The clothing care I’ve always been worst at is washing knitwear. But I have got better in recent years, in part as I’ve become more used to the process and it’s felt more reliable, more predictable. 

Over time you also start to see the results. Polishing shoes is rewarding because you instantly see a difference. With washing knitwear it’s more subtle – a few weeks later, after a few wears, you just start to see that the knit isn’t pilling at all; it feels softer yet just as satisfyingly dense. 

We’ve talked about how to wash knitwear before – in this video with Audie Charles – but never demonstrated it. So today’s video shows the process, with Ronnie Chiu of Colhay’s washing a lambswool cardigan.

Note how relaxed it is, how simple, how most of the work is done by the soaking and the air drying afterwards. I’ve never understood how people can find ironing relaxing, but I can definitely see it with washing knits. 

 

 

The video is – as ever with PS – pretty thorough, with me asking questions along the way. If you want a very simple summary, we’ve also created one below, which will be shared on social media. It could be a nice refresher later on. 

Last, please forgive the bare pop-up shop background, and the audio quality. The morning we turned up, workmen decided to dig up the road outside, so the mics had to be quite controlled. 

Thank you very much to Ronnie, and to the Campaign for Wool, who have supported this series of films. 

 

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Lindsay McKee

Hi Simon,
Two questions.
My Navy North Sea Submariner would probably be a classic example of a heavier knit. As the natural Lanolin is left in ,would dry cleaning be appropriate in this case?
The other issue, as regards the video, how warm should the water be?
I certainly wouldn’t wash my John Smedley, very lightweight knitwear, above about 30C.
what do you suggest here?

Will

Lindsay, Simon, I bought a jumper in Connolly and was advised never to dry clean it for the reason that Lindsay mentions – its weight is similar to the one Ronnie’s wearing in the video. Nevertheless, another very informative video and gives me the confidence to jump in to what is undoubtedly one of the more terrifying things anyone can do with a roll neck.

John

Very informative, thank you Simon and Ronnie.

In the video Ronnie mentions it being best to dry clean very chunky knitwear, such as a shawl collar cardigan. I have a PS cashmere Rugby and was wondering if it would be ok to hand wash that (and equivalent 4-ply knitwear)? Many thanks.

Jim Bainbridge

I haven’t hand washed any really expensive pieces, but am fine with my Lockie shawl collar cardigan – the trick I find is to bundle it up carefully when taking it out of the water so it can be transferred to a towel stretched over a drying rack, without pulling it around. I do also squeeze with a towel as it reduces drying time dramatically – as does a domestic dehumidifier. But YMMV.

Gabriele

Hi Simon, off-topic again but I wanted to share the raglan coat I recently received from Husbands, made in your herringbone donegal tweed. I couldn’t be any more satisfied with both the process and the final outcome, thank you once again for the preorder and for developing this fantastic fabric!

IMG_6995.jpeg
Pat

Hi Simon, I saw you reply to a reader that the pre-order of the fabric is finished and not currently available.
But I think I also saw you say there could be plans next year to get the pre-order going again? Will this likely to happen?

Pat

This is fantastic, I wish I had bought some of that fabric myself.
Gabriele if you read this, can you let me know what size is your Husbands coat and how many meters of fabric did you had to buy to get that made?

thanks!

Gabriele

Thank you! I went with a 50, which is my usual size, and they asked me to buy 4 m of fabric.

Gabriele

And the back.

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david

In my limited experience I’ve found using a pillow case for shape, and a dish drying rack to be helpful for draining before putting on a flat towel. The other consideration is patience.

Robin

Just seen the shorter video , so forgive me if this is answered in the longer video, but isn’t it possible to wash on a ‘gentler’ programme in a washing machine , not to spin it , drain the machine and towel dry ?

That would surely cut out some of the work.

Martins

Ronnie really needs to start his own youtube channel about knitwear! His video with kirby was really educational, and so is this!
If moths wouldnt have had lunch on my cashmere rollneck, id be placing an order for his cardigan! (Somehow this year looked less chunky than couple years ago or the ones in clutch cafe?) Now ill wait a couple years to see if pest expert+garment bags works for me before investing in expensive wool stuff again.

Its not the washing that scares me.. its the drying part! In winter my flat has like 70% humidity so drying stuff is almost impossible! And even in summer, in a small flat drying 3-5 pieces of knitwear flat for 3-4 days is…. annoying!

Soak no rinse wool wash seems like a nice stuff. Not much agitation needed and no rinsing needed.

Jan

I have electronic dehumidifiers in the wardrobe and laundry room – relics from a decade in Hong Kong. In addition to a constant humidity control setting on the basis of percentages, they have a clothes drying setting which works wonders for drying knitwear. No heat just dry airflow. On a horizontal drying rack with the machine below or next to it, even the massive lambswool shawl collar cardigan from Colhay’s is dry within 1-2 days. Definitely worth the investment in my view. (I also like to think that the ones with air purifiers/filters help against dust and everything that comes with dust, eg moths, but not sure if that’s entirely true. I have never experienced any moths in my wardrobe in any event).

m

Appreciate the educational video, while I was generally informed on the process, there were a few useful tricks I picked up. You should consider making the short video public, these have tendency to get popular from time to time.

Can we also expect the Sexton interview soon? I can hardly wait for it.

Jeremy

So I know Ronnie is the founder and director of Colhays, but does that really make him an expert in washing knitwear? From what I understand, he’s only been in the knitwear-making business a few years, even. I would be more apt to take advice from someone who has more experience working with knits, and in particular washing them. Perhaps someone who works specifically in high-end laundry services.
How many knits has Ronnie realistically handwashed in his life? Can he really speak with authority on this subject?

Mike

Thanks for a very useful video, Simon. In terms of drying, my drying rack isn’t quite big enough to fully lay out the sleeves so rather than letting the sleeves hang off the sides of the rack, which would likely stretch them out, would it be OK to fold the sleeves over the body of the sweater? Thanks!

Jim Bainbridge

Interesting to see how different people do things. Ronnie’s method here appears to involve a lot more squeezing and wringing than I’d have expected – perhaps this comes across on video more aggressive than it actually is? Nevertheless, the way I prefer is more similar to Audie Charles’ as shown previously.

On a related note, getting a dehumidifier has been something of a game changer here – most of my knits will dry in 24-36 hours or so, and a Lockie shawl collar in perhaps 3 days.

Martins

Ive been thinking about a dehumidifier for past 2 years.. never got around ordering one because reading reviews the impression I got was, half of reviews say they don’t work properly, because they are tested at +30* in 80% humidity (basically jungle) so when you get to your average flat they almost don’t work, OR they are the size of double 20kg check in luggage and costs 250£ and is as loud as a hoover. could never find one in-between…

*size and noise would be biggest problem.

dme

Hello Martins – I live in the UK and would recommend you buy a dehumidifier if you have high moisture/condensation levels in your flat despite ensuring you are ventilating it and ensuring adequate heat. (It is easy to seek advice about this via google – eg for impartial advice the Oxford City Council website has a helpful guide). Even a cheaper dehumidifier will make quite a difference to lowering the moisture levels and will help if you need to dry clothes indoors. Which? magazine (19/12/22) has the following as best buys at less than £250 1) DeLonghi DEX214f; 2) Meaco DD8L; 3) Pro Breeze PB15UK. I have a Meaco which allows me to set a target humidity.

Lowering the high moisture levels will be beneficial for your health and keeping your home warm. Like Jim, I use mine to dry washed clothes indoors during the Winter – it works well and is much cheaper than using the tumble dryer.

For the record – I have no connection with any of the above organisations or industry.

I share your frustration re clothes moths – ensuring cashmere is washed and then stored in vacuum bags – touchwood – seems to be working for me.

Martins

very interestingly moths did not touch the only piece that went to storage unwashed… they ate unworn piece and washed piece that spent 3 weeks in freezer during summer… well… now I have pest expert repellents and sticky strips. keeping wool stuff in drawers in ziplock bags, and jackets in suit hangers.. let’s see if it works.

by the way that was the humidifier I was thinking about. how is extraction when it’s 15-17* indoors and 70% humidity? is it able to get it down to 40-50%?

Jan

I have tried a few and the Tefal Intense Dry Control Linen Dry (who comes uo with these names?) is really good imo. Definitely able to get it down to 50% as long as you close the wardrobe or room it’s in

dme

Hello Martins – Yes – a dehumidifier will be able to reduce your indoor humidity at those temperatures to your 40-50% target (although I understand the ideal UK humidity is 50-60%). There is an advice section on the Meaco.com website which explains the different types of dehumidifier and things you should consider or alternatively pop to your library and ask for access to their Which? magazine online which has impartial advice.

JSB

Thanks for the video. Very useful.

Just wanted to ask you, Ronnie or any other reader if they could recommend a good knitwear storage bag that will hold 2 chunky pieces of knitwear at least, preferably from a UK supplier (as that’s my base). I know that Colhays themselves send a canvas bag with their own knitwear (or at least they used to) but this is only good for one garment. I would be particularly interested in a cotton bag. I have tried the polyester storage bag from John Lewis but wasn’t happy with the material or the size.

Many thanks.

dme

Hello – I use the Lakeland vacuum storage bags to store my cashmere blankets and knitwear and to protect against moths – they come in different sizes and so there should be a suitable size for chunky knitwear….but they are not cotton. I did a quick google search and see there are cotton storage bags available from various UK suppliers but there is mixed feedback about their size and quality. Soakandsleep.com – which sells good quality bedding I can vouch for – has larger cotton storage bags designed for bedding which might meet your needs but I do not know if they will keep moths at bay.

JSB

Hi DME,

Thank you so much for your suggestion which I have duly checked out.  The vacuum bags from Lakeland look good but unfortunately like the ones from John Lewis, they are a little larger in size than I would ideally like, even the smallest 38L size.  I know this may sound pedantic, but I’ve found that unless the bags are full with folded garments the contents become a mess rather quickly.

The current bags I am using (after trying out the John Lewis ones), are cotton ones by The White Company.  I find these to be a perfect size for my requirement but they seem to be out of stock for a long time and my knitwear collection has outgrown my current bag capacity.

I know that some people don’t like using cotton bags because moths can eat through cotton too.  I have never had any cotton garment succumb to moths, only a wool jumper.  My understanding is that although moths can attack cotton, they prefer natural animal fibres such as wool and cashmere, over cotton.  My personal experience would also tend to support this.  

I also found that non-natural fibre storage bags can lead to smell and mould if not opened regularly, which is quite apt for posting in this article, which should encourage me to wash my knitwear more – something that I openly admit to finding a bit daunting and am very bad at doing.

It’s nice to know that this forum facilities great discussion to get feedback from the likes of yourself.  Thank you again kindly.

Chris

What are your thoughts on using washing machines with a wool/hand wash setting and machine drying via a “wool in basket” setting with air just circulating around?

Chris

Yes, the garment lays flat in a basket and the air circulates around it

Markus

Very helpful. I might have overlooked/overheard this so sorry if my question is already answered: Does this also apply to cashmere (being just another sort of wool)?

Russ

Paul James Knitwear recommend ‘Clothes Doctor No. 3 ‘ (available from PJK or Amazon) for woollens, and I have to say I’ve had very good results on a wool wash in the machine (the clothes come out beautifully soft). In particular I have a busy life and I don’t want to be ‘faffing’ (glad you used a Yorkshire word, Simon!) with hand washing the accumulated light merino wool turtlenecks and socks I wear in winter most days for warmth.

Rups

Simon where is the jacket from please? Looks familiar but cant quite place it.

Kim B.

You mentioned wool-synthetic blends. How about wool blends with fibers such as silk, cotton, linen?

Jack

Thank you for this wonderful video, I it was the last missing piece in your guide!

Could you elaborate a bit on the frequency of washing?

I’m asking because I don’t want to rely on a smell test, which can be deceiving (I don’t smell anything =/= others don’t).

In the video you’ve said “once per season” but I wonder: that depends greatly on how often a piece is worn, correct?

If I wear it rarely (once a month), a season can mean around 6 wears, depending on climate.

If I wear it often (every 2-3 days), it’s going to be completely different.

Obviously this is also very personal: daily activities, perspiration, etc, but I just feel like the period between washes is best expressed in the number of times a piece is worn instead of calendar time.

Daniel Ringdahl

Please forgive a perhaps stupid question, but maybe it’s because English isn’t my native tongue. Ronnie says he uses “baby shampoo” in the water, is that another word for some kind of specialist shampoo or is it actually shampoo for babies, i.e. small children? :p Because that would be quite convenient! But I would also feel terribly stupid to wash knitwear in baby shampoo if it actually refers to something else!

Mathieu

Hello, one of my favorite sweaters in cashmere and merino mix became wide in waistline and it is kind of saggy. Any idea how to shrink it in waist. I wash my knitwear same way as it is shown on video but it does not shrink. Should i use warmer water like 40C?

Eric

Is there any reason not to use a no-rinse detergent made for wool clothing? I think I heard about that on Die Workwear, and it sounds great, but maybe too good to be true.

Malcolm

Hi
Curious as to whether knitwear should be rinsed until it is soap free.. Ronnie’s demonstration just shows a rather brief rinse in clean water to get remove some of the soapy water but clearly it’s not soap free when laid out to dry
Malcolm

Rich

I’ve just hand washed a couple of my lambswool jumpers from Sirplus using this method. It’s quite therapeutic and I like the theory that one is finishing the garment by washing it this way – like you’re a custodian of it!

jason

I’ve been handwashing my knitwear according to the video but then using the machine spin around 800-1000 rpm to dry it out instead of the towel method. After that I lay it flat on the rack. I didn’t notice any issues but for longevity, should I use the towel?

I’m also one of those madmen that hand wash their colhays giant lambswool cardigan in a big sink

Ben

Great article Simon, thank you.
I wonder if you, or any readers, have had any experience unshrinking a wool sweater? I quick google search seams to think some fabric softener will do the trick. I have my doubts…

Ben

My God! Autocorrect made a mockery of that!

Ben

That looks better, thanks!
I might give that a try, the sweater in question is from Harley, hopefully they offer a similar service. Might still give the fabric softener a go (In the interests of science!). In my experience the only thing I’ve found to cause shrinkage is the spin cycle on a washing machine.

Andrew

Thanks for this video. Unfortunately somehow the end of a sleeve on my cashmere jumper has become baggy (it should be tighter to the wrist, as the other sleeve still is). I’m not sure how I managed to achieve this. Any tips as to how to get it back to its proper tension?

Andrew

Yes that must be what happened. I will try what you suggest. Thanks!

Sigurd

Hi Simon,

Videos like this and your how to sew on a button have been immensely valuable to me.

Might you do one on how to darn/mend small holes or loose threads on knitwear?
For example those small ones that can appear at the elbows from rubbing against surfaces, or in the armpits from pulling.

Sigurd

Oh no, I hadn’t! That’s great, just what I was after. Will check it out.