How to take better care of sheep's wool garments - Manteco

How to take better care of sheep's wool garments

Discover how to wash, dry, iron and store sheep's wool garments

Is it correct to say that wool garments’ care is both easy and extremely low impact at the same time?

Yes, indeed! Generally, sheep’s wool does not need to be washed regurarly, as it is naturally breathable, odour resistant, stain resistant and it does not take up dust. It can only be air-dryed and, most times, it does not even need to be ironed, as it is naturally crease resistant.

So, not only does all of this lead to significant savings on your water and electricity bills, but it’s also environmental-friendly!

Also, sheep’s wool is one of the most durable fibers known to the fashion world and is often used to create long-lasting garments. So if you love your precious woolen clothes and you want to extend their life…

…You MUST know how to take extra care of them!

Of course, the first thing you always have to do is to check your garment’s care label (Read more on how to read garments’ care labels). There is nothing better than knowing what the producer recommends, as it is supposed to have the best knowledge of the material.

Scroll down and read this blogpost to discover all recommendations and tips on how to properly wash, dry, iron and store your woolen clothes!

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Wait, wait, wait! Can you wait a minute and read this before washing? AIRING is the way

If you’ve spent the night out, eating in a restaurant, smoking cigarettes or whatever, and you smell unpleasant odours coming from your woolen garment, you can just resort to the old-but-gold “airing”. Take your garment, lay it on a flat surface for about an hour, possibly in fresh air and far from sunlight. You’ll see the result: the odour will be gone! wool’s ability to cleanse itself in fresh air reduces significantly the need for traditional wash. Trust us, less frequently you wash the item, the better!

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If you go for washing, turn your sheep’s wool garment inside-out!

Irrespective of which method you use to wash wool clothes, before washing make sure to turn them inside-out. This will allow you to protect the colour from fading and will prolong the item’s ‘as new’ look and feel.

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Wash it in a pillowcase or a laundry net!

Another great tip that is sometimes underrated is to put your sheep’s wool garment in a laundry net or pillowcase to protect it during washing (both by hand or by machine). This will prolong even more the garment’s look and feel!

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Wash it on its own, especially for the first time!

Also, you should remember to wash your sheep’s wool garment on its own, at least for the first time, to prevent it from rubbing off on another garment and – last but not the least, to avoid color bleeding: make sure to separate dark and pale – or light – colours, also after laundering.

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It can be hand-washed!

As common claims have it, sheep’s wool garments can be easily hand-washed. Of course, before doing it, you should check the care label. If it says “Hand-wash only”, then you can proceed. Hand washing wool is really quick and easy; turn the garment inside out, make sure to use clean and lukewarm water (usually 30°) and a mild and gentle detergent. Allow your garment to soak for 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing firstly in lukewarm water, then in cold water.

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It can be machine-washed!

Contrary to what one may think, sheep’s wool garments can be machine-washed. Of course, before doing it, you should always check the care label. If it claims that you can machine wash your piece of wool clothing, then it means it can safely be machine-washed in a washing-machine multiple times, without shrinkage taking place. Sheep’s wool garments must be turned inside out and washed on the wool setting, and if your machine does not have a wool cycle, make sure to use the cold water wash or wash cycle for delicates, with a mild detergent.

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It can be dry-washed!

As in the other cases, you should always check your garment’s care label first. If it says “Dry-clean only”, then your sheep’s wool garment should be taken to a professional dry cleaner to ensure the superior quality of your clothing is maintained upon cleaning.

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Use mild detergents, avoid others!

Whether you’re hand-washing or machine-washing your sheep’s wool clothes, it is recommended to use lukewarm or cold water and a mild detergent, which has a relatively neutral pH level, preferably one that is Woolmark recommended. Just make sure to avoid using heavy-duty detergents, “bio” detergents containing enzymes, oxygen-based detergents or any detergents containing bleaches or chlorine. Always follow the washing instructions of your chosen laundry detergent. Ultimately, a neutral and mild wool detergent will help to prolong the lifespan of your favourite sheep’s wool garments.

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Watch out for softeners and conditioners!

You can also do a final rinse with softeners or conditioners, but make to keep the amount down to minimum. Excessive amount of softener can lead to the formation of pills during subsequent washes - this is because softeners tend to act as a lubricant and enable fibres to move out onto the surface of the sweater more easily.

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If it’s a knit, don’t hang it, go for flat-line air-drying!

Garments with most common fibers, such as cotton, are always dried on hangers, yet this does not apply to wool, because it absorbs more water. If you dry a wool knit on a hanger, the moisture will weigh it down and will cause a big change in its length and its shape. It is better to open up a clothes horse and lay your garment on it, letting it air-dry. On the other hand, when your garment is woven, such as tailored suit pants or jackets, you can easily dry it on a shaped or padded hanger.

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Avoid sunlight, go for room temperature!

Even though we’re all grown with the thought that sunlight is the most common way to dry our clothes, when drying a garment made of sheep’s wool, you’ve got to make sure to avoid direct sunlight, magnified sunlight (for example, do not let it dry close to a window) or direct heat. Exposing it to direct sunlight can damage your woollen garments by making them shrink. The best way is to air-dry your woollen clothes at room temperature.

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Avoid radiators, room temperature is the best way to go – again!

It may sound like the quickest drying process, but when drying a sheep’s wool garment, you’d better make sure to avoid placing it over a radiator to dry. The part of the garment which is folded over the top of the radiator tends to dry the quickest and can cause the garment colour to change or damage the garment in this area.

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Tumble-drying is possible, but check the care label first!

Certain wool garments can safely be dried in a tumble dryer, without the item shrinking. In order to be sure about it, check their care labels first, if they have a care claim that states ‘tumble dry’, then they can be tumble dried on a low heat setting, or a setting for wool or delicates.

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Avoid hot iron temperatures!

We are used to think that hot ironing temperatures are better for creases, yet with wool garments they are kind of dangerous. In fact, they can lead to discolouration or in the worst case they can cause scorch marks. Make sure to set the iron at medium or 2-dot heat setting at maximum!

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Take it easy with pressure!

Do not apply heavy pressure on your wool garment when ironing, as this will probably lead to its surface becoming shiny.

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Never leave the iron to stand for any lenght of time!

If you leave the iron standing on your sheep’s wool garment, as it can cause an irreversible scorches on its surface.

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Spray the garment with a little water before ironing!

This will make it easier for you to remove creases (even the toughest ones) and reshape your garment, just remember to lay it flat on a smooth hard surface for 5 minutes or so before folding/hanging it.

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Before storing your sheep’s wool garments, make sure they’re clean!

This might sound a simple advice, but it is actually the first and key step to be taken before storing you woollen clothes, since food stains and body oils attract moths – one of the most important dangers in wool storing!

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Fold it if it’s knitted, hang it if it’s woven!

As general rules have it, your woven wool garments should be hung on shaped or padded coat hangers, while knitted garments should be gently folded. All of this makes it easier to avoid changes in their shape!

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Vacuum packing, storage bins or cloths?

They are all great, but they have pros and cons. Vacuum packing only protects your clothes, but also creates a lot more space in your wardrobe. On the downside, they can occasionally need resealing and don’t allow the clothing to breathe. They’re also not ideal for delicate clothing and can often trap in moisture. Storage bins can be an easier alternative to vacuum bags but the irony is that they require a fair amount of storage space themselves! Cloth bags are not as convenient space-wise as vacuum packing, but using 100% cotton or wool bags is much safer for delicate clothing as they allow the clothes to breathe.

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Use silica gel sachets for moisture!

Whatever storing method you are using for your woolen clothes, you must also take into account the moisture problem! You can easily prevent it to form and create mold just by putting silica gel sachets along with your garments!

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Protect it from moths and silverfish!

When storing you woolen clothes, one of the main danger is moths! The simplest way of preventing them to attack your garment is – of course – clean them before storing! But you can also use Neem leaves, which is a natural moth repellent and is useful for keeping woollen clothes insect-free, all of this just by keeping a handful of it in storage along with your clothes. You can also use cedar blocks, which not only smells great, but works well at preventing damage from moths and silverfish.

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About Manteco, Italian premium textiles and circularity since 1943

After decades in the fashion world, in 2018, we have created the Manteco Academy project, through which we  give webinars, in-person lessons and workshops on eco-design, circular economy and sustainability to numerous fashion schools, technical universities and brands worldwide. Thanks to this educative commitment and our heritage, we are often invited as guest speaker at events, panels, podcasts and conferences about sustainable fashion and circular economy.

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