Can I rescue my blanket, or should it be tossed?
November 9, 2012 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Is it okay to clean/rescue a wet wool blanket that the flood damage guys want you to throw out after it smells like a damp dog?

As detailed in this story, I recently had a plumbing mishap in my apartment and many, many things got wet. My (awesome) landlady brought in flood damage guys, who took everything out of the apartment while it undergoes all kinds of magic drying and disinfecting. They set aside the wet stuff that they recommended (based on wet-belongings experience I suppose) should be thrown out, most of which made total sense to me. Much of it was paper and cardboard, and most bummer-ingly, a box of books including my high-school yearbooks.

But for some reason, the irritant for me is this wool blanket that I love, which looks almost exactly like this, except with moth holes because I got it in about 1984. If I have to replace it, I will, but I weirdly love it. It smelled like a wet dog when I took it off the trash pile yesterday and hung it up in the laundry room to dry out.

I searched existing questions and learned that there is certainly advice on cleaning wool and wool blankets (thanks!), but what I'm wondering is whether there are special mold-related reasons why I can't or shouldn't keep it (it unavoidably was wet for a couple of days), even if I clean it with great care. Does the fact that it shouldn't be heat-blasted and roasted in the dryer mean it will inevitably grow mold if I keep it? As I said, I can replace it if I have to, but I'm weirdly attached to it and will save it unless I really shouldn't.
posted by Linda_Holmes to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
No reason at all not to keep it. Wool takes a lot longer than a couple of days to start to rot.

What you do need to do is wash it with a suitable wool detergent and dry it fairly quickly (although not in a dryer). Mould shouldn't be an issue at all.
posted by pipeski at 10:40 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Agree with Pipeski. A good wash and hang somewhere it can dry pretty fast. If it still smells after that, deal with that issue separately.
posted by that's candlepin at 10:46 AM on November 9, 2012

Yeah, wool that's wet can often smell like wet dog anyway. I'd suggest with the wool detergent, you add some white vinegar, maybe a 1/2 cup to the rinse cycle (assuming it's machine washable).

Then hang dry.
posted by inturnaround at 10:46 AM on November 9, 2012

After you wash it try rolling it up with some towels to get some of the extra water out then laying it on top of more towels to dry. This is how I learned to hand wash wool sweaters and it helps get the extra water out.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 10:53 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing the others.

BUT - check whether it is machine washable first. If it is NOT machine washable, you will end up turning your blanket into felt. However - it's easy enough to hand-wash; Woolite or some other gentle soap - or even baby shampoo - squirted into a tub of water to make some decent suds. (I'm suggesting the tub because it's a blanket). Cool water, but not too cold. Soak the blanket in that a while, then gently SQUEEZE it (don't rub and scrub). Drain it out and gently squeeze out the blanket to squeeze out the water. Repeat if the blanket is really nasty. For the rinse, fill the tub slowly and let it soak some more, then drain and GENTLY squeeze out the water. Lay flat to dry.

(If you ever want advice on how to wash wool, ask a knitter. we know that shit.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:01 AM on November 9, 2012 [10 favorites]

Wasn't this a toilet overflowing with poo situation?

If so, I'm afraid that the ratio you need to kill poo germs can't be achieved because if it's too hot it will kill your wool.

One thing I might do is use some Liquid Lysol concentrate in your wash water.

It should kill any mold or mildew spores too.

Lysol is the best!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:08 AM on November 9, 2012

The dog smell is zero cause for alarm. Wet wool tends to smell doggy; they're both animal hair. Hand wash as per EmpressCallypigos' instructions.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:10 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wasn't this a toilet overflowing with poo situation?

WOW, no. Thank goodness. It's just a convoluted story -- boiler in boiler room next to apartment overheats, sprinklers in boiler room go off, boiler room fills with water, water happily runs into apartment for, like, hours.

Now I'm even more glad it was just water.

Thanks, y'all.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:20 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Linda - one more step to speed up the air-drying. You're going to need a few bath towels for this - BIG ones.

1. When you have taken the blanket out of the tub after the final rinse and gently squeezed it, lay it flat on the floor. It will still be pretty damn wet.

2. Lay a dry bath towel over half of it. Fold the other half over the towel, so it's kind of like a towel/blanket sandwich.

3. Lay all of THAT on top of another dry bath towel. Then lay one more bath towel on top of the whole thing.

4. Start at one end of this towel/blanket/towel/blanket club sandwich, and start rolling it up like a jelly roll. When it is all rolled up - stand on it and step on it a few times with both feet. (No, I am not kidding.)

5. Unroll the whole thing, fish out the towels - which will be pretty wet now - and go on to laying the blanket out to dry. (Laying it flat is recommended - best if you can find yet more towels to lay it on top of while it's drying, although you may have already exhausted your towel supply by this point.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:37 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

This, from the Pendleton page, might be something to think about --
Removing a Strong Odor a Wool Garment or Blanket
Some staining substances can leave a strong residual odor that remains even after repeated cleanings. There is a treatment that may be effective when standard cleaning methods are not. It is called an ozone treatment and is particularly useful for organic based odors. Ozone treatments are occasionally available through dry cleaners. You can also look for an ozone treatment facility in the phone book; look under "ozone" or "fire restoration" (ozone treatments are often used for the removal of smoke odor) in the yellow pages. Link.
If it were me, I might consider calling up Pendleton and telling them your problem. I think if you can get it dry right now and then take it outside for some good sunning next summer, that might get you most of the way there.
posted by amanda at 11:40 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you do end up washing it in the bathtub, put on some Aretha Franklin, get in there with your pants rolled up, and stomp it for a few songs' worth.
posted by Specklet at 1:21 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

EmpressCallipygos has the answer for the washing part. Definitely DO NOT use warm or hot water. I recommend hand washing too.

I wouldn't worry about the "wet dog" smell for now. A lot of wool basically smells that way when it's wet, imo. If the smell persists when it's been washed and dried, I'd be surprised.
posted by purple_bird at 1:33 PM on November 9, 2012

Seconding everyone else who has said your blanket is absolutely salvageable and will suffer no permanent harm from what's happened to it.

If you are willing to use a special wool wash, I really recommend it. The one I am most familiar with is Eucalan, but I have also heard good things about Soak and Kookaburra. You will probably be able to find one of these at a local yarn shop. Eucalan contains lanolin, which is good for wool. They are all, also, no-rinse formulas (they do get the wool clean, though), which might make it a little easier on you since you are dealing with such a large, heavy object. (If you have any left over, you can use it to handwash any other delicates. I often use it for my bras.)

If you decide to go with a no-rinse wool wash and have access to a washing machine, here is how to use it to "hand wash," thus reducing your labour without damaging your blanket:

Fill your washing machine with tepid water (doesn't have to be ice-cold, just should not be hot) and put in the recommended amount of wool wash. Swish the water to mix the detergent in. Then put the item in, get it submerged without rubbing the fibres together, and let it soak for at least 30 minutes. Do not agitate. Then let the machine drain and do a SHORT spin cycle. This should not harm your item and is a hell of a lot easier than trying to squeeze the water out of a blanket manually. Then you can lay it out to dry per Empress Callipygos' instructions. You may find you don't need to do the jelly roll step more than once, if at all.

And yes, wet wool does smell like wet dog! It won't after it is dry. Honest!

Best of luck with your blanket.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:50 PM on November 9, 2012

I can't imagine why you couldn't rescue your yearbooks too, in fact. (The first section of that page is about freezing flooded books until you have time to dry them, but there's specifics on drying them about half way down.)
posted by mendel at 7:37 PM on November 9, 2012

The worst that could happen is that it always smells bad so you throw it away next month as opposed to tomorrow.

The best that could happen is that it's fine and you have decades of future awesome Linusicity (scientific term) with your awesome blanket friend who does not smell bad AT ALL, YOU SWEAR.
posted by Sara C. at 8:34 PM on November 9, 2012

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