Hand-wash, machine wash or dry clean, what’s a knitter to do? Taking care of your prized hand knits is quite easy and with a few simple guidelines to follow, you are on your way to insure your garments last for a very long time to come. There are a few options to explore when it comes to cleaning your knitted items. First and foremost, harsh soaps can be damaging to the natural fibers your garments are made of and can cause them to appear dull or lifeless. Knitters still try to figure out what cleaning product is best to use and it really comes down to a personal preference.
For years Woolite was marketed for the care of fine hand-washables, including wool. I personally avoid using this product as it tends to be harsh on hand knits, stripping them of their elasticity. If you choose to use a detergent, try something such as Ivory Soap. It’s very mild, cleans well, rinses well and leaves no residue. A big plus using Ivory Soap, it’s biodegradable and phosphate free, which in turn is good for the environment. One tip I love to share, use a baby shampoo or a shampoo designed for normal everyday use. I would suggest to stay away from shampoos for oily or damaged hair, as they can be a little harsh. Like your hair, follow up with a conditioner for extra softness to those scratchy wools. Conditioner will leave your hand knits smelling wonderful and will improve their luster.
There are a few products designed specifically for wools and the most well known is Eucalan Woolwash. This biodegradable product is specifically a rinse that contains eucalyptus oil, a natural moth repellent, and lanolin, which helps to enhance the natural luster of the wool.
Kookaburra Woolwash, a biodegradable, phosphate free product, is a pure plant based laundry concentrate that can be used as either a rinsed or rinse-free wash. It contains tea tree oil, a natural deodorizing agent, as well as lanolin, to keep your woolens soft and supple.
My favorite is Soak, a biodegradable phosphate free, no rinse wool wash that is gentle enough to use with not only your hand knits, but for your raw fibers, spinning fibers and even felted items.
Last but not least is dry cleaning. Should or should you not dry clean your hand knits? This is a question that many knitters often ask. Dry cleaning, a chemical process, can damage natural fibers, sometimes beyond repair. I would avoid dry cleaning your garments and try using the wool washes mentioned.
Now that you’ve cleaned your garment it’s time to dry. Remember, avoid throwing them in the dryer, this will causing felting, and never wring your garment dry. Instead, place the garment in a towel and roll up to remove excess moisture. You can also place the garment in your washing machine on the spin cycle for ten seconds. This will remove excess water without damaging the structure of your garment. Once excess moisture has been removed, lay flat to dry or place on a sweater rack.
One last tip, don’t go overboard on cleaning when using these products. Remember to use in moderation and that a little will go a long way.