To wash or not to wash, that is the question. The answer is - always wash! As a rule, we here at Green Mountain really never put anything into our rugs that hasn't been washed. Here's why:
The biggest risk to not washing your wool is bleeding. Most wool won't bleed but I ask you, do you want to take that chance? Water gets spilled on the floor, the dog piddles or there is so much moisture in the air, your colors bleed... it could happen. A simple way to prevent this from happening is to wash your wool. In addition, washing the wool felts it which makes it stronger in the long run.
Never washed wool? Here are some tips. The old style top load washers are better, they agitate the wool more than the new front load washers (though you can still use a front loader). Set your washer to the rinse cycle, it will fill the washer with water and spin to drain. If you put it through a full wash cycle it will agitate it too much. I like to add a touch of fabric softener too (no laundry detergent)- it gives it a nice smell which makes me smile but provides no additional benefit.
Then it goes in the dryer. I usually do a timed dry of 20-25 minutes on a medium heat. You want the wool to be dry but it shouldn't over dry. If you over dry it, it will continue to shrink and fluff.
Last tip - wool shrinks when you wash and dry. Keep that in mind when buying for your project. For every yard you buy, you will usually lose 1-3 inches (meaning if it starts out as 36" it will be 33"-35" after you wash it).
Keep in mind - these are just guidelines. All washers and dryers are different. It is difficult to "ruin" the wool though when following these guidelines, but if you are worried, cut off a small piece and do a test run!
The question you are probably asking yourself - how do you know if wool has or has not been already washed when you buy it. The easy answer is ask, but in general:
- Wool from the Bolt - unless specified otherwise, has not been washed
- Hand-Dyed Wool - by definition has been washed, its part of the dye process. Hand-dyed fabrics for example include our 5 value swatches, any of our dyed wool, our packets and our remnants (once off the bolt, we throw everything in the wash).
Any other tips you have found from washing/drying wool? Leave your ideas in the comments below.
Hope this helps!