Merino Wool

vetwife1998March 29, 2013

I have a Merino wool sweater that I have previously taken to the dry cleaners 1-2x. I've read that dry cleaning damages wool (and most other items) over a period of time. I have a 'hand wash' cycle on my washing machine (Whirlpool Cabrio) and wondering if this will work?

Detergent? (Don't say Vaska, because I can't find it anywhere where I live.)

Thanks in advance.

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Ecover Delicate Wash or Biokleen All-Temperature liquid (not Biokleen Cold Water, which has enzymes).

Here is a link that might be useful: Ecover Delicate Wash

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 10:58PM
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Thanks so much!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 11:08PM
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I'd start water washing by hand-washing it first, before going to a full machine cycle.

Wash it in a basin, with lukewarm to cool water, rinse well and then put the sweater gently in your machine and run a spin-only cycle to extract the water, then block the item carefully and dry flat. Use a cycle that only does a spin and drain, no water rinsing for the first machine trial.

I use Eucalan Wool Wash, easy to find a yarn stores or on Amazon. It works in both machines and handwashing.

After you've washed the item once or twice by hand you'll have a feel for how it reacts to water.

The risk in all washing of wool is felting (fatal for the garment) due to the simultaneous combination of water, agitation and temperature. In all cases, if you severely limit at least one of these factors you should be fine. I mean that for the first machine wash (water and agitation), I'd wash in cold water. If the item is dirty enough to need lukewarm water to release the soil, then avoid agitation and only soak the item in slightly warm water (a non-moving 20-30 minute soak wouldn't be too much) and then rinse gently in cold.

I do wash many of my woolens in my European f/ls, but only those I've tested first by hand washing. Handwashing is more forgiving and you can usually spot a garment's predisposition to felting beforehand in the first hand wash.

Also the load size for machine washing woolens is critical, only wash a single, or at most two-three lightweight garments in your machine even if it could take a lot more of another fabric. The only exception to the very small load size is a large item like a blanket.

I always wash sweaters inside out when they go in the machine to reduce pilling.

Of course you would NOT dry a machine washed wool item in the dryer. They need to lie flat. And they may take awhile to get completetly dry.

One other thing: the garment may feel a bit less soft once it is dry, especially one that was soaked for a bit. This because wool fiber is series of overlapping scales which can get themselves somewhat disturbed when wetted, giving the fabric a rougher feel. But given a bit of time the scales on the fibers will settle down where they belong and the soft hand will reappear. So don't fret in the first few days after a washing. Just lay the garment aside and let it takes its course.

This transient roughness is different from felting which is irrreversible. Felting is the radical thickening and interlocking of the fibers. It's a disaster.



    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 1:29AM
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If you cannot readily find Eucalan, regular baby shampoo will do because wool is a protein fiber, just like hair. Baby shampoo has no extra bells & whistles that other shampoos have, and is also easier to find than Orvus paste (livestock shampoo, found at local farmer Co-ops) and cheaper, because you can buy a smaller bottle. Even a travel-size bottle of baby shampoo will suffice.
Neither Eucalan, Orvus or baby shampoo will have any OBAs,

Another risk you run with washing a DCO (dry-clean-only) sweater is that the dyes might run or fade.

I machine wash all of my husband's wool sweaters that are labeled 'washable' but have the ones labeled DCO drycleaned. They aren't old and ratty enough to take the chance of washing. Yet.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 9:02AM
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Thank you so much for both of your in-depth responses. For now, I think I will continue to dry clean, since I love the sweater! =)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 10:02AM
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Cavimum: "If you cannot readily find Eucalan, regular baby shampoo will do because wool is a protein fiber, just like hair. Baby shampoo has no extra bells & whistles that other shampoos have ..."

Excellent advice -- and thank you to liriodendron for the pointer to Eucalan, which I had never encountered before her (or his) post in this thread; it looks like an interesting product indeed.

The Ecover Delicate Wash that I linked in an earlier post is very similar to many baby shampoos; its (only) three ingredients are water, sodium chloride (table salt), and sodium laureth sulfate, which is the main ingredient in some baby shampoos (but not in Johnson's Baby Shampoo, which has a longer list of ingredients, the most significant of which is cocamidopropyl betaine).

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 10:39AM
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