Friday, December 19, 2008

Washing wool socks

A while back, I finally finished the other sock, the mate to the one I made earlier this year. And I've been wearing them often enough to have one of my kids asked if I had needed to have them surgically removed to wash them. Yeah, it's cold in this house, they're warm. Back AWAY from the socks and no one will get hurt!

I've heard so many cautions about washing wool and how easy it is to felt the wool that I was just plain scared to wash them. However, it's been in the 60's for the last week, warm enough that I did worry about wanting to wear them and so I decided to bite the bullet and wash these bad boys.

Here's what I did. First I cleaned out the bathroom sink - washed the toothpaste and dog hair (how DOES dog hair get in the sink? 12lb Chihuahuas are NOT tall enough to get to the sink!). Then I got the water just barely warmed. I mean it was just enough to take the chill off our mountain water, but still cool to the touch.

I then plugged the basin and put about 3 drops of "Dr. Bonner's liquid Castille soap" into the water. Not enough to cause suds. I set the socks into the water and let them soak for about 2 mins, GENTLY squished them about 5 times. Kinda poking them into the water. Yep, they WERE dirty. I pushed them up and down a couple more times gently, pushed the water out of them and supporting them well, let the water run out. After the water was out, I repeated the process without wringing or twisting the fabric. I just pushed down on top of the socks, trapping them between my hand and the sink bottom to squeeze out the excess water a bit. The second verse is same as the first, with the same results. Ok, they WERE dirty. (dog hair, grrr)

Then I got a bright idea. I mean, how do I wash MY hair? Uhmmm...wool is just sheep hair, right? When I wash my hair, I put a tablespoon or so of plain old sodium bicarbonate a.k.a. baking soda into one 16oz. cup and 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into another 16oz. cup, fill both with warm water. (do NOT put both in the SAME cup unless you like science project volcanos!) I then pour the baking soda laced cup of water over my wet head, work it in - sort of like I was using soap and rub my scalp. Then I rinse that out and pour the apple cider vinegar laced water over my head and work that in. (Prepare these before getting into the shower! lol) I then rinse that out of my hair. And no, it doesn't leave your dried hair smelling like vinegar!

Anyway, I got the bright idea of using the baking soda in the water for my socks. It did pull more dirt out of them. By that time, I was nervous about how I had squished my socks some and they were looking a little "rough" - some of the fibers were standing up away from the yarn. But, I was committed. So I drained THAT small basin of water and refilled with the same temp water and this time added the vinegar. It pulled a little soap out of the socks. Again, I pushed them up and down a couple of time gently, pushed the water out of them and supporting them well, let the water run out of the sink again. I wrapped them in a couple of towels and stood on them to get more water out. (Uh, if it's a very large item, do this in the tub - so the water runs down the drain and not all over the floor.)

I next gently picked up the socks and supported them - I didn't want to stretch them out and tried to figure out where I was going to put them so they'd dry - and besides, I don't own a "drying rack". But I DO own several cooling racks. The kind you put baked goods on. hahaha. Yep, got one of those bad boys out, arranged my socks on it and then took a good look at them. (Happy dance begins!)Not only were they clean, but the fibers that had formerly been standing up were all laying down. NO FELTING! wooohoooo. And as a bonus - they are SOFT!! Seems that the baking soda "melts" off the dirt on socks and the vinegar closes the open hair shafts on the wool just like it does on human hair. Less itch and feels soft to the touch. My well-worn socks look new - except on the bottom where I can see a couple of wear spots from not wearing slippers with them. (These were worsted weight yarn knit with #3 dpns.)

Now how does one repair a pair of knit bottoms on socks? How does one darn socks? Me thinketh I'm going to learn to do double knit on the bottoms of my house socks so they wear longer.

By the way, you can clean hair brushes and combs with baking soda and hot water - with out having to "work" on them. I put about 1 tbs of baking soda into the 16oz. cup, run some hot water into the cup, stir to dissolve the baking soda, add my brushes and combs and finish filling up the cup. Let them sit about 5-10 mins, dunk up and down 10 times or so and then rinse. Mine are clean - even the ones that live in the bottom of the purses/backpacks that only get washed once in a blue moon, hence are caked with gunk.


Pokeberry Mary said...

I used to have the most wonderful old book that had recipes and directions for making just about anything from scratch. I don't know what happened to it but I recall that many things we use in the house really are just a matter of a little home chemistry and can be duplicated for pretty cheap.
Its amazing the things folks used to do for themselves that they rely on others to do now isn't it?

Pokeberry Mary said...

I stitch up holes in good socks with Purl cotton--its a sort of embroidery thread. I used to have a collection of darning cotton--which is made for that but its mostly gone now. I have a couple of old wood darning ball things-- you put them in the sock and use them for keeping the shape of the sock while you stitch. Old lighbulbs also work but are somewhat rounder. Darning used to be an art--nowadays the few folks who do it probably don't have the same skill level ladies used to have-but it still works. ;) I LOVE good hand knit socks! I've never made them, but someday...