Caring for your Merino wool sweaters

People have a hard time believing that our sweaters are pure wool when they first touch them. Merino sheep produce the finest wool, which is as soft as cashmere - and sometimes even softer. Like all wool clothing (and like many pieces of clothing in general!), Merino wool sweaters do not need to be washed after every wear. Traditional sweater makers often recommend "air washing" your knitwear, a simple process of hanging your sweater in the fresh air for a few hours. This is particularly effective on a somewhat cool and damp day, as the humidity and the cold freshen up a garment and can remove odors in a few hours (this also works well for stubborn odors in vintage garments, although it can take a few days!).

But how do you best deal with a sweater that needs a more thorough cleaning? Spot cleaning with cool water and a gentle detergent is good to address small areas. If you have a favorite dry cleaner who uses eco-friendly methods and your budget allows for it, dry cleaning is also an option. We commend hand washing your sweaters. It's cheaper than dry cleaning and, with patience you can be a pro at caring for your knitwear at home! Here's how:

  • Turn your garment inside out.
  • Fill your sink or basin with lukewarm-to-cool water - do not use hot water! - and add a small amount of gentle detergent.
  • Add your garment to the water and push it down gently until it is submerged. Do not agitate or scrub your garment.
  • Let it soak for 20-30 minutes.
  • Drain the water, then refill the basin with lukewarm-to-cool water. Swish the garment around to rinse it. You might have to repeat this process a few times until the detergent is rinsed clear. Drain.
  • Press the excess water gently out of the garment. Do not wring or squeeze, as this can lead to stretching out and distorting the shape of your garment.
  • Lay your garment on a towel large for it to lie flat. Roll it up like a sausage, squeezing gently to help remove more of the water. 
  • Remove the garment from the towel and lay it flat to air dry, reshaping it as necessary when you first lay it out. Keep it away from heat and direct sunlight. A mesh sweater rack is a great way to allow your garment to dry while letting air circulate underneath it. A regular clothing drying rack works as well. We recommend putting a dry towel down to keep the rods from leaving an impression on the garment as it dries. These can easily be steamed out once the piece is dry, but the towel can help skip that step!

Some people wash their Merino wool knitwear in the washing machine on delicate with gentle or wool detergent. If you're confident in this method, go for it! It can depend on the speed and the strength of your machine, so we can't say definitively that this is a recommended method for our Merino wool knits. If you do wash it by machine or by hand, do not put your garment in the dryer unless you're actually trying to shrink it!

Merino wool is naturally wrinkle resistant, but if necessary, our Merino wool sweaters can be steamed or ironed on the wool setting. Make sure not to press down while ironing, as only a light touch is needed. You'll be surprised how quickly any wrinkles come out of Merino wool. 

Be sure to store your Merino wool garments folded or rolled, not hanging up. Although we recommended hanging them to "air wash" above and we show them hung up at markets and pop-ups, we don't recommend leaving any sweater knits hung up for more than a few hours/overnight. Leaving them on a hanger for an extended period of time can cause them to distort in the shoulder areas or leave hanger impressions. 

If you're worried about moths (all wool is susceptible to moth damage), some people swear by cedar, mint, or lavender - their strong scents are said to repel moths. We recommend that you store your folded or rolled Merino garments in fabric sweater bags (if you're not familiar with them, they're like soft-sided bins made of canvas that zip shut). Moths can be attracted to the oils from human skin, so if you're storing garments between washes, having your garments zipped up in a sweater bag is a great way to protect them. At least until moths discover how to open zippers, but I don't think that's of immediate concern.

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