For those of us living through this year’s interminable winter with snow up to our eyeballs, take heart! That white stuff outside of your door is a blessing—in the form of a free, safe, and easy wool wash.
For centuries, snow washing has been used in Nordic countries to wash wool rugs. Here’s the simple process: step on the rug in the snow, rub it around, flip it over and do the same to the other side. Shake out the snow and, if you need to, repeat. In just a few minutes, the rug will be bright and clean. Then take the clean rug inside to air-dry.
But did you know that a variation of this rug washing technique could also be used for woolen garments? In fact, it’s a centuries-old wool cleaning method. Even the Vikings are known to have snow-washed their woolen garments.
Sweaters, mittens, socks – anything woolen can be snow washed and here’s the process: Lay your woolen item on a clean area of fresh snow. (I shouldn’t need to say “clean” but these days, even fresh snow can be full of dirty particulates.)
Sprinkle snow on it.
Gently rub it around in the snow.
Shake the snow out, then flip it over and “wash” it again.
In only a matter of a few minutes, the snow will do its job.
Shake the bulk of the snow out of the item and bring it inside to air-dry.
Your woolens will look bright and smell fresh as if they were hung on a summer clothesline. Plus, no felting will occur since you are working with really cold “water”.
[Note: SUPER soiled woolens may require soap to fully clean them but this snow method will work for the general cleaning and freshening of wools. If the garment needs a soap and water method, ONLY use a neutral pH soap and cold water. Most dishwashing soaps are excellent for cleaning woolens. Avoid those that are sold for cleaning “delicates”. I don’t want to get sued for bad-mouthing brand names that try to sell their product for woolens so check the pH for the product you are considering (their website should tell you what it is). The goal is a pH of 7.]
For further reading, here’s a story about how a Nordic Arts class at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, used this ancient cleaning technique to wash some rya rugs: http://norwegiantextileletter.com/article/snow-washing-an-american-account-and-a-norwegian-story/
So now, go out and enjoy the last of this winter’s snow by giving your woolens a good washing!
You may wonder if that dirty old raw fleece that you’ve been waiting to wash could be cleaned this way. Sorry. No go. Raw fleece has more than just “dirt” in it but also suint and grease that needs hot water and soap to release it from the fiber hairs. My book Yarn Works has a section on how to wash a raw fleece so check that out if you want more info on cleaning that nasty fleece. Find out more about my book here: http://www.sagahill.com/images/PressReleaseYarnWorks.pdf and a link on how to purchase the book directly from me (it’s also available at all book sellers): http://www.sagahill.com/Publications-Kits.html