When I was 15, my grandmother gave me a beautiful, 50-year-old 100% wool blanket that she had gotten as a wedding gift. Of course, with use, blankets must be cleaned. Dry cleaning would be way too expensive, and I didn’t want to use harsh chemicals on it. My father had to do laundry for the household when he was young, including the wool blankets. He taught me this method of cleaning them that has worked well for 45 years.
Wash in Cold Water with Mild Soap
Anyone who has had a wool sweater come out of the wash two sizes too small knows that wool shrinks if not washed properly. In the case of my blanket, my father told me to wash it in the coldest water I could with very mild soap. I use Woolite, but any soap that is mild enough to wash baby clothes will do. First, I fill the bathtub with enough cold water with Woolite to cover the blanket. I gently move the blanket around in the soapy water for about 10 minutes. Now that I’m older, and can’t bend over the tub, I use a broom handle. Even if your blanket doesn’t look dirty, you’d be surprised how much dirt comes out of it. Most of this is just dust that accumulates when it’s on your bed.
Rinse in Equally Cold Water to Prevent Shrinking
The trick to keeping your wool blanket from shrinking is to rinse it in the same temperature water it was washed in. It may take two or more rinses in the tub to get all the soap out, but it’s very important to remove as much soap as possible. I like to do three rinses, just to be on the safe side.
Once it is rinsed, I leave it in the tub for several hours to let as much water drain out as possible. I don’t twist it, but fold it several times and push on it to squeeze the water out. After getting as much water out in the tub as possible, I hang it over a quilt rack on a cotton blanket or bedspread that soaks up more water. Once it stops dripping, it’s time to lay it out to dry completely.
The Proper Way to Dry a Wool Blanket
To properly dry a wool blanket, it has to be laid flat and stretched into shape. DO NOT hang it on a line or put it in the dryer. I usually lay it out on the floor on a piece of plastic with a sheet over it and turn it every couple of hours. It may take a day or more to dry completely. If you have a flat place outside, like a patio, you can lay it outside, but always cover it to keep the sun from bleaching it.
I’ve washed my blanket once a year for 45 years, and while it is finally getting a bit thinner, it still keeps me very warm. It’s a little trouble to use this much care for it, but how many blankets do you have that are nearly 100 years old and still going?
In the spring, I store my wool blanket in a blanket bag with moth balls until I need it the next year. I expect this blanket will last me another 10 years or so before I have to retire it by making something else useful from it.
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