pour detergent directly onto the hat or scarf as the wool could absorb the detergent, and your load may not be washed evenly.
- Pay special attention to the settings you choose for the wash cycle. The temperature should be set to cool or warm, not hot, so use a temperature setting of 30 degrees Celsius or less for best results. If your washing machine has a delicate or hand wash setting, make use of this. It ensures a more gentle agitation rather than a vigorous spin, which helps to protect your wool from damage.
- Dry flat, or by hanging from a clothes line, rather than in a tumble dryer, or by using a heating device like a hairdryer. When your hat is still a little bit damp – not wet but not yet completely dry – use your hands to reshape the wool into the correct hat or scarf shape. Allowing the wool to dry in the correct shape will ensure your accessories look perfect the next time you come to wear them.