Washing Day: How to Wash Woollens So Moths Stay Away

27 April 2022

Sponsored in part by:

Ad description: Cover of the book Sheep, Shepherd & Land, and the words, "THE book about Canadian Wool, by Anna Hunter. Photos by Christel Lanthier. Buy now."

Ad description: The words, "The socks you knit won't last forever, but you can make them last for years and years. Shop now." Also featuring the cover image of the Sock Mending Guide.

It’s Spring! And while I’m a huge fan of wearing and making woolly garments and accessories, I’m also very happy to be able to put them all away, when the weather turns warm.

I don’t just stuff them in the back of the closet—that’s asking for trouble. Animal-fibre items—ones made from wool, silk, alpaca, mohair, etc.—all need a wash before they are stored.

Why Wash

The danger to items in storage comes from moths, carpet beetles and other nasty insects that enjoy laying their eggs in animal fibres. When the eggs hatch, the babies nourish themselves at the cost of your clothes.

There are two important things to know about these monsters. They prefer to live in dark, quiet, dusty corners, undisturbed by movement or light, which is exactly the description of the cupboard where I stuff my sweaters in the spring. And they’re most attracted to fabrics that are “dirty”—items that carry dirt, food particles, discarded hair and skin cells, and oils from your hair and skin. (Ick.) Putting a sweater you’ve been wearing in the back of your closet, even if it’s not visibly stained or dirty, is basically sending out an invitation to have it eaten.

So before you put things away, give them a wash.

All images by Kate Atherley.

Copyright © Kate Atherley except as indicated.

About Kate Atherley

Kate Atherley (she/her) is a co-founder, editor and publisher at Digits & Threads and Nine Ten Publications. She has worked in the crafts industry in one way or another since 2002 as a designer, editor, writer, and instructor. She's authored eight books about knitting, from a next-steps guide for newbie knitters to the industry's only guide to professional knitting pattern writing. Kate lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and their rescue dog Winnie.

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