I’m one of those annoying individuals, who loves doing laundry, and caring for my clothes and accessories. Give me the latest tip on how to clean something – I’m going to experiment. So I thought I would give some advice on caring for your hand knits. After the time you spent knitting them, cleaning the items properly will ensure that you enjoy them for years to come. I am proud to say that some of my hand knits are 20 plus years old, because I cleaned and stored them properly.
There are some fabulous fine fabric cleaners to use such as SOAK, Eucalan, and Wool and Cashmere Shampoo by Laundress. Grocery store brands such as Zero and Woolite, also work very well. The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book Knitting Basics – A Handbook For Beginners.
CARE OF HAND KNITS
The majority of hand knits can be cleaned safely at home, including those made with cashmere and silk. The ball band contains important information, including the fiber content and care instructions. Cleaning instructions will indicate whether the garment should be hand washed, machine washed, or dry cleaned. Often times, manufacturers put dry-cleaning labels on ball bands to protect themselves from consumer complaints. Wool yarns labeled “superwash” can be machine washed. I prefer to handwash superwash wools. Cotton, flax (linen) plus other cellulose based yarns, and synthetics can be machine washed. Items that have decorative embellishments such as sequins, beads, and ribbons should be hand washed. If you choose to dry clean items, be careful of certain types of buttons, which may dissolve or come off in dry cleaning solvents. Swatches made to check the gauge are useful for testing laundering techniques.
Fill a sink or basin with room temperature or cool water, and a small amount of mild soap specially made for delicates. In a pinch, a clear dishwashing liquid such as Ivory will clean very well and is not expensive. Place the item in the soapy water and let soak. I let wool or other hair fibers soak for 30 minutes, and silks and rayons for 20 minutes. Squeeze gently or swish the suds through the item concentrating on necklines, cuffs, and armholes, and the dirtiest areas. Drain sink, pressing item towards the side of the sink. Rinse with cool water 2 to 3 times, or till the water runs clear. Squeeze excess water out and do not twist. Place item into an old pillowcase and tie the top of the case loosely so the item doesn’t fall out. Place in washing machine and spin out excess water on the gentle cycle for less than a minute. For lightweight cashmere or merino items, or items with embellishments roll in a towel to get rid of excess moisture. Lay flat to dry, shaping and smoothing the item. After mohair items are dry, air fluff them in the dryer to raise the pile.
Use the delicate or gentle cycle of the washing machine. Front loaders are particularly gentle on knits because of the tumbling action rather than the agitation of a top loader. Use cold water and mild detergent and run through the cycle. It is preferable to dry flat instead of tumble drying. If using the dryer do not completely dry, but take out and lay flat to complete drying.
You may find that some yarns have a tendency to bleed dye during laundering, and is not uncommon for dark colors. If you find this to be a problem, vinegar can be added to the last rinse to stabilize the dye somewhat.
Acrylic is one of the most common synthetics found in knit garments. Acrylic is heat sensitive and can stretch during cleaning. In addition, stains are difficult to remove. 100% acrylic items can be washed in the gentle cycle of the machine with cold water. Limit the dryer time at a low heat and lay flat to complete drying.
How often to wash depends on the type of garment. Close fitting items may need to be cleaned more often. Generally, my rule is once a season, unless the item is obviously dirty or worn close to the body. Never use chlorine bleach on natural fibers, and fabric softeners are not recommended as they leave a film.