When Sally Melville was here in 2007, she said that it was easy to wash sweaters "in the machine" and proceeded to tell us about soak and spin. In this method you use a gentle, no-rinse cleanser in your machine. The cleanser releases the dirt from your clothes and dissolves it into the wash water. The process is simple - fill your washing machine with warm water and add a capful or so of gentle no-rinse cleanser like Eucalan (Sally's favorite), and turn your washer off to prevent agitation. Submerge your sweaters in the warm water and go knit for half an hour or so. When you come back, turn your machine to the spin cycle and spin the water off. The spinning should take most of the water out of your garment, so you can either lay it out flat to dry or toss it into the dryer on "Air" with a couple of dry towels.
Of course I believe everything Sally Melville says about everything, but there’s a part of me that just has to try things out for myself. (I should have been from Missouri, the Show Me state.) Bill had given me a pink cashmere sweater several years ago, and I’d worn it a lot and had always had it dry cleaned. It was starting to look a little tired, and I wondered if it had was just worn out. Well, I thought, what have I got to lose? So, a few days after Sally left, I filled the washing machine half way with warm water and added a capful of the wool wash. I dropped in my pink cashmere turtleneck sweater and turned the machine off as directed. After breakfast I did the final spin and waited with baited breath. My sweater emerged from its soak and spin looking good, and as predicted, it was nearly dry. So far so good.
I thought I'd go ahead and give it the final test: does a quick fluff in the dryer really perform the magical works Sally described? I loaded the dryer with a couple of dry towels and the sweater. Moved the setting to Air and pushed the button. Sally said five minutes, but after three I just had to know.... My pink cashmere sweater looked gorgeous. Soft and fluffy as when it was brand new. Here's a close-up of the fabric It was amazing!
Since that day, I have not dry cleaned a single wool sweater. Happy for me, happy for my sweaters, and happy for the environment.