As much as we love being re-united with our knitwear collection each Winter, these pieces often require special care when it comes to cleaning and maintenance. Tossing them into the washing machine with the regular wash runs the risk of turning your beloved sweater into a sadder, lesser version of its former self. From that day on, you're reminded of what it use to be every time you put it on.
While there are some rare knits that are robust and tolerate a machine wash just fine, others are highly delicate and sensitive. This depends on the individual characteristics of your piece determined by endless possible combinations of fibre content, yarn quality, twist tension and knit structure.
Here's what we now know from years of designing knitwear, writing care labels, and yes, ruining our personal garments in our own laundry.
GOLDEN RULE 1:
Avoid washing as much as possible.
We all know we should be washing our clothes less often to conserve energy and water, but limiting washes also carries the added benefit of keeping your knits looking newer, for longer.
If a refresh is needed between wears, try these options first:
A bit of airing goes a long way. This works a treat with food and smoke odours. Hang your knit by a coat hanger or drape it over a drying rack for an hour or so.
Ideally, look for a spot outside that’s sheltered and out of direct sunlight. If that’s not an option, consider a space in your home with good ventilation; by an open window for instance.
DO NOT: Leave them hanging longer than four hours (more on that below).
THE SPOT CLEAN
We love a spot clean, as it’s a great time saver - especially when you go to wear something and realise it needs a little attention.
Small areas of harmless food, liquid or make-up can often be easily moved along with some gently sweeps of a wet wipe – just take care not to rub too vigorously.
While we understand that wet wipes are not best practice from a sustainability perspective, some are better than others. So consider options which are biodegradable.
DO NOT: Be over zealous in rubbing. Take extra caution with fine and short yarn fibres that are susceptible to pilling or balling.
GOLDEN RULE 2:
Use the Softly & Gently method for washing your knits.
If the wash can no longer be delayed, here's how to do it safely. Do all these steps in immediate succession. See it through and don't be tempted to leave your pieces soaking, or in wet heap while you go and deal with that other thing. We all know how that can end: with sad, soggy, forgotten knits.
1. Using a hand basin or laundry sink, fill with lukewarm water and add wool friendly detergent.
2. Immerse for up to 5 minutes and gently agitate, taking care not to wring or pull. Gently squeeze out the cleaning liquid mix.
3. Immerse (or rinse) in lukewarm clean water, and gently squeeze out excess water.
Removing excess water
Lay flat between two layers of towel, and gently roll up, squeezing out excess water as you go. This may need repeating if the knit is dense and the garment should be noticeably lighter after towel rolling.
Lay flat to dry
Lay garment flat to dry on a clothes rack.
Find the perfect balance of allowing enough air flow through the fibres while ensuring the garment is adequately supported and won't sag out of shape. As you can see here the body is supported from the shoulders through to the hem, and the sleeves are also resting on the bars.
GOLDEN RULE 3:
Store your knits folded between wears.
Always keep your stored knits folded . Hanging knits for extended periods causes them to drop, stretch and lose shape, especially if they are on the heavier side. Gravity is no friend of knitwear, which is why we suggest AIRING by hanger be kept under four hours.
Hanging a heavy long dress is a recipe for disaster, and yet you've probably noticed stores usually hang their lovely knits. Why? Simply because stock needs to be visible to sell. Before you purchase a new knit, always enquire if there is a fresh one in storage that has not been hanging. You can also take a moment to give your item a once over at the counter for snags or pulls before tapping your card.
GOLDEN RULE 4:
Read the care instructions, obey the care instructions, respect the care instructions.
A pretty simple piece of advice. Fashion brands write care instructions based on factory recommendations, bulk yarn test reports (conducted at independent expert testing facilities) as well as their own internal testing carried out for each and every style they plan to produce.
In our experience, HAND WASH ONLY is stipulated only when necessary, since we know it's a pain for the customer. Sometimes, brands are faced with a customer who wishes to return their garment because the (ahem) 'hand wash' failed. It's an awkward situation.
If the care instructions warn of pilling, it's safe to say the brand is trying to forewarn their customers and hopes to avoid returns on that basis. If we love a piece and are considering whether to buy, a pilling warning isn't necessarily a deal breaker for us. Understand these items will required additional maintenance. Which brings us to our last rule.
GOLDEN RULE 5:
Pilling does not necessarily mean poor quality. Buy a defuzzer and banish the balling.
Even the finest merino wools are susceptible to pilling. It is the nature of this beautiful yarn. The length of fibre and twist tension play some part. There have been some advances in developing low pill products - but they usually involved incorporating some polyester to form a blended yarn. There's no need to de-commission your lovely knit from service if it develops a spot of balling. Enter the defuzzer.
Defuzzers (also known as lint shavers or piling blades) have the ability to transform your garment, and restore it to its former glory. The one pictured here is a battery operated fan of sharp blades that sit behind a perforated shield. When turned on and applied to the face of the knit, it neatly munches away at the balling. It does not damage the garment, just gently snips off the pills. Magic, extremely satisfying, and worth every cent.
That brings us to the end of our insights in knitwear ownership. We hope you found it enjoyable and informative. Let us know your thoughts. WW