Brush, Air Out and Wash – 5 Tips for Garment Care
Keep your favourite knits around for longer by taking care of them the right way.
Whether you buy your knits from the store or make them yourself, a quality knit is always an investment you want to cherish. Even though knitted garments are fairly easy to look after – wool is after all a self-cleaning fibre – the right kind of care will guarantee a longer wearing time.
“Wool care is actually quite simple. My best advice is to brush, air out and wash!” says Maria Manninen, the founder of Arkive Atelier, an influential clothing care business in Finland and an importer of clothing care and home textile products.
With the help of Maria, we have gathered the best ways to care for your knits. These instructions apply to all “woolly” garments, be it wool, cashmere, mohair or alpaca.
1. Use a clothing brush
The most important way to maintain your knitted garments is to regularly brush them with a clothing brush. The specialist brush removes dirt and dust, smoothes the surface of the knit and prevents pilling. Brushing also activates the wool’s own fat, lanolin, which makes the wool naturally water- and dirt-repellent.
“If the woollen garment needs a more thorough cleaning, you should spread it on, for example, a firm pillow or an ironing board while brushing. Hold the garment in place with one hand and brush it with the other hand in the direction of the knit,” instructs Maria.
A really shabby sweater should be brushed in two directions. Cleaning can be made more efficient by spritzing water on the garment with a spray bottle.
2. Air out your knits regularly
Maria advises us to air out sweaters after each use, by placing them on a hanger outside or near an open window. The best result is obtained when the garment is left in humid air, because moisture swells the wool fibres and brings odours and dirt to the surface. Avoid sunlight, to prevent the fibres from becoming brittle and the colour from fading. Fold heavier sweaters soon after airing to prevent the garments from stretching.
3. Use a lint comb sparingly!
Pilling happens when loose fibres rise to the surface of the knit and together with dust and dirt form a ball of fluff. Lint combs have become popular assistants in removing piles, but their excessive use may even damage the knitwear. A comb can break the surface of the yarn and thus increase pilling. So only grab the comb as a last resort.
4. Wash – and preferably by machine
A common misconception is to think that wool garments should never be washed, and especially not with a washing machine. Forget the horrors of shrinking and felting – the wool-washing programs of modern machines are so good that machine washing is even gentler than hand washing. The most important thing is to keep the water temperature constant during the wash, and this can be done more reliably with a machine. Use a laundry bag and detergent intended for woollen clothes.
When it comes to washing frequency, trust your own nose. “Skin-hugging sweaters get dirty faster than plush ones. However, every sweater should be washed once in a while,” advises Maria. “Using an undershirt extends the washing interval, as it protects the woollen garment from sweat and grease from the skin.”
5. Pay attention to storing
When it’s not sweater season, store your knits neatly folded at room temperature. Avoid basements and attics, as changes in air temperature and humidity can cause woollen clothes to smell and have unexpected stains and colour changes. Make sure the knits are clean before storing: dirt can wear down wool fibres and invite pests.
In case of pests, store woollen clothes in airtight plastic boxes or bags. You can also use a piece of red cedar wood or a lavender bag to help keep the pests away.
Text: Päivi Kankaro
Illustration: Pauliina Holma