Is it possible to de-prickify my wool blanket?
September 26, 2020 1:43 AM   Subscribe

My new pure wool blanket is itchy and prickly. Is it possible to soften it?

Said blanket is new and has been washed once in delicates detergent, with white vinegar in the final rinse. It is warm and heavy but prickles my bare skin. I do not think I have a wool allergy since I have soft woolen items that are cozy.

I am aware that the problem may due to the manufacturer using cheap, coarse wool but I would like to use the blanket and wonder if there is any way to soften it.
posted by whitelotus to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Hair conditioner is often used on hand knitted items for problems like this, just mix some into water and soak the blanket for a bit and squeeze the water out and let air dry. Cheapest hair conditioner you can find is fine. But yes, wool items are often itchy no matter what you do.
posted by mochi_cat at 2:54 AM on September 26, 2020 [5 favorites]

I have had itchy wool items, and have never managed to soften them enough. I find using a lining of some sort works way better - in your case maybe sewing some cotton fabric onto one side of the blanket?
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:43 AM on September 26, 2020

You can stitch a flannel sheet to one side if soaking in fabric conditioner doesn't work.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:05 AM on September 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

I read that using hard water makes wool itchier.
posted by aniola at 7:32 AM on September 26, 2020

If it's cold enough for a wool blanket, it's cold enough for flannel sheets. I wear wool sweaters all winter and wear a cotton turtleneck underneath. Can't wear a wool hat because it makes my forehead so itchy. Even soft merino wool. But it's really warm, lasts ages, doesn't need to be washed often.
posted by theora55 at 7:37 AM on September 26, 2020

I am aware that the problem may due to the manufacturer using cheap, coarse wool

That’s the nub of it, I’m afraid. Prickliness is an intrinsic part of certain types of wool, dependent mostly on the breed of sheep and the quality of breeding within that. Wool with a preferable micron (fibre size) and prickle factor (the number of little spikes* sticking up from the shaft of the fibre) generally sell as commodities for higher prices than the pricklier wool because they don’t itch - if it was easy to overcome, wool merchants would be doing that one weird trick and improving their profits. Which is to say, it’s pretty much built into the wool at the minutest level, unfortunately. If you’ve got prickly wool, you’ve got prickly wool.

*the spikes are part of what makes wool warm - they stop the fibres lying flat against each other, creating tiny air pockets which help insulate you.
posted by penguin pie at 10:01 AM on September 26, 2020 [5 favorites]

Line it with heavy silk.
posted by Oyéah at 10:02 AM on September 26, 2020

Softer finer wools don't last as long as coarser wools either, so a good hard-wearing long-lasting item is going to be made with not-so-soft wool. I use a flannel sheet between me & my 50-year-old Hudson Bay blanket.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 12:44 PM on September 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've had coarse wool garments that start out prickly, but after some years of use, became nicely soft and very comfy. These included some fabulous Pendleton shirts, and some very coarse wool socks bought in a street market in rural Turkey. Other things might have included a blanket, but I don't recall any specifically.
posted by rustipi at 3:24 PM on September 26, 2020

Put it in a duvet/comforter cover. Probably easier than sewing a backing.
posted by SandiBeech at 5:49 PM on September 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Eucalan wool wash has a softening effect, due to the lanolin. It smells great too.
posted by chuke at 7:57 PM on September 26, 2020

FWIW, your soft woolen items are probably superwash, which is treated to remove the tiny spikes on the strands. This also prevents felting. Maybe a helpful search term in the future.

I concur that conditioning washes are probably not going to get your blanket soft enough, long use will help, and prickliness doesn’t necessarily mean your wool is cheap, some breeds are focused on other things like long fiber length. All wool is a bit prickly unless it’s treated to be superwash.
posted by momus_window at 8:00 AM on September 27, 2020

Response by poster: chuke: I've heard of Eucalan but it's not available where I am. I will try the hair conditioner and possibly glycerin (which I have lying around) and hope that the rinsing and long use will soften the hairy thing.

I can't really afford a new blanket right now and it seems a waste to get rid of it even if it's prickly. I do admit that I didn't spend much on it. Which may be why it's prickly.
posted by whitelotus at 6:24 PM on September 27, 2020

Do be sure that you like the scent of the conditioner! People in wool (spinning, knitting, crochet) forums often say "the cheapest one is fine" but remember you'll be smelling it for a long time. It really does work wonders on some scratchy wool.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:47 AM on September 28, 2020

Response by poster: Update: After rinsing in glycerin and hair conditioner, it is noticeably softer but still maintains a certain level of prickliness.

I can't afford a new blanket right now so I'll keep it and see if months of washing result in more improvement.
posted by whitelotus at 8:02 PM on October 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

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