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Let me paint you a picture. You’ve got a new item of clothing that you absolutely love and it’s come to the point where it needs washing. So without thinking, you whack it in the washing machine and when you come to take it out, it’s shrunk.
Does this story sound familiar? If you’ve ever used a machine wash for a wool blend felt garment and didn’t use the delicate or gentle cycles, then I imagine so.
This lesson’s been learned the hard way and especially stings when the item was vintage. However, it leaves some questions. Can you machine wash felt fabric? If so, how? Is using a washing machine even the best way?
All of these questions and more will be answered below.
Is Felt Machine Washable?
Synthetic felt typically fares better in the washing machine. However, whether it is synthetic, cotton-based or a hybrid, a delicate or gentle cycle should be used for felt fabric.
If you decide to wash felt in a machine then turning them inside out and putting them into a mesh washing machine bag will help protect your fabrics. Again and this cannot be stressed enough, ensure you use a delicate cycle setting. Also, ensure that it is on a cold water setting and the spin is on low.
Once your felt is finished on the delicate cycle, take it out of the machine immediately. This will reduce creasing.
Is The Washing Machine The Best Way to Wash Felt?
Whilst you can machine wash felt, it is not the best way of cleaning them. Handwashing for a more complete clean or spot treating an area with a stain or odor are always a preferable method for achieving the best results.
Hand Wash With Cold Water
Felt is best washed by hand in a basin of cool water. Ideally when doing so use specialized shampoo or detergents for felts. This will help to maintain the felt’s size and prevent any degradation.
When handwashing felt, submerge the item and gently disturb the water to evenly distribute the cleaning solution. Following this, leave it to soak for half an hour.
Afterwards, rinse thoroughly, until the water is no longer soapy.
Following this gently press the excess water from the item without wringing it. If you notice some slight discolouration in the water this shouldn’t be cause for alarm. Felt garments will naturally secrete excess dye when washed.
Spot Treating Felt Fabrics
When cleaning small marks or odors, spot treating is usually the best option. Many odors or oil-based marks can be simply removed with an absorbing powder like salt or baking soda. To use this method, simply place a small amount of powder on the affected area. After shake away the powder and repeat the process until clean.
However, stains may be too stubborn to remove in this manner. In which case using specialized products for felt and wool should do the job without damaging the fabric.
Drying Your Felt
After washing your felt it’s time for it to dry. When drying felt you should only ever allow it to air dry.
Do not use a dryer! This or any other heat, such as direct sunlight will shrink and potentially discolour your felt product.
To air dry the garment, lay it down on a clean towel or drying rack in its original shape. A tip for making felt dry quicker is to roll them and they have been placed on up like a sleeping bag.
Avoid hanging, as this can warp the shape. To remove any wrinkles steaming will provide the best results. However if using an iron, turning the garment inside out and using the lowest heat setting is recommended. To be completely safe, however, using a pressing cloth between the item and the iron is also wise.
When fabrics are worn often they will often begin to “pill”. These pills are little balls of fabric fibres that have come loose from the garment and clumped together as a result of natural friction.
Felt will typically pill less commonly than other fabrics. However, if it does gently brush a soft bristly brush over the garment to remove them. When doing so try to brush in one direction consistently.
Additional Felt Cleaning Tips
To remove lint or any other surface dirt, gently bush the garment with a soft bristle brush. Doing this regularly will keep the item fresher. An additional benefit of doing this is that it can help reduce pilling.
When handling felt garments be careful not to mark them with fingerprints due to the oils naturally present in your skin.
Storing Your Felt Garments and Items
Knitted felt items should be folded or hung on solidly structured hangers to prevent stretching and distortion.
Additionally, since felt often contains woolen fibers, moths will be attracted to them. Due to this, taking measures such as storing them in a clean area with natural moth repellents such as lavender is recommended. Using breathable cotton bags for storage can help keep your felt items even safer.
Keeping Your Felts Safe
Now you know how to wash and dry your felt items, keeping them safe is the next step. We’ve covered a few basics of preventing moth and pest problems. However, to really keep your clothes safe, arming yourself with all the correct knowledge and equipment to both prevent moth infestation and get rid of them is essential.