Washing your knitwear. How? How often? With what? Should hand wash or in the machine? Here are 6 tips for when your darlings need a bath.
That is, as much as possible don't wash it. If your wool contains lanolin then it will love to be hung outdoors to get some air for a day. Lanolin is a natural wax that sheep produce which make it water (and dirt) resistant. It makes the wool self-cleaning from birth. As time goes on and after a few washes then the lanolin will slowly disappear. You can prevent that by using washing liquid with added lanolin - for exampel, Sonnet or Disana (affiliate link). We suggest that you test it first. Here you can use your old gauge swatch. It is knitted in the same yarn and on the same needle as the final knitwear so it will be a good indicator of how your knits react.
The exception to this rule, however, is the magical first time. When you've just finished a project, it's actually pretty important that you wash it. The yarn changes so that your knitting falls into place. The stitches seem to calm down and (a lot of) unevenness disappears. It's a game of magic that you definitely shouldn't cheat yourself out off.
2 Wash Very Rarely
At the risk of repeating the first point, if you can't avoid it - you might be unlucky, or just need to freshen up the knitting really thoroughly - so make sure you wash rarely.
3 Know Your Washing Machine
Some of us wash everything - including knitwear - in the machine (including me).
If you wash in the machine, only do it in a machine you know well. It is a really good idea to wash your swatch first, so you know how the particular yarn and the mixture you are knitting in behaves in your particular machine.
4 Never Wring
When you wring your wool, you risk stretching the fibers completely out of shape. It is especially if you wash by hand that you risk being tempted to do this. Instead, squeeze the water out of the knits or alternatively give it the short spin in the machine (but only if you know the machine). If it is still very wet, it may also be an idea to lay your knitwear in the correct shape and roll it in a towel, this will absorb some of the moisture (and will not take up so much space). It is a good idea not to let it dry completely in the towel, but roll it out, pull it into shape (block it) and let it dry completely flat.
5 Choose the Right Laundry Liquid
The important thing here is that you choose a liquid that does not contain the protease subtilisin (a protein-degrading enzyme). Subtilisin breaks down proteins in silk and wool and is therefore very unsuitable for washing wool and silk. Because the detergents do not state that they contain subtilisin, you as a laywoman can only stay on the safe side by only using specific wool/silk detergents. It is like everything else a jungle, and here I must honestly admit to having good experiences with the cheaper ones on the market. A new product has recently crept into this market, Eucalan. The advantage of this is that it does not have to be washed out, thereby helping to preserve the natural lanolin in the wool for a longer time. Eucalan can be bought in many yarn shops, perhaps yours too, but otherwise it can be bought online, for example at Garnhimlen or KnitWeDo (affiliate elinks) .
6 Never Rub a Spot
You run the risk of felting the wool locally. First scrape off the stain with a sharp tool (a knife), dab the stain from the outside in with a cotton swab and colorless cloth dipped in a mixture of white vinegar, wool detergent and water. If it is a grease stain, you can use rubbing alcohol instead. After dabbing, you can soak your knitwear in cold water before washing it normally. You might also think that your knitwear is a little too precious for these kinds of experiments - and then it might be an idea to get professional cleaning help.