Cleaning Wool Blankets

Special care needs to be taken when cleaning blankets of this material. This guide is about cleaning wool blankets.

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December 29, 2013 Flag
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My mother made me an afghan using wool and acrylic yarns. I washed it and dried it (I was young, what can I tell you) in the dryer. Of course, you can imagine what it looks like. This was fifty years ago and it remains in my blanket chest. Is there any way I can at least stretch it out a little?

By Marian H

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January 6, 20140 found this helpful

It will be a little labor intensive to stretch it, and I can't guarantee any huge success, but you will be able to stretch it some by doing this. Gather several beach towels, a flat bed sheet, a bottle of conditioner (yep, hair conditioner) in a smell you like, and someplace big enough to soak the afghan.

Fill your container/tub/basin with cold water. Dissolve about 1/2 bottle of the conditioner in a few cups warm water so there are no lumps (if it is really cheap conditioner, you may use more). Add the dissolved conditioner to the cold water, mix well. Add your afghan. Don't agitate/stir it around, just press it into the water gently. Let it soak 10-20 minutes, pressing it back into the water occasionally so it remains soaked in the solution.

Empty the water, let the afghan drain in the sink or bathtub as long as you can, so you won't have much squeezing or blotting to do, but let it still be very damp. Gently press as much water out as you can while still in the sink. Then, roll the afghan in towels, changing them if they get really wet, until the afghan is damp but no longer drippy.

Spread your sheet out on a floor, preferably carpeted; if you feel you need to, spread plastic under the sheet first, but blotting the afghan should prevent too much water from dampening the carpet or floor. Smooth the afghan out on the sheet. Then, begin to stretch it out gently, attempting to stretch as evenly as you can. If you are so inclined, you can use rust proof straight pins or t pins at this point to make it easier and more uniform; stretch and pin one side, then stretch and pin about a foot at a time as you go until you are done. But, even without pins it will stretch and stay, just not quite as uniform.

Then, leave it alone until it is completely dry. This might take a day, might even take up to a week. It all depends on the humidity and air flow in the house as well as outside. The reason this works is, wool is hair. Conditioners soften and relax the curl in hair, so if it isn't too shrunken there's a possibility you can restore it to size; if not you should still see it become larger look better.

However, if it shrunk to a point where it is now thick and stiff, with little or no drape, it may be time to make it into a mat or something, because once it is thick and stiff it has become felted and you generally can't turn back from that. Friction and heat are what felts wool, so if you are successful, take it to the dry cleaner in the future, or soak it then re-pin it to dry like described above, no washer and dryer any more. Good luck!

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January 6, 20140 found this helpful

Sadly no. Wool turns into felt when it's wet, and is like hair when it mats. If there is a square that you could cut off and bind the edges, you could put it in a shadow box and remember it. Can you unravel some of the yarn and make a heart from it, put it and a photo of the intact afghan in a frame? That is what I would do but I hope someone can help further.

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November 5, 2006 Flag
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Can you put wool blankets in the dryer?

Liz from New Baden

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November 6, 20060 found this helpful

IF you launder it in the machine, use gentle cycle & cold water w/ little detergent as blankets tend to over-suds. IF you put it in a dryer use NO HEAT what-so-ever, none, use the air fluff setting only. It will take a long time to air-fluff dry but it won't shrink. Also will help to remove odors & fight stiffness as will pouring a cup or two of white vinegar in with the rinse water. An alternate would be to air- fluff the blanket for a while then hang it over a shower rod to continue drying, or the reverse, hanging to dry then air fluffing to regain some softness so the blanket isn't stiff.

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November 6, 20060 found this helpful

Not unless you want a baby blanket!

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November 13, 20060 found this helpful

There is an article on "eHOW" to stretch shrunken wool, with readers post as to how it works

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January 21, 20090 found this helpful

Wool shrinks from agitation. Cotton shrinks from heat. So putting them in a cold versus hot dryer could still shrink it if it's going to shrink (that is, if it's not pre-shrunk wool). Agitation in the washer could cause shrinkage too, so the delicate cycle or hand washing is safer.

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May 1, 2005 Flag
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Most blankets can be machine washed and dried. Check that wools can be washed and dried, some labels may specify dry cleaning. Depending on the construction of the blanket, synthetics and those made of cotton can be washed on a permanent press, knit or delicate cycle. Synthetic blankets and those made of cotton may be dried using the permanent press cycle and temperature. Use highest heat setting if the dryer has no permanent press setting. Dry completely; do not overdry to avoid wrinkling. Remove blanket from dryer as soon as the machine stops. A fabric softener may be used in the washer or dryer to help reduce static cling and make a blanket soft and fluffy. To line dry a blanket, hang it over two parallel lines. Smooth and straighten edges. Change the position and straighten again, when partially dry.

Measure a woolen blanket before washing. It should be blocked or stretched to original size after laundering. Pretreat spot and stains. If the binding is heavily soiled, brush it prior to laundering with a liquid detergent or a paste made of detergent granules or soap and water. Or use a prewash soil and stain remover. Wash only one large blanket at a time.

Fill the washer with warm or cold water depending on the degree of soil, and a cold water rinse. Add detergent or soap. Agitate briefly to dissolve the product completely. Stop the washer; add the blanket. Distribute it loosely and evenly around the agitator. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the amount of soil. Start the washer and advance the control until agitation stops and wash water has been pumped out of the tub. After about a 1 minute spin, slowly advance the timer to the deep rinse cycle. Allow washer to finished the wash cycle automatically.

Dry a woolen blanket on the high temperature setting. To absorb moisture and dry a blanket more quickly, place 3 or 4 dry towels in the dryer. Preheat the towels for 3 to 5 minutes. This helps absorb moisture, dry blankets rapidly and avoid pilling caused by long tumbling. Place the blanket in the dryer with the warm towels. Set dryer control for about 20 minutes. Check the blanket after 10 minutes. Remove while still slightly damp to avoid shrinkage.

Place blanket on flat surface or over two lines to finish drying. Stretch it to its original shape. When the blanket is completely dry. brush gently to raise nap. press binding with a cool iron, if needed.

Tumble drying knitted woolens is not recommended. Instead, trace the outline of the blanket on a clean piece of paper.

After washing. block by finger pressing gently to this outline. Let the garment dry to this shape.

This article was written by Anne Field, Extension Specialist, Emeritus, with references from the Soap and Detergent Association.

Source: MSU Extension

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