Winter has been very severe this year. Naturally woollens of all sorts – coats, sweaters, jerseys, shawls and even the warm blankets and other forms of protective covering, have been in constant use to be able to go about the daily routine comfortably. Soon after, days will be getting hotter and nights will be warmer. That is when the woollens have to be attended to and packed away till next needed. Mind you, put away to be removed in good condition the next year before winter.
Qualities of Wool
- Wool is a weak fiber, sometimes made strong by addition of recycled wool fibers.
- Being elastic, wool stretches well and hence feels comfortable in wearing.
- Wool fibres have tiny microscopic scales along their surface, some types having it longer than others. The longer ones reflect more light and give off a surface sheen. The finer or short fibre ones do not reflect light and have a matted surface.
- Felting occurs when wool fibres are shocked by temperature and rubbing. Felting causes the little scales to lift up and when rubbed against each other, lock down on nearby fibers and form a tighter and tighter mass. Putting woolens in a washing machine can cause felting. and result in a smaller and thicker sweater at the end of the wash. Felting would result in a permanent non-stretchable fabric soon after.
- Super wash wool is a special pre-treated wool that undergoes special treatment that smooths down the fibres and does not lock the neighbouring fibres. Such woolens can take the rigor of machine wash. However with subsequent washes, the woolen fibre tends to loosen and over a period of time, with each wash, felting would occur.
That is why hand wash is advised for most woolen fabrics to avoid the tightening and mass formations in places despite the label of machine- wash tagged.
The process to be followed before packing
There are some steps to be followed before the wollens are packed away for use in the next year cold season.
1 – Washing & Drying
- Use a very mild detergent to hand wash or machine wash woolen fabrics in the woolens mode.
- This retains the natural oils present in the wool. Also shrinking is avoided largely.
- Excess water can be squeezed out using a towel but not wrung directly. Reshape the garments, lay them spread out flat on a surface to dry, but away from the sun in proper shade.
- Drying has to be full dry before putting even the small woolens in cupboards. A little moisture also will cause bacteria build-up and a resulting malodor in the closed space.
2 – Before Storing away carefully for long periods
- Woollens should be stored in cupboards or boxes that are not in contact with the walls of the house since dampness of walls due to moisture seepage can get into the woolens very fast. Also if it is an old house insects may find their way into these fabrics very fast.
- Woolens folded neatly one above the other and not bunched up, retain their shape. Even hangers are a no-no for the simple reason that the woolens would stretch over time and ultimately cause the garments to lose shape.
- Some woolen garments tend to pill (forming balls of matted fibres). It happens naturally. It does not however spoil the garment’s functionality. It could be due to constant rubbing at that spot against some object. There are small pill devices (small razor like devices) that can be run over the affected spots and the affected area returns to its original condition. Caution – being razor-like, this device has to be used very cautiously lest the OK portions getting damaged.
- Dampness of any sort has to be avoided at all costs before putting it away for storage otherwise mildew formation, fungus etc. can develop to damage the woolens. Naphalene balls within the fabrics help in keeping away moths and give a nice smell in the storage space. Ironing them before they dry fully, could help drying them and also not damage the woolens by the iron sticking to the wool fibre when dry.
- Wooden cupboards or boxes are best avoided since they have a tendency to absorb moisture in
- Breathing of a fabric is important. store your garment in a cardboard box, muslin or canvas bag, or acid-free tissue paper. This will help extend its life. Clean your sweaters before storing them, since this will prevent moths from being attracted to them. anti-moth sprays. Cloves, lavender, rosemary, thyme, dried orange peel, neem leaves also repel moths. Tie any of these items in a cloth sachet or handkerchief and place it near, although not directly on, the garment.
Taking care of the Woolens during usage
While the above were the hints for keeping the woolens safe and usable for next winter, their proper care during the period of use ensures their lustre and lasting properties during their life. Let us pay heed to these very important details, which, if followed meticulously, ensure a long life for the woolen brigade.
- Brush woolen garment with a delicate brush daily after use before putting it away. This rids dust and any other sticking particles from spoiling them.
- Cleaning of a woolen garment by soaking in cold water with very mild detergent, laying out to dry flat in shade, at regular intervals during the use period, keeps it clean, free of smells, since wool attracts dirt and picks up smells easily to stay long with it.
- Prefer to have pre-treated woolens in your wardrobe that can stand washing in a machine, has less tendency to shrink. yet make it less often, washing the woolen by hand despite the tag for safety’s sake.
- Before storing woolens, they should be completely dry, neatly folded and kept for the next use. Avoid hanging on hangers since they get stretched. But if use is continuous over days on end, keep it neatly folded in a separate space specifically only for woolens. Have naphthalene balls in that space to preserve the wool from being attacked by insects.
- Wool picks up strong smells like perspiration in hot weather and stays. Dry cleaning and washing should be done now and then to see that smells don’t stick.
- Wool taken outdoors especially in the sun, helps it get free of bacteria, smells and damp. Only after the return, the mild brushing for dust should be done.
- Wool unfortunately if not treated immediately retains strong stains. If something falls on your woolens immediately take it to the dry cleaners. Otherwise it could become a permanent one.
So with warm weather round the corner get ready to have the storage space cleaned up. After the woolens are packed and kept neatly, rest assured that you shall be greeting them fresh and ready -to- use next year also.