Here's how I hand wash and block socks and other knitted items knit of animal fiber. Let me take a moment to caution you against machine washing your hand knit socks. Even though most sock yarns today often come in superwash wool and the instructions given by the manufacturer will often say "machine wash" or "machine wash-delicate cycle," I would recommend you always hand wash your socks to increase their longevity and decrease pre-mature fading of the fibers. Sometimes you will even see the manufacturer's instructions stating recommendations for "tumble dry low," but I will tell you from experience that this often leads to shrinking over time even though the wool has been subjected to superwash stripping and coating. If you do choose to machine wash your socks let them air dry--trust me!
Machine Washing Tips
- Place the socks in a zippered laundry bag, pillow cover or pillowcase closed with a rubber band.
- Wash the socks with other similarly weighted items. Don't wash a bag of socks with a few pairs of jeans for instance. It will cause either fulling/felting or degradation of the fibers much more rapidly.
- If you wash them in warm/cool water, rinse them in warm/cool water respectively. Prevent temperature variances in the same washing cycle.
- Hand wash your socks and set the color before mixing them in the washing machine with other pairs of socks for subsequent laundering. This is especially true for contrasting colors.
- If after you complete a pair of socks they come out a bit large after the initial hand washing and air drying, I have had success with machine washing them in hot water and tumble drying them on low for supervised 5 minute increments. Ideally this will "full" them down to a better fit and I will hand wash/air dry them for all subsequent launderings.
Hand Washing/Wet Blocking of Socks & Other Hand Knits of Animal Fiber
- Fill one side of the kitchen sink half way with tepid/luke warm water, 1 Tbsp of salt, 1/8 cup of white vinegar and about 1/2-1 tsp of wool wash. (Double the wool wash, salt and vinegar measurements for a larger knitted item needing a full sink of water. Animal fibers love acid baths and the sodium chloride is a mordant and will help in setting the color.
- Place your socks in the basin and let them soak for approximately 10-15 minutes, gently squeezing the fiber and expelling excess air. DO NOT AGITATE OR RING. You will probably see the bleeding of extra pigment left over from the dying process, especially for dark colors (above photos).
- While they are soaking, fill the other basin with the same temperature of water and white vinegar only. The acetic acid aids in rinsing off the detergent, getting rid of any further dye excess and will, again, aid in setting in the color.
- Gently press out the excess water and place in your first rinse basin.
- Empty and rinse the initial wash basin and fill it up with luke warm water only.
- Gently press out the excess water and place socks in final rinse basin. Here the water should be clear. If not, repeat with one additional rinse in plain luke warm water.
- That's it! The whole process takes about 10-15 minutes whether I have one sock or several pairs.
One final note--DO NOT ball up your socks inside of each other like athletic socks as this will lead to misshapen slouchy socks. Lay them flat on top of each other and roll or fold them before placing in a bureau drawer. A couple of lavender sachets or a bar of Irish Spring soap placed in the drawer will aid in the prevention of moth buffets on your woolens.
Now go and knit you some socks! Go on!