Cleaning wool garments might seem like a difficult an risky task to many. Here are some tips on how you can treat your wooly stuff.
-Keep the yarn label with washing instructions when you knit a garment. Have a book with notes on what you knitted with which yarn, so that you can go back for washing instructions in case you forget.
-Wool labeled to be machine washed should be machine washed. The result is usually better than hand wash. One of the reasons might be that a machine is best at rinsing out the soap. These yarns are also usually treated so that they don't shrink.
-Make sure to use the right type of detergent, and don't use softener when it says "do not use softener", as some might feel tempted to do so anyway. Don't use normal detergent, as these have enzymes that can break and damage wool fibers.
-Don't soak wool. When in soapy water, treat the garment carefully. Squeeze the water out without twisting and do the same twice in clean water, or as many times you need until the soap is gone.
-Keep the same temperature at all times! Don't rinse in cold water, but the same temperature you washed with. It's not necessarily hot water that shrinks wool, but temperature changes and movement.
-Fleece yarn, or loosely spun yarn will felt in a machine. If you don't wish for that result, hands and bucket is the best way to do it.
-When you hand wash chunky and/or big garments, you can send it for a short spin in your machine. That way you save days of drying.
-Don't hang your knitted wear over a line or on a hanger to dry. It will stretch and loose its/take another shape. Lie it down flat, with a thick towel underneath. Turn it every now and then so that it dries on both sides. If it's a light weight or small piece of garment (or has had a spin), you can hang it over two or three lines on your drying rack.
-Steam iron your wool wear on the wrong side. Not only for the best looking result, but also to flatten fibers so that you avoid bumps. Make sure to use the right temperature.
-Remove bumps. Wool is not necessarily of bad quality if it makes bumps. Some yarn types have more loose and/or short fibers, which turns into bumps when exposed to friction, usually under arms. Bumps are lightly to "steal" more fibers, so make sure to take them off when they appear. There are battery driven bump removers, but be careful when you use them, as they can eat their way into the garment.
If you are a knitter that simply hates bumps, you'll have to stick with sport yarns, sock yarns, and other yarns that have several threads spun together.
-Last but not least: wool wear doesn't really need to be washed very often. If it smells, hang it outside for a few hours, and it will smell fresh again! If you spilled something on it, you can probably remove the spot without putting the whole garment in water. But remember that dirty clothes wear faster...
Save up wool stuff for a wool washing day. But do it often enough so that you don't run out of stuff to wear in the mean time! (I usually clean smaller stuff in the bathroom sink whenever I need to, and keep bigger stuff in a pile for a washing day.) It might not be great fun, but is definitely worth it. Your garments will be happy, pretty and age with grace!