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How to Remove Stains from Your Wool Clothes or Blankets

natural color yarns

"Help! I've spilled wine on my sweater!"

Has this ever happened to you? You're at a dinner, wearing your gorgeous new wool cardigan or pullover that you spent hours knitting, and you're enjoying a glass of red wine. Your neighbor tells a joke and you laugh in the middle of your sip, spilling the wine on yourself. Panic sets in, but it's going to be OK! This is the time to act fast and stop the stain before it sets. Ask your host for a cloth and some white vinegar, then read on.

We know our wool clothes and blankets are investments that require special care for long life. Generally speaking, wool will not collect odors like synthetics do, so they will not require as much cleaning as contemporary clothing, just a good airing out by hanging in the open for a day.

They also usually repel fluids, however, we are human and spills happen. Sometimes we don't see the spill in time to prevent it from setting in the wool, and careful measures are required to remove the resulting stains. For regular cleaning of your woolens or for use in the stain removal process, good gentle products to use are Unicorn and Orvus, available online or in some craft stores.

Spills of Common Liquids: Alcohol, Coffee, Food, etc.

If you catch the spill quick enough before it has time to set, use a spoon to scrape off any solids or floating liquids on the item. Soak a cloth in white vinegar and dab the stain from the outside edge of the stain to the inside. Avoid rubbing it, and instead dab with an up and down motion and from the back of the item. Continue wetting the stain with vinegar to prevent further spread and to lift it from the wool. Continue dabbing it up with the cloth to remove the liquid and stain particles.

Oil and Grease Spills

Dab the stain -- do not rub -- with a cloth soaked in mineral spirits to break up the oils. Odorless mineral spirits are available in the paint sections of home improvement or hardware stores and a little goes a long way.

Soak and Rinse

First Soak:

Place the garment or throw in a tub of cold water and gentle wool wash, soak for 30 minutes. Rinse under cold water, gently rubbing the stain, until the water runs clear. You may have to repeat this step to remove any residue from mineral spirits.

Second Soak: 

Place the item in a tub of cold water with a cup of vinegar added, soak for 15 minutes. Rinse until the smell of vinegar is gone.

Dry Flat

If you own a laundry spinner, this is the quickest way to remove excess water from your woolens and how I dry my fiber and yarns quickly.

If you don't have a spinner, take your wet garment or throw and place it between towels, as many as you need to cover the item on the bottom and the top. Roll the item in the towels and step on it to press the water out of the garment and into the towel. Do not twist.

When most of the water has been removed, you will need to lay it flat on dry towels or a flat drying rack not in direct sun, to air dry. It can take a day or two.

Tough Stains Require a Pro

If you could not remove the stains, consult your local dry cleaner. They may be able to suggest another way to remove the stain or they may be able to do it for you.