why did my sweaters srink?
February 7, 2019 7:56 AM   Subscribe

I put them in cold water woolen cycle.

I usually dryclean them, but decided to save some money and wash them myself. I put them in cold water woolen cycle with woolite and then laid them flat to dry. They still shrank! Not a lot, but enough for me to feel the difference. The sleeves are tight and they're shorter.
posted by fantasticness to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Are they 100% wool? If so, the agitation of the washer has started to felt the fibers. Even the "woolens" cycle can be too much for some garments.
posted by desuetude at 8:03 AM on February 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

If they are only a little bit tighter you may be able to block them back into shape. Get them wet again and when you lay them out flat to dry, stretch them into the shape you want.

In my experience he best way to wash wool items in the washer is to let them soak then rinse and spin, no agitation cycle. That can be hard to engineer on a front load machine.
posted by muddgirl at 8:10 AM on February 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

Yes, anything other than a soak and spin in the machine is asking for trouble. Even gentle agitation can cause problems. Wool, so delightful, such a struggle to maintain.
posted by praemunire at 8:20 AM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Lots of good advice above. Too late now, but don't use Woolite.
posted by terrapin at 9:02 AM on February 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

If your items aren't shrunk down too much, you can try cold washing them by hand with hair conditioner--just a swoosh and a rinse--then block them out to size. The conditioner softens the fibers so you can gently stretch them a bit. I've saved a couple wool pieces this way. I actually hung them on padded hangers in a warm area then gently stretched them down and sideways while they dried.
posted by Elsie at 9:13 AM on February 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

I'm sorry this happened to you!

Let me tell you what people who felt things on purpose do:
- Use different temperatures of water (hot to cold, cold to hot)
- Add soap
- Agitate roughly

These are your ingredients for shrinking wool (which is basically what felting is). So you want to avoid these as much as possible when cleaning wool and things made from it.

Next time:
- Soak in cold water, use something like Eucalan or Soak in the water instead of Woolite
- Agitate as little as possible
- Gently squeeze out the water from the garment
- You can roll it in a clean towel and squeeze to get more water out if need be
- Lay it flat in a well-ventilated area and shape it gently to its original shape (this is what's generally called blocking, if you come across that term).

Happy wool washing! It's simple to do at home, but it's something most people aren't taught.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:15 AM on February 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

Yes, do not attempt to machine wash any wool unless it specifically says "superwash wool." This type of wool has been specially treated not to felt. But you should still wash cold with as little agitation as possible.

Otherwise, the handwashing instructions above are the way to go. No Woolite, and a gentle no-rinse soap like Eucalan or Soak. Lukewarm water is better than cold.
posted by rikschell at 11:52 AM on February 7, 2019

So if I don't use woolite how do I clean stains?

I don't usually get stains on my wool or cashmere items... but they do get stinky. Especially under the arms. (I use a natural and non-ammonia deodorant because I have eczema so I can't use regular anti-perspirant). Don't I need to use soap for this?
posted by fantasticness at 12:02 PM on February 7, 2019

Woolite is fine (there is a persistent myth that it is bad for wool due to pH but most detergents now are neutral pH) it just needs to be rinsed which means more handling of wet wool. Eucalan or Soak are both soaps that don't need to be rinsed out.
posted by muddgirl at 12:18 PM on February 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Not answering your question, but to speak to your follow-up: I try to wear at least a thin layering t-shirt/undershirt (not a tank top!) under my fitted wool sweaters so that the pits don't get stinky.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:08 PM on February 7, 2019

What about shampoo? Is that just as good as this Eucalon or soak?
posted by fantasticness at 3:13 PM on February 7, 2019

I wash wool sweaters in the sink with mild shampoo. Dilute shampoo with water (plastic cup, glob of shampoo, fill with water. Prevents too much shampoo in 1 spot) Use cool water. Gently smoosh, allow to soak while I clean bathroom, cool rinse, smoosh a little, let sit, cool rinse. Let sit in sink to drain for a bit, then spin. Then lay flat on towel.

I would try the cream rinse (it has detangler) and cool water and gently stretch/ reshape, let dry on towel.
posted by theora55 at 3:53 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

For the armpits, put cheap vodka in a spray bottle, spray down the inside and outside armpit area, and let it dry before washing the sweater. It's a miracle cure. You can do the same with vinegar, but vodka works even better.

Diluted shampoo is okay. Eucalan is terrific because you don't need to rinse it, which means even less handling and thus less felting. Also it smells lovely but not perfumey, you only need to use a small dab for a sweater, and you can buy a very small bottle from Amazon if you don't have a ton of wool sweaters to wash.

I agree with the sink/tub wash approach. I smoosh, soak, drain, then roll it up in a towel to press out most of the water before reshaping and laying flat on a dry towel to dry.
posted by desuetude at 9:17 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

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