A Short Course in Protecting Our Knitted Investments

This post should read like a Public Service Announcement: The knits in our closets are at risk! Northwest transplants and natives alike remark how Seattleites are not known for having air conditioners. During the gorgeous, balmy, summer months, we are prone to keeping our windows wide open. Then one day, in September, we go to our closet and ‘WHOOSH!’ a thick and furry moth comes flying out!  No matter how carefully we screen our windows, the likelihood of moths, or other enemies of fiber, coming into our closets is inevitable unless we take a few notes on how to best protect our knitted investments. It is September, time to get to class!

Cleaning, conditioning, and servicing our knits is Closet Care 101.  Learning how to clean shelves and closets to a degree that dissuades pests is like graduating with a bachelors degree in closet science, with a minor in therapeutic herbalism. Take a loop with us through the basics of knit care. If by doing so, we save one sweater from demise, our job here will be well done.  Besides, it’s thrilling to take clothing care into our own hands!  Just think, if the Unicorn Tapestries can be washed in water, we can surely clean our favorite cashmere with confidence.


Knit Care 101:  Daily Storage and Washing

To hold their shape, most knits need to be folded and placed on a shelf or in a drawer. The weight of the garment is often heavy enough to stretch the shoulders and the sweater body when left hanging. If a lightweight sweater can be hung in a closet without stretching, then please be kind enough to use a padded hanger for shape and to prevent hanger dents. 

Most sweaters need not be washed but once a season, spot treating as needed.  Dry cleaning is always an option, but no matter what the fiber content, or how antique, most items can be gently soaked to revive the fibers and release any set in dust or smell.  Personally, we at Baby & Company like to keep the sweaters that smell hauntingly of summer campfire unwashed for as long as possible.

If the time comes to offer your knit a full soak, here is one way to go about it. However, this would not be a proper service announcement if we didn’t tell you to read the care label of your beloved piece before proceeding.

  1. Fill a bucket or a sink with lukewarm water, adding a dose of fiber-appropriate shampoo.  The bucket should be big enough to give the garment wiggle room.  As the fibers expand in the water, the dirt, hidden in the knitted loops, can be released. 
  2. Leave the knits soaking for 10 minutes, up to a few hours, depending on sweater size and level of soil. We suggest using your intuition with this step, and most steps in life, come to think of it.  Hand agitate to get the water distributed evenly, making sure all of the garment you want washed is saturated.  Once the dirt has ‘lifted’, the water in the bucket can be drained and, if you like, the knit can be soaked again in clean, tepid water, adding an additional option before rinsing that lifts any remaining shampoo or dirt from the fibers.

  3. Rinse your garment thoroughly in cool water, lightly pressing the water through with your fingers. Never wring or twist the garment, as knits are prone to losing shape.  
  4. When you feel the garment is sufficiently rinsed, let the water drain from the fibers and use a clean towel to roll up the sweater, like a beautiful German danish.  The towel will remove excess water from the fibers without compromising the shape of the knit.
  5. Finally, lay your garment flat on a mesh or wooden sweater dryer, in a location with good air flow. Turn the sweater after a few hours to speed the drying process. 


Long Term Storage 201:

Once sweaters, blankets, scarves and ponchos are all clean, you can choose to store them in cedar chests; however, over time, cedar’s potency wears off, so storing knits in airtight plastic containers or bags is the long term storage method of choice. We have also been told sanding cedar can help revive potency. 

Moths and Why We Clean 301:

It is important to clean our knits, as food stains and oils from our body attract fiber’s arch nemeses, moths. The Northwest has over 1,200 species of moths that can live anywhere from a few days to a few months.  This is not meant to scare, but to set us up with the knowledge to fight the damage that can occur.  


Three Signs of Moths:

  1. Live or dead moths are found indoors, and/or small holes are discovered in clothing.
  2. Eggs or small holes are found in garment fibers. We image searched on our own time. Be wary if clothes have a musty smell or appear dusty.  
  3. Short, white webs are found in the corners of closet shelves or floor boards.


Wash To Kill:

Washing items is the best way to get rid of moths and their eggs. Tumble drying appropriate goods at high temperatures is also effective. We have heard that putting your knits in the freezer will work to kill eggs, but we at Baby & Company have yet to test this theory, preferring to keep bug killing tactics away from edible provisions. Another option for catching live moths is to add fish oil to flypaper and keep a sheet hanging in your closet, but again, food and clothes don’t mix, and we hate to fetch the cat out of the closet. 


Prevention Methods:

  1. Keep your clothing clean (did we mention this already?)
  2. Brush off your clothing as you come inside.  The easiest entry point for moths to attack is when you are outside. 
  3. Store clothing properly, in an airtight place.
  4. Clean your floors and closets with a natural cleansing mixture, like vinegar and water.  Adding several drops of essential lavender oil to the mix will further discourage moths and other insects, naturally. 
  5. Vacuum well and often, getting into the cracks of floor boards and corners of the carpets.
  6. Air out closets regularly, especially in the Northwest and other moisture-prone areas.  Opening the door to your closet to let in light will further disrupt any moths that are trying to nest in peace and quiet. Be wary of direct sunlight on clothing as continual exposure can fade clothing.


Finally, about that minor in herbalism. It is proven that the smell of cedar, lavender, rosemary, cinnamon, cloves and juniper berry leaves moths cold.  Baby & Company is currently developing and testing a potent and natural sachet that will be made available soon.  If we are willing to invest in the gorgeous knits of the fall and winter seasons, we must agree to do what we can to keep the garments looking their best. Please stay tuned for Baby & Company’s foray into closet sigils, to ward off moths and offer mood-enhancing aromatherapy to cleanse any energy that needs refreshing.  Stay tuned!


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