When the temperatures drop, wool clothing becomes a popular choice to stay warm and cozy! Nothing quite beats the feeling of a warm wool sweater or coat on a cold and blustery day.
At our professional dry cleaning stores in Minneapolis and San Francisco, we get a lot of questions on how to care for wool, and how to retain the life of your favorite wool clothing, so we wanted to take the time to share our experience with some simple tips to keep your wool fabrics looking and feeling like new.
Where Does Wool Come From?
The most popular type of wool for wool clothing and garments comes from the shearing of sheep, but woolen items that are cashmere or mohair actually come from goats; there are also other types of wool that come from camelid animals (think llama and alpaca). In some cases, there is even fur from other animals mixed in with the wool to create a variety of textures, such as qiviut from muskoxen, fur from yaks, and angora from rabbits.
Because wool comes from the hair of animals, it is naturally neutral in color; however, it can usually be bleached and then dyed any color.
What is Boiled Wool? Is Boiled Wool Itchy?
The difference between regular wool and boiled wool is really quite simple. Boiled wool is wool fabric that has been boiled in water. Wool manufacturers use knitted or woven wool (or wool blends) and then boil it in hot water; the wool is agitated during this boiling process, and effectively shrinks. This shrunken wool creates a very tight texture, which is sort of similar to how felt appears.
Boiled wool has a poor reputation for being “scratchy” or “itchy.” However, if it’s done correctly with high-quality wool, boiled wool clothing can actually be quite soft.
Compared to regular types of wool, boiled wool doesn’t typically require any different sort of care process in terms of cleaning or care.
Tips on How to Care for Wool Clothing the Best Way
Wool isn’t necessarily more difficult to care for than other types of clothing or fabrics, but there are important considerations to keep in mind before you wash or clean your favorite wool sweater.
Wool gets weakened in water. Unlike linen, which gains strength when it’s wet, wool fibers often shrink in water, and they become brittle and often break. This shrinking effect is what prompted the old joke, “Does a sheep shrink when it rains?”
To prevent wool items from shrinking, we recommend a gentle cleaning in a cold process – if the wool is laundered, it should be cleaned with lukewarm water and mild detergent, and it should NEVER be placed in a dryer. Contrarily, wool clothing items can also be dry-cleaned to avoid submersion in water.
At our professional dry cleaning facilities, the Mulberrys team uses Cold-Clean technology to dry clean items like wool in a very cold process using CO2. If you have your wool items dry cleaned with us, rest assured they won’t be damaged with heat. We also closely follow any special instructions found on any care tags attached to wool garments, which is also an important step to remember when cleaning wool at home.