Washing a Woollen Underquilt

Dear Margaret,
I've just bought a fabulous wool underquilt in a sale, but when I got home & looked at the label it said 'Dryclean Only'. The smell of drycleaning makes me puke, but I can't bear to take it back. How can I wash it?

If you wash the quilt, you will invalidate the warranty. Most wool pile underblankets carry the Dryclean Only label, because they are easily ruined by ordinary washing.
To keep the underquilt clean & sweet as long as possible, always cover it with a sheet when in use, & brush it gently every morning. Take it off the bed, & thoroughly dry & air it as often as you can. When it starts to look less than new, get some powdered magnesium carbonate from a pharmacy, or buy a brand of talcum powder which contains it (just check the label for ingredients). Work the powder liberally into your underquilt, then roll it up & leave for as long as possible. Take the quilt into the garden, don a mask or & gently shake & brush the powder out.You could even beat it lightly with an old squash racquet. This should revive it for some time, & you can do it as often as you wish. (This treatment also works well on long-haired white cats, & chinchilla rabbits, but don't use the squash racquet!)
If you prefer to use a vacuum cleaner, test carefully on a small patch first - some quilts will simply lose large amounts of pile into the maw of the cleaner! (If this is the case NEVER attempt to wash it - in fact even dry cleaning could be hazardous.)

Should the day come when you feel stronger measures are called for, & testing indicates that your quilt's pile is firmly fixed to the backing, get a friend to help you, & choose a warm windy day with more to follow.

NB. This is a **HAZARDOUS!!** procedure! - hazardous to the quilt, that is!

Put lots of hand-hot water & some wool mix into the bathtub, & lather it up before you place the quilt into the tub. Soak it for 5 minutes, then strip off, hop into the tub & gently pummel & squeeze the wool pile until the dirt is out.
**HAZARD # 1!!** DON'T twist or rub, if you do the wool will either felt or come out, probably both! which is why the label says Dryclean Only. Remove the plug, & let the dirty water drain out, gently pressing your quilt to help it along.
HAZARD#2!!** Wet wool is heavy & easily stretches out of shape, so it must be well supported. As you & it are already wet, you may as well rinse it. Still squatting in the tub, fold & roll the quilt & hug it gently to your bosom while your friend replenishes the hand-hot water
**HAZARD #3!!** If the water is much colder or hotter than the first lot, the quilt will felt! Add only a little woolmix this time, or a tablespoon of pure eucalyptus oil. Mix well before replacing the quilt & repeating the pummelling & squeezing. Drain the water & fold & roll the quilt, still in the tub, pressing until you have removed sufficient water to enable the two of you to lift it out without pulling it out of shape. Unroll it onto a clean tarp, or an old bedstead, preferably placed on a gentle slope protected from strong sunlight, & leave to drain.
**HAZARD #4!!** Sunlight will discolour wet wool, make it harsh, & may shrink it ! You can gently press out some water from time to time to help things along. After several hours you should be able to lift the quilt, & drape it on top of the clothes hoist, or two banana lounges, or any other contraption that will allow the breeze to get underneath as well as on top. Move it occasionally so that the supporting structure will not alter the shape of your quilt too drastically.
**HAZARD #5!!** Wet or damp wool takes on the shape of anything it is laid over - that's how you make hats! You may need to leave it out overnight, but after a second day of drying, it can be brought in at sunset. Feel the quilt against your cheek, to detect if there is any trace of moisture. Finally, when the quilt is thoroughly dry, & not before, brush lightly & vigorously to bring up the pile.


Note: In researching & answering questions about earthwise living, Margaret offers information, opinion, & personal experience, but no quick fixes! Readers should evaluate these offerings in the context of their own situations; they are suggestions, *not* recommendations. Any responsibility for their implementation rests *solely* with the reader.

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