It always irks me whenever a sales consultant tells me that you cannot hand wash woollens and to follow the directions on the label. For years, I have been hand washing my knitwear and ignored the care label reading 'Dry clean'. The majority of my sweaters are made by high end designers, such as Ralph Lauren Collection and Burberry, and because they have been taken care of, still look brand new.
Here's what I do to keep my sweaters looking fabulous. If the sweater is 100% cashmere you need to fill a small tub of lukewarm water using a small amount of Wool Mix. I ALWAYS use Martha Gardner, Eucalyptus. I wash the sweater by gently moving the garment through the water and gently squeezing the sweater, but never pulling or tugging. Then I leave the sweater in the water to soak for about five minutes (not always needed-do skip this step if the garment is not heavily soiled). Afterwards, I rinse the sweater in lukewarm water until the water comes out clear. Do not lift the sweater out of the water to rinse. Leave it in the water and let the water rinse the garment gently. If you pull the garment when it is wet, it will stretch and lose its shape. Next, gently squeeze excess water and spin the sweater on the gentle/slow setting in the washing machine. I used to use a towel and roll the sweater up in the towel to dry it, but found it most annoying because then I'd have to dry the towels! Lay the garment flat to dry on a sweater rack/flat on a clothing rack will do too.
If you have a sweater to hand wash that is 100% merino wool, always use cold water to wash it or it will shrink. Believe me, I am talking from experience. Use the exact same Wool Mix to wash the garment in. Follow by rinsing in cold water and setting the washing machine on gentle/slow spin to remove excess liquid. Lay garment flat to dry.
Now onto the tricky part. If your sweater is a combination of wool/fabrics, such as 80% cashmere 20% wool, always look at the biggest percentage and clean according to this. For instance ,with the before mentioned combination of cashmere and wool, there is more cashmere in the sweater, so wash the exact same way as you would a 100% cashmere sweater. If the sweater has a higher percentage of silk for instance, wash the same way as you would cashmere. However, if the sweater is 80% wool and 20% cashmere, always wash this in cold water, following the guide for woolen sweaters to avoid shrinkage.
I have always followed these guidelines every single time I hand wash my sweaters. I have heard that dry-cleaning over time can break down the fibers, changing the feel and texture of the wool. The only time I would ever dry-clean a sweater would be if it was stained.
Hope this has helped you in some way to feel more confident to hand wash your woollen sweaters.
Let me know how you go with my tips and tricks!
Yours in style,