Can I handwash my merino wool sweater?
November 29, 2004 6:07 PM   Subscribe

Can I handwash my merino wool sweater? [mi]

I have a really nice ribbed pullover made of merino wool. The label says dry clean only. I want to avoid a trip to the cleaners if possible because: 1) I don't think dry cleaners get the clothes really clean; 2) sweaters never regain the original shape without water; and 3) it's a pain in the butt to go to the dry cleaners and expensive too.

Anyone tried washing merino wool?
posted by Juicylicious to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, I have hand-washed merino wool. It's fine. Here are some obvious tips:
1) use woolite, or another soap especially designed for delicate fabric
2) use cold water and only soak the sweater for a few minutes
3) don't wring or twist the sweater. Gentle squeezing only.
4) lie flat to dry. Don't hang it or it will indeed stretch out.
5) If you need to, you can iron the dry sweater on low heat.
posted by picklebird at 6:18 PM on November 29, 2004

if anyone can comment on their experience of using wet-cleaners (not to mention actually finding someone that does it!) that would be superb...

/hates all those chemicals, baby
posted by dorian at 6:32 PM on November 29, 2004

No ma'am. Even if you follow picklebird's instructions they still don't look right, for the most part, particularly if it's a thinner or girl-cut sweater.

You can use Dryel sheets (or similar) if you want, they work pretty well as long as you're just trying to freshen the sweater, not get a stain out or anything. I do second picklebird's ironing allowance.
posted by pomegranate at 6:32 PM on November 29, 2004

I've even machine washed merino wool sweaters. Just don't put them in the dryer. You may find that the result is not as nice as dry cleaning, though. And YMMV from sweater to sweater.
posted by scarabic at 6:46 PM on November 29, 2004

The key things to avoid with pure wool are agitation and temperature changes. Wash it in lukewarm water, but make sure you rinse it in lukewarm water, as well. The no wringing or agitating thing is important as well. After you've rinsed it a couple of times, rinse it a couple of more times - you're not agitating remember, so it's going to take a bit. Then roll it up in a towel or two to get the moisture out without wringing it. Dry flag.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:07 PM on November 29, 2004

This may be too knitting-geek-esque, but I suggest you try Eucalan wool wash - it's specifically designed for this kind of thing (soak gently, dry flat) and many knitters say it's nicer to your sweaters than Woolite.
posted by deliriouscool at 7:09 PM on November 29, 2004

Response by poster: If I take the plunge and handwash and it turns out badly, can a dry cleaner's fix it?
posted by Juicylicious at 7:10 PM on November 29, 2004

nope. i find it's not worth the bother--you're better off just sending it to a cleaner, and airing it out a lot between wearings.
posted by amberglow at 7:24 PM on November 29, 2004

I think wool always loses some of its shape if it's not dry cleaned, usually in the form of shrinkage. I would second the Dryel to freshen and dry cleansers for stains idea.
posted by Nenna at 7:35 PM on November 29, 2004

I machine wash cashmere. But...well, you can tell by looking at me.
posted by padraigin at 8:09 PM on November 29, 2004

I've stuffed a merino wool sweater into a sock-bag (those mesh-things with a zipper; most people use them for hosiery) and washed it many times with my normal laundry. Dried it on a flat rack. No problems. Moths, however... Of course, YMMV.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 9:05 PM on November 29, 2004

nope. i find it's not worth the bother--you're better off just sending it to a cleaner, and airing it out a lot between wearings.
posted by amberglow at 7:24 PM PST on November 29

I toss mine in the dryer with a dryer sheet, the proto-dryel.
posted by orange clock at 9:19 PM on November 29, 2004

I'm a knitter and I never use Woolite. The best stuff to use to hand wash any type of wool sweater/hat/scarf is hair shampoo/conditioner. I use Pantene Pro-V Shampoo + Conditioner for dry hair. Just a squirt is enough ... too much and it will take you forever to rinse the shampoo out. Your wool item will come out soft, and smell like freshly washed hair, which wool is if you come right down to it.

To add to picklebird's advise, when rinsing, don't let any part of the sweater dangle to prevent the sweater from stretching out of shape, support it with both hands.
posted by lola at 9:23 PM on November 29, 2004

The shampoo with conditioner suggestion is excellent. The conditioner will act as a fabric softener and help reduce static electricity.

Of course, agitation = bad, roll in large thirsty towels, gently kneading out the excess moisture and dry flat.
If you have some kind of mesh-type thing to lay it on, all the better, it'll dry evenly and you won't have to worry about turning it over.

Myself, I put it under my blankets on my heated waterbed once it's close to dry, especially if I want to wear the sweater the next day.
posted by kamylyon at 12:07 AM on November 30, 2004

Woolite = Death to nice clothing.

Anyone with knowledge on clothing will confirm.

The best thing is lukewarm water and laundry detergent for baby clothes.

Trust me on this one.
posted by Lola_G at 7:59 AM on November 30, 2004

I own a yarn/knitting shop. Eucalan is the only wash we carry. so...
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 4:54 PM on November 30, 2004

*looks at newly shrunk jumper*

I wish I'd seen this thread yesterday :(

FWIW juicylicious, don't do what I did, which was wash in lukewarm with normal detergent and rinse in cold. Temperature change does indeed make a difference. My jumper has shrunk by abut 2 inches all over...
posted by Skaramoosh at 2:20 AM on December 1, 2004

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