I recently bought a lovely new jumper which earned me a few always-welcome compliments.
‘I love your jumper,’ said one friend. ‘It looks so fresh and new-jumperish.’ (Yes, that is a technical fashion term.)
‘That’s because I haven’t washed it yet,’ I replied.
‘Ahh, that explains it,’ nodded my friend.
Seems we can all relate to those heady, blissful, one or two first wears of a jumper when all is right with the world. And then, that sad realisation… it needs to be washed.
Because let’s face it, once you’ve washed a jumper, it’s never the same again, is it? Put it in the washing machine, and your jumper will come out looking like you’ve been wearing it to make snow angels on pebblecrete. The wool becomes all snarly and smooshy (yes, that is official wool terminology) and don’t get me started on pillage. Nothing looks scungier than those pesky pills, especially when they congregate under the armpits and around the boobs. I do have one of those buzzy de-piller things (yes, that is its official name), but it lives in one of my muddle drawers, which means I can never find it when I need it.
Which leaves, of course, hand washing. Which is up there with ‘cleaning grout’ and ‘scrubbing oven grime’ on the list of household chores that I would rather take a pencil to my eye, Wentworth-style, than do. The jiggling up and down in the water, wondering if that’s going to be enough, the scrubbing together of two sides, wondering if that’s going to be too much. The endless rinsing under a freezing cold tap (cos I only ever handwash in winter). Then the squeezing out of the goddamn water. Endlessly squeezing water out of a heavy jumper that remains determinedly soggy while I slowly lose all sensation in my hands and icy water dribbles down my arms. Then four days spent having all my floor space taken up with the world’s slowest-drying jumper, only to discover it’s taken so long to dry that it now has that musty, cat week smell. Oh, the inhumanity!
Not surprisingly, I actually don’t get around to washing my jumpers that often. They just inch their way steadily down to the bottom of the dirty clothes basket where they lie, ignored, making my pile of laundry always look large (not that it needs any help). By the time I’ve guiltily fished them out six months later, they’ve been forever tainted in my mind from the thought of six months worth of filthy clothes sitting on them.
Clearly I’m going about this all wrong, so I did my research and have come up with the ultimate guide to jumper washing. Here’s what the experts say you should do.
1. Fill a bucket with tepid water. Heat is not good for wool and washing them in freezing water is just stupid, what kind of nutcase would do that? Ahem.
2. Use a mild detergent – a wool mix is good, natch, but dishwashing liquid works too. Huh, didn’t know that!
3. Now, swish gently. Yes, that’s right. Don’t dunk, don’t scrub, just swish. Then leave it to soak for 10 minutes. (Some people like to stretch this 10 minutes to, I don’t know, about four days. Don’t be one of them.)
4. Ball up your jumper gently and squeeze out the water, empty your bucket/tub and refill with plain water. Place jumper back in and swish again to rinse. Don’t run jumper directly under running water as that can stretch it. (Oops.)
5. Once the detergent is all gone, gently squeeze out the water again, then lay your jumper on a white towel on a flat surface. Gently roll up the towel and jumper together to squeeze out the excess water. (Good trick, that, and one that I wish I’d learnt 20 YEARS AGO!)
Dry your jumper on a flat surface, preferably something moisture resistant like mesh. (I’ve got loads of flat mesh surfaces in my house, don’t you?). Avoid sun and heat. (You mean I can’t dangle it over the oil heater? But that works so well!) As it dries, coax your little friend back into shape, making the shoulders square and straightening the hem. Once it’s dry, DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT HANGING IT UP. It lies flat, mmkay?
All right jumper, I’m ready. Let’s do this.
What is your woollen washing methodology? Are you a doer or a procrastinator?