As knitters, we all know the joy of wearing our own handmade garments. There's something so satisfying about knowing that we've put in the time and effort to create something beautiful and unique. But when it comes to caring for our hand-knit pieces, it can be a bit daunting. How do we keep them looking and feeling their best, while also being mindful of the environment?
How washing our clothes affects the environment
First, let's talk about how washing our clothes affects the environment. We all know that washing uses water, but did you know that it takes an average of 20 gallons of water for a single load of clothes? Even high efficiency washers use 14 gallons. Washing machines account for 22% of the water usage in a typical household. And that's not even taking into account the soap we use, which can contain harmful chemicals that can be damaging to aquatic life.
No need to wash after every wear
So how do we balance caring for our hand-knit garments with washing too much? The first thing to consider is how often you actually need to wash your hand-knit pieces. The answer is, not as often as you think. Wool, for example, is naturally stain-resistant and doesn't need to be washed every wearing. Even if it’s a next to skin garment. Wool is naturally soil resistant, and it’s better to air out your garments rather than washing them after every wear. That being said, light colored garments show day to day soil more than darker colored garments do. I find that the cuffs of my Tuva get grimy, so I give them a quick soak without washing the entire garment every time I wear it, which is often. Similarly, if you spill something on your wool handknit, you can just spot clean that area and save washing for the end of the season
What detergent to use for handknits
When you do need to wash your hand-knits, because they’re grimy or it’s the end of the season, it's important to use the right cleanser. Most commercial laundry detergents are formulated to attack proteins because that's what most stains are - food, grass, etc. But guess what. Wool is a protein too, so those detergents eat away at your wool garments too. Look for a gentle, eco-friendly soap that's free of harsh chemicals. I like SOAK Wash and Eucalan which are specially-formulated detergents made specifically for wool and other delicate fabrics. These products are also formulated to foam only minimally, which reduces the need for rinsing/ Your garments not only take less time and water to wash, they come out fresh and fluffy without any sticky foam residue.
Hand wash or machine wash handknits?
By caring for our hand-knit garments in an earth-friendly way, we can not only keep them looking and feeling their best, but also do our part to protect the environment. So next time you're getting ready to wash your favorite sweater or scarf, take a moment to consider the impact that your actions have on the world around us.
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