Caring for Woollen Clothes
Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0
Extend the life of your wool clothing and blankets, and deter damaging clothes moths larvae by following the advice below.
Wool is the fibre obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including mohair from goats and angora from rabbits. The scaling and crimp in wool make it much easier to spin into yarn by assisting the individual fibres in attaching to each other in the process. The crimp gives wool fabrics a higher bulk than other textiles, and in doing so retains air, which causes the product to retain heat. Wool fibres are hollow which enables them to readily retain moisture compared with other garment fibres. This poses a greater risk of attraction to moths for laying eggs and subsequent success of the development of moth larvae.
Washing Woollen Clothing and Blankets
Always check the manufacturer’s care label to ascertain whether your wool garment or blanket is suitable for hand washing, machine washing or dry cleaning only. It is recommended that woollen clothing is washed after every 4 or 5 wearings and cashmere more often.
Hand Washing Wool
Most woollen garments and blankets require hand washing, although be sure to check your permanent care label to see whether the item is ‘dry clean only’. Use a mild detergent or a specialist woollen laundry liquid. Agitate the detergent and ensure the item is thoroughly exposed to the solution through gently squeezing it through the washing stage. Loss of dyes at this stage may occur, especially in new garments, until the item has been washed a few times and the excess dye removed.
Do not be overly rough in the wash to avoid distorting the shape of wool clothes. Rinse several times in cool to lukewarm water to ensure the detergent is fully removed before the drying stage. To dry, it is recommended that woollen clothing is rolled in a towel and gently pressed to remove initial quantities of water before then laying flat and shaping on a clean towel to dry fully. Woollen clothes should hold their shape well because of the natural elasticity in the fibres. Avoid direct heat and tumble dryers.
Machine Washing Wool
Only ever machine wash a woollen garment if explicitly stated in the permanent care label of woollen clothes. Some woollen garments have fibres coated in a resin that prevents them becoming interwoven more tightly in the washing process (which would result in a loss of softness in the garment). Always use a ‘delicates’ programme on your washing machine and a mild detergent. Try to avoid detergents that are described as biological or containing brightening agents. The wash temperature should be 30 or 40 degrees and the spin cycle should be kept slow and short in duration. For drying, follow the care advice for hand washing above.
Dry Cleaning Wool
Use a reputable dry cleaner that you have experience of or comes highly recommended. Many woollen garment care labels will specify ‘dry clean only’, in which case please do not attempt to hand or machine wash. The dry cleaning solvents and process also eradicate any moth eggs or larvae that may be present on wool clothing. Woollen blankets are always best dry cleaned – hand or machine washing can result in significant shrinkage and a loss of softness in the feel of the blanket.
It is always best to use a good specialist dry cleaner to remove severe stains or marks on wool clothing. When taking your garment to the dry cleaner for stain removal, try to do so quickly and explain exactly what the stain has been caused by to increase the chances of success in stain removal.
You may not need to iron or can reduce the amount of ironing required by hanging your woollen clothing whilst still slightly damp (not wet!). If you do need to iron woollen garments, use a low / wool temperature setting on your iron. Always do the main ironing with the clothes inside-out. Where you need to iron the ‘right-side’ of the fabric, always iron through a clean white cloth, to avoid resulting a ‘shiny’ effect. Steaming is an effective alternative to ironing.
Some staining results in strong odours that cannot be fully removed through the washing process. In such a case you may wish to try an ‘ozone’ process that is offered by some specialist dry cleaners which is particularly useful in the case of organic based odours.
Scarves are often overlooked in washing woollens and should be regularly cleaned to avoid the build up of residual perspiration and dirt – certain moth attractants!
Storage and Clothes Moth Prevention for Woollen Clothes and Blankets
Wool garments should be stored clean – this is critical because clothes moth larvae feed on human and animal hair and skin which is a form of protein, and they are also particularly attracted by food stains and the residual from perspiration, which also provides the moisture that is essential to their survival. Wool itself, being made from animal hair, is made of keratin, a form of protein that is a foodstuff for moth larvae.
We recommend that wool clothes are stored neatly folded, and ideally in breathable cotton storage bags and in non-acidic tissue paper or hung in clothing covers in a dark and dry place. However, be careful hanging wool garments because they may lose shape over time. We have the perfect solution for you in our storage bags and garment covers. Before storing, we recommend you lightly brush woollen garments with a soft clothes brush. Avoid sealed plastic containers that may cause moisture build up. Increasing moisture will significantly increase the risk of any moth eggs that may be present being able to survive and develop into damaging moth larvae.
If you are storing your woollen clothing or blankets for a long period we recommend that you periodically shake the items and air in bright light to deter any potential moth larvae settling. They hate disturbance and light! Vacuuming cupboards and wardrobes at this stage is also really important along with the application of a suitable moth spray to ensure eradication of any residual moth eggs or larvae – the residual effect of such a spray should last several weeks.
Finally we strongly recommend that you include a natural anti-moth repellent in the bag with your silk clothing – this will add fragrance and deter moths from laying eggs on or near you valuable clothes.
MothPrevention.com provides a number of solutions to both eradicate moths and their larvae, as well as preventing further moth damage to your clothing.
For severe infestations by moths and elimination, check out our full Clothes Moth range. For ongoing moth prevention solutions, visit our natural moth repellent range.
Here are some further tips from around the web that may help you to take good care of your woollen clothes.
Make sure your woollen item really needs to be washed. Unlike cotton and man-made materials, wool does not need to be washed frequently - even wool socks can be worn many times between washing if allowed to air out between wearings. Don't assume your wool sweater needs to be washed just because you are used to washing things after wearing them once! Get used to gently spot-cleaning and airing woollens and you will be amazed at how well they last with very little care, and very infrequent washing.
To prevent the invasion of the clothes moth, brush wool with a fabric brush before storing.
Clean the garment or blanket. Food stains and body oils attract moths. Dry cleaning or laundering kills moth eggs and larvae.
Store cleaned wool fabric in airtight bags or containers with tight-fitting lids. When folding, add white tissue paper between folds to prevent wrinkling.
Add mothballs to the container. Do NOT put them directly on the fabric. Hang them in small loosely woven cloth bags near the fabric. Clothing will need to be aired out after removing from storage to remove the mothball odour.
The same chemistry that makes wool fibre resilient and durable and lets it breathe and shed wrinkles also makes wool susceptible to moths. These insects, if allowed to infest wool, feed in the larva stage on the keratin protein present only in animal fibres. Since the insect larvae are attracted to areas of the cloth that are soiled with food stains and body oil, clothing kept clean in storage is the most effective protection. Additional prevention can be achieved by taking the following precautions: Have your woollens cleaned before packing them away. Cleaning will also kill larvae. Brush clothing after each wearing. This will not only revive the nap but will help rid clothing of insect infestation. Keep closets, dresser drawers and trunks clean. Pack clothes in airtight containers – well-sealed garment bags or boxes and trunks with secure lids. Cold storage in temperatures of 40 degrees (4° C) or lower further discourages infestation.
Before deciding on a cleaning method for wool clothing, look for the care instruction label. Required by law, these labels are sewn into garments and should not be removed. Most clothing manufacturers recommend dry cleaning although some garments can be hand-washed and some even laundered by machine.
Please note that MothPrevention.com takes no responsibility for any loss or liability due to information included on this site.
FAQs for Caring for Woolen Clothes
If you are taking the steps to protect wool from moths, there’s a good chance you care about your clothes made of this material. When caring for woolen garments, there are a few special considerations to keep in mind. Here are some helpful FAQs on how to clean and care for woolen clothes!
How do you take care of a wool sweater?
There are many aspects to wool care. Understanding how the fabric must be stored, washed, and treated will help to ensure your favorite cozy wool sweater will last longer. So how is wool washed? Can you iron wool? To take care of a wool sweater, you will need to know how to wash it properly with the right detergent. Also, you need to know how to treat wool when it comes to heat and how to store your wool sweaters so they are protected from Clothes Moths.
Although wool can be ironed, you need to take extra care. After all, very hot temperatures can affect this natural fabric. When ironing wool, use a piece of muslin or cotton to protect it from direct clothes iron heat. Also, do not put wool clothes in the dryer on a high heat cycle. Moreover, you should wash wool with wool-safe detergent (like Woolite) and set your washer to the "wool" setting, which is gentle and at the correct temperature. Finally, take care to protect wool from Clothes Moths.
How do you wash wool without ruining it?
Can you wash wool? The answer is yes. However, wool is sensitive to water, heat, and stretching. After all, it is made from natural fibers, usually sheep, but sometimes also alpacas or other animals! So, be careful and don’t use harsh soaps or very hot water. Wool can not go through a clothes dryer on “hot” as the garment may shrink. It is also best for wool to be air dried flat to stop it from stretching.
So can you machine wash wool? Yes, you can wash wool in a washing machine. To wash wool, first turn the woolen garment inside out (if possible). Next, add a wool-safe detergent to the “wool” wash cycle. If your washer doesn’t have a wool cycle, wash wool with cool or slightly warm water on a gentle cycle. Afterward, allow your wool garment to air dry ideally flat on a clothes drying rack so as to avoid stretching. High heat can ruin wool.
Is wool easy to maintain?
Wool is sustainable and versatile. It has long wear as well and is very hardy! Bearing that in mind, yes, it is easy to maintain. Though, wool can be sensitive to heat. Especially if it is woven loosely. To avoid shrinkage, keep wet wool away from high heat sources like clothes dryers.
MothPrevention® speak to customers every day about their clothes moth issues - clothes moths are a species that are ever increasing and that can cause significant damage to clothes, carpets and other home textiles.
To date, we’ve helped over 150,000 customers deal with their moth problems. We have developed professional grade solutions including proprietary pheromones engineered in Germany to the highest production standards.