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Washing a woollen jumper: how to prevent shrinking and felting

One wrong wash setting and your beloved woollen jumper has turned into a matted, shrunken mess that only fits a doll. Know the feeling? Leave those mishaps behind! Read about how to wash and dry your woollen jumper to get best use out of your beloved apparel here.

  • Wool is a natural product with many fantastic properties: it is breathable, keeps the wearer nice and warm as well as being gentle on the skin. As far as looking after wool is concerned, the fibres are nevertheless delicate. If not washed correctly, you might as well throw the woollen jumper away.

    But what causes a soft and cosy woollen jumper to become hard and lose its shape after washing? Each fibre is enclosed within a fine cuticle layer in a similar way to human hair. This protective layer can be roughened by moisture, overly high temperatures and friction during the wash cycle. Consequently, fibres become entangled and matted.

    It makes no difference whether the jumper has been knitted with Merino, mohair or even alpaca wool. The basic properties are the same even though the fibres come from different animals.

  • We would recommend that you use a mild detergent for washing your woollen jumpers. These special detergents have a neutral pH value, which protects delicate fibres. By contrast, fabric conditioners, biological detergents and colour detergents are not suitable for washing woollens, as they contain enzymes and other ingredients which may damage the woollen fibres.

  • If you do decide to wash your woollen jumper in the washing machine, please ensure that you choose a gentle wash cycle so that there is as little friction as possible. The care instructions on the jumper’s label will let you know whether it is machine washable or whether it is better washed by hand. Woollens are generally machine washable. How to do it:

    • Only fill the machine half way. This means that there are fewer woollen items that will rub against each other.
    • Do you intend to put items with a zip in the same wash? Then you would be wise to use a mesh laundry bag to safeguard your woollen items.
    • Select a gentle wash cycle in accordance with the manufacturer’s care label. Most washing machines have a “wool” cycle – or a “handwash” programme.
    • Ensure you choose a wash cycle at a low temperature and make sure you read the manufacturer’s care label. The temperature should not exceed 30 degrees, in order that the delicate woollen fibres aren’t damaged.
    • The same applies to the spin programme – the less spins the better. The special programmes often omit the spin cycle or only include a very short spin in the programme.
  • You may have been told that it is better to wash woollen items by hand. Nevertheless, washing the woollen item in the machine can often be significantly more gentle on the woollen fibres than washing it by hand. After all, it is all too easy for water for handwashing to be too hot or there is too much friction when rubbing and wringing out the items. If you nevertheless decided to wash your woollen item by hand, please be especially careful as follows:

    • Only use lukewarm water.
    • Fill a bowl with enough water to cover your woollen jumper.
    • Add detergent suitable for delicates and mix well in the water.
    • Place the woollen jumper in the bowl.
    • Gently squeeze the jumper several times in the water but avoid rubbing it.
    • Afterwards, thoroughly rinse your woollen jumper in lukewarm running water.
    • Make sure that excess water is only wrung out of the fibres carefully. Do not wring out the jumper as a whole.
  • Normally, you would hang washing on a clothes horse to dry. This is, however, not such a good idea for your woollen goods as it leads to them losing their shape. Bright sunlight or proximity to a radiator are not good for woollen items either, as they then tend to become hard and scratchy. The tumble dryer, too, is no place to dry woollen items.

    A better idea is: to lay wet woollens out flat to air dry. This is still the case irrespective of whether you have washed the woollen items by hand or in a washing machine. As the fibres absorb a lot of moisture, don’t forget to get as much excess water out of the garment as possible in advance. As was the case with washing: do not wring out the woollen item! Tip: place the jumper etc. on a large towel, roll it up and gently squeeze out the water. The towel will absorb the moisture.

  • Even if you take special care in washing woollens, every wash cycle still has an adverse effect on the fibres. Consequently, only wash woollen jumpers when it becomes absolutely necessary to do so, i.e. when there are stains or dirt particles on it. Otherwise, it is normally sufficient just to hang the woollen item outside for a while in the fresh air. You can often avoid the smell of perspiration etc. by wearing a T-shirt underneath the jumper.

Looking for a thick jumper for those colder days?

Then take a look at our range. Find a great selection of cosy and warm upper bodywear for women, men and kids here.

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