Spring seems to be starting to sprout and that means it's time to WASH AND STORE YOUR SWEATERS! Well, at least start. You probably won't need to put them all away until the end of April, but you can definitely start with the heavy ones now.
The cruel little buggies who leave those wicked holes in your lambswool and cashmere are most often feasting on bits or food, skin, and other human detritus on your sweater. Washing is essential to it depriving the little buggies of their buffet, and proper storage keeps them from getting to the restaurant.
Hand wash in specialty delicate wash Soak or Eucalan. Both brands are no-rinse (an essential feature), made in Canada, and work pretty much work equally well.
Personally, I prefer Eucalan for anything made with animal fibres (wool, alpaca, mohair, etc), it is formulated with more lanolin which is a natural conditioner. I like Soak for garments made with plant fibres or synthetics (you can find it in quilting and lingerie stores as well as knitting stores).
Detailed instructions are on the bottles and product websites, but this is how it's basically done:
- soak garment in cool water for 10 minutes
- add a little bit of delicate wash and squish it through garment
- soak for another 10 minutes
- drain water and gently squeeze out water (do not wring)
- wrap in a towel and press out excess water
- lay flat to dry
- Avoid the big corporate store brands like Woolite, they're still 'detergents' and the results will end up making you cry.
- If the dye is saturated and you think it might bleed, add a quarter cup of white vinegar to the water before adding your garment. The vinegar will act as a mordent and stabilize the colour.
- If you don't have a laundry room or suitable sink (I don't) you can pick up a plastic wash basin at the dollar store (which are also wonderful for a nice foot soak). If you want a higher-end, very high-quality basin that will last forever try a 26 Litre Tubtrug - I have one at home for laundry and we've been using the same bins all over the store for over 5 years (the best price is from Amazon.ca and you can get free shipping).
- Instructions usually suggest drying garments flat on a towel, but I've found that if you have already pressed out the excess water with a towel Blocking Mats are a much faster method.
- If garments MUST go in the machine (socks), use Soak or Eucalan in cold water on the delicate cycle and put them in a Honey-Can-Do Sweater Wash Bag.
- All fibres are susceptible to moth damage, even plant fibres like cotton and synthetics, wools just happen to be their favourite meal . Wash and store all the sweaters you wore over the winter.
Now that your knits are clean it's time to put them away. Thankfully extra-large (33cm x 38cm) zipper freezer bags are ubiquitous and can be found at grocery stores like Loblaws. Presently, my favourites are from Dollarama (they're tough, the seal is easy and stays put, and they are cheap). One sweater per bag seals the bugs out, plus it ensures that if one of your knits is infested it won't spread to the others. If you want to seal in a nice, subtle, clean smell you can add a dried bay leaf to the bag - it smells like smiles. If you're feeling a little anxious or just enjoy zipper bags, you can hermetically seal all your pre-packaged sweater cutlets in a second, super-sized meta 4XL Zilpoc Bag
- All of the bags mentioned are tough, do not tear easily, and can be used over and over (we use them for storage in the store).
- I don't suggest you rely on big tote storage bins to keep your sweaters safe. They don't fully seal and my past experience has been disappointing.
- If you're feeling extra organizey you can label your sweaters. A roll of masking tape and a sharpie pen go a long way, and when the cold hits next fall you'll know which black sweater is which, without opening all the packaging (I learned this the hard way).
- Non-sweater knits need to be put away too! Wool socks, mitts, hats, scarves, cowls, legwarmers and blankets also need love. Even if you don't get around to washing them you should definitely seal them up for the summer (those super-duper big Ziploc bags are especially great for blankets).
- Felted projects are wool too: felted bags, baskets, bangles, trivets, etc, are a favourite feast for tiny beasts. Bag 'em up!
- Don't forget to bag up your stash! While your skeins may not have been exposed to any human detritus, they're still vulnerable. Ever worked with a skein of yarn that constantly breaks (not counting tight knitters working with delicate yarns)? Yup, buggy. I've known people who had to pitch their entire stashes because of infestation.