If you are anything like me or have a similarly busy schedule during the time between the end and the beginning of each summer break, you probably don’t have time to take the care of your wardrobe during the year that you should be taking.
If picking up your dry cleaning and doing essential laundry is the most you achieve, you are not alone. Having put anything that needs mending or tending aside in a bag for one year, filled the bag up by the beginning of summer and now looks overwhelming! It needn’t be.
What seemed like impossible time to set aside during the year now looks like 10 to 30 minutes tops for each item. That means in one day I can attend to all mending and have done with it ready for ‘back to work’ and wardrobe ready for the coming year, and a good excuse to sit outside in the shade (or sun if you like) and still be productive. Sewing on buttons, sewing up torn hem stitches, and defuzzing sweaters – easy peasy!
Not being one to have merino woolens and cashmere sweaters dry cleaned – because it strips all the cosiness, shape and good looks right out of them, I decided to take one really hot day and stick my hands into lovely cool waters to hand launder all the sweaters which have piled up over the months.
Normally, I don’t have the space in my cramped living quarters or the inclination, to spread out and block the woolens on the floor to let them dry properly.
So, before I thought about it too much to talk myself out of this overwhelming chore, I used up the shampoo brand that I found I don’t like to use on my hair and used it for the woolens. Perfect solution to washing a protein product! Cool water to soak, suds, rinse, rinse, rinse and rinse again, press out the water into some beach towels, and then lay out (block to shape) all the sweaters on the lawn – over dry towels of course, and to my amazement what would normally take overnight to dry, were dry in a couple of hours – and they smell brand new fresh.
All my mending and hand washing done in the space of two days, ready for the coming work year and I can enjoy a guilt free summer break! Another tip about woolens during the year – leave them out in fresh air after you wear them – at least for a day. This prolongs the freshness and wear you get out of them before you need to launder or dry clean again. Wool fabric and woolens have the natural ability to shed odors, where synthetics just absorb them.
Keep in mind and Follow these tips:
- Always use cool water, and always use the same temperature water for soaking, sudsing and the several rinsings required – it is the change of temperature in water that causes shrinking.
- Never “rub” wet woolen items – this causes felting of wool fibres.
- Use an inexpensive square plastic washing up bowl (purchased at Wal-Mart) placed inside your kitchen sink to wash each piece and use for each step – it is plenty large enough for most items and prevents wasting water or using excess amounts of water for each piece.
- Use shampoo as the cleanser as it is meant for hair, and technically wool is hair. It matters little what brand of shampoo you use, most brands are fairly gentle on hair these days.
- Shampoo won’t easily strip essential oils from wool and leaves the item feeling soft when dry – you could add hair conditioner to the final rinse if you are concerned with static – but, a little experience would be the best advisor as to when and how much to use.
- Dilute the shampoo in the cool water first before putting the item into the bowl.
- Then lay the item in the water – folded as if you were putting it away into your drawer. Keep the item as close to this folded configuration as possible as you proceed. If the item is more delicate insert it into a mesh ditty bag and then remove it when you are ready to block the item.
- Leave the item alone in the water to soak for 20 minutes first, and then pat down with your delicate fingers repeatedly to force the soapy water through the whole item.
- Only ever PAT the item down in the water to cause movement of water through the fibres, never swirl, twist, pull or wring any woolens – excess agitation causes felting and mis-shaping of woolens.
- Lift the item out of the soapy water, drain the bowl, turn the bowl upside down, place the item on it and gently press excess water away,
- Then begin the rinse process by filling the bowl again with clean cool water, and repeating the patting down process in clean cool rinse waters several times.
- Repeat until the water is almost clear. It isn’t necessary that the final rinse water is absolutely clear, because what causes some of the cloudiness are small wool fibres suspended in the water.
- Press out the final excess water gently, then unfold item gently and press out the rest of the water by laying the item as flat and as to-shape as possible on a large dry bath or beach towel.
- Roll the towel up from one end like a bed roll while gently pressing the items as you roll – never twist the roll.
- Unroll the item and lay out on another clean dry towel laid out on a flat surface where you intend to leave it to dry, arrange the shape being careful not to pull – just tease the item into shape – this is called blocking.
- Leave in place until dry. If you use a fold-away laundry rack on your balcony, or use the grass in your back garden makes no difference to the outcome, but wherever you lay out the items make sure it is not near a manmade or direct heat source. Leaving the item out in the sunshine is fine and will dry, on a hot day, in a couple of hours.
- Just remember to handle gently – ‘gentleness’ is the trick. Wash woolens as you would your own hair without any scrubbing.
- Success without excessive effort!