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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    MD
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    164

    Washing wool baselayers?

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    I just got a smartwool long sleeve microweight baselayer from REI, and I am completely obsessed with it. It is miraculous. Most importantly -- it doesn't seem to hold onto odor at ALL! I wore it around the house Saturday, and then Sunday I wore it during a PR effort up a local hill and definitely sweat in it, so I tossed it in the hamper. This morning I pulled it out of the hamper and it seemed fine, so I wore it on my bike commute in today. I sweated because I was overdressed, but I hung it up to dry and now it still seems completely....clean.

    So, what's the deal with caring for smartwool? Should I just not wash it until there *is* an odor? Or will putting off washing it eventually result in an odor that can't be conquered? At what point does not washing it make me a disgusting human being?

    While I might not often wash my work pants, I am used to my cycling gear only being used once between washings (except for like, leg warmers and jackets). But the smartwool was super expensive, SEEMS clean after 3 days of wear, and I want it to last forever!! I know smartwool is machine washable but I still assume that will shorten its lifespan.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    San Antonio, TX
    Posts
    2,024
    I hang all my merino wool (smartwool, ibex) to airate, and as long as it passes the smell test wear again. Once it has an odor, I machine wash on delicate, using those zippered laundry bags to give it extra protection, and then air dry on drying racks. I think it lasts longer if you minimize washing and avoid the dryer.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,501
    I do the same as Triskeliongirl, though I only bag the most delicate items. Most of it just goes straight into the front loader, which granted is WAY easier on fabrics than top loading washers. I just kind of wash them when I know I've worn them too many times ... they never seem to smell, incredibly. I've mentioned before how I've worn wool as a middle layer, and while the synthetic base AND outer layers reeked to high heaven, the wool had no odor whatever.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Oslo, Norway
    Posts
    4,066
    My experience is that a brand new wool garment will stay odour-free very long, but will need washing more often as it gets more use. I think this comes from gradually washing out the lanolin in the wool, which is what actively reduces odour. I usually use jerseys at least three times before washing, for vigorous exercise. Hang them up to dry in between. Just wearing around the house I can get away with a fortnight

    But having worn the same base layer for 8 days in the Alps I can attest that yes, wool does get stinky in the end
    Winter riding is much less about badassery and much more about bundle-uppery. - malkin

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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    4,632
    I don't wash mine very often. It doesn't get stinky, really, but I do the "wait, how many times have I worn this? When did I last wash it?" thing. In between wearings, I put it flat on a drying rack. When it is time to wash them, I either wash it by hand (cool to lukewarm water, whatever I wash my hand-knit wool in) with a dab of my shampoo (-cone free), or it goes in the washing machine on cold, gentle. It gets laid flat to dry. (I hand-wash most of the time because the apartment washers are all top-load, which are rougher on clothes. If I'm visiting my parents, I use their front-loader. )
    At least I don't leave slime trails.
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
    Posts
    5,897
    This is interesting. Until very recently, the only wool base layers I had were three Sugoi Wallaroo tops. And I always wash them after wearing them once. Sometimes I wear them for bike rides, but sometimes I wear them under sweaters for everyday.

    However after reading this thread, I think I will start to air them out and wear them more before washing them.

    I have a top-load washer. I usually put the wool stuff and other more delicate things at the top, because I think I read somewhere that there is less agitation at the top.

    BTW, I have a friend who highly recommends Wabi Woolen jerseys. Their fabric care instructions are here.

    http://www.wabiwoolens.com/jersey-care

    It begins thusly:

    "Washing is hard on wool. There is no way around that. So the best way to care for your Wabi Woolens jersey is simply not to wash it. But let’s face it, that only works for so long before your riding partners and significant other start to make funny faces when you put it on. Eventually, you have to clean it and here’s the best way to do it, step-by-step:

    *REMEMBER*

    Agitation is what shrinks wool. The more gentle you are with your jersey when it is wet, the less it will shrink.

    Washing

    1. Wash before wearing and always follow these instructions. When you think it may be time for another wash, wear it a few more times, just so you’re sure."

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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    philly
    Posts
    142
    I have mid-weight Smartwool that I wear for commutes from now until mid-March or so. I might wash it every two weeks (usually 6-8 commute days in the winter, 22mi RT) but never because it smells, just because I feel like I should.

    I wash it on gentle cycle/gentle spin in my front loader with other bike gear and lay flat (or occasionally hang on the bike) to dry. I also have Smartwool socks that I wear year round and the oldest pairs are now three years old and they're not really showing much wear (I do wash those after every day or two).

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Hillsboro, OR
    Posts
    5,023
    I do pretty much what Triskeliongirl and Oakleaf do...

    With one exception - I do often rinse out the wool base layers I wear running when I sweat heavily. This is mostly just to get the salt out of the garment...not the stink. I just rinse in cool water, gently squeeze and then let it air dry.

    My husband, on the other hand, washes and dries all his wool (top load washer and regular dryer) pretty close to every time he wears it. He is not a stinky guy in general, but I will say that the stuff has held up really well and he doesn't smell at all. It makes me wonder if I'm being overly cautious!
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,394
    I wash my Smart Wool base layers every time I wear them. While they don't *stink*, they do have an odor. I have a front loader, put them in a mesh bag, in the regular cycle and hang to dry. My Smart Wool merino light 1/4 zips get worn many times, though between washings.
    I sweat a lot, and while I don't necessarily have an odor problem, the thought of wearing a base layer without washing, well, doesn't set well with me. Now, if I was camping or something, I would have no issue wearing them for a couple of days.
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Portland, OR, USA
    Posts
    124
    My Smartwool midweight shirt is my most frequently worn item of clothing November to May. I wash it after any exercise -- it probably gets washed every week to two weeks (regular cycle, temperature on cold; hang to dry). It still looks and feels virtually new after five years and has even tolerated a few accidental hot washings and runs through the dryer. Smartwool is pretty awesome.
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  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    MD
    Posts
    164
    I'm super glad others rewear wool without washing.

    I had HEARD that wool was awesome, but I didn't understand it until I got this shirt. It is truly amazing.

    Question: Does anyone have issues wearing deodorant with wool? I pretty much have to put in deodorant before I bike to work, since I take baby wipe showers here (and reapply deodorant, but still), but now that I'm so in love with my wool baselayer and I want it to last forever and ever I'm a little worried about deodorant rubbing off on it. Shirts that I've had for forever usually start to suffer from deodorant exposure, it seems.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Saskatoon, Sask.
    Posts
    334
    The best thing I've found for washing wool is Eucalan. You don't rinse it out, it contains lanolin for re-oiling the wool. Turn your machine to the rinse part of the delicate cycle, put in the Eucalan and your items, turn it on. Also works well on other animal fibers like angora and cashmere.
    Although you don't notice an odor, it's probably not a great idea to go too long between washings. The salt from sweat will eventually eat through the fibers. Personally, I can't wear any kind of animal fiber next to my skin without wanting to scratch myself to pieces, so for me the synthetics are the best thing since sliced bread. They don't collect odor as I wash them soon after every use.
    Queen of the sea beasts

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Suburban MA and Western ME
    Posts
    1,815
    Quote Originally Posted by GLC1968 View Post
    My husband, on the other hand, washes and dries all his wool (top load washer and regular dryer) pretty close to every time he wears it. He is not a stinky guy in general, but I will say that the stuff has held up really well and he doesn't smell at all. It makes me wonder if I'm being overly cautious!
    I do this. Wash after every wear, into the top loader and then into the dryer. I'm on year 5 of one of my base layers, and longer on another. But then, I also wash and dry all my bike clothes the same way .

    SheFly
    "Well behaved women rarely make history." including me!
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  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,501
    Quote Originally Posted by fallstoclimb View Post
    I'm super glad others rewear wool without washing.

    I had HEARD that wool was awesome, but I didn't understand it until I got this shirt. It is truly amazing.

    Question: Does anyone have issues wearing deodorant with wool? I pretty much have to put in deodorant before I bike to work, since I take baby wipe showers here (and reapply deodorant, but still), but now that I'm so in love with my wool baselayer and I want it to last forever and ever I'm a little worried about deodorant rubbing off on it. Shirts that I've had for forever usually start to suffer from deodorant exposure, it seems.
    Well, I have issues with "regular" deodorant, period - it just doesn't react well with my body chemistry and makes me smell even worse - but I know the problem you're talking about. I didn't wear much, if any, wool in those days, but it always seemed to be worst with my nylon blouses. Hard build-up, visible staining and permanent odor. Since I switched to crystal deodorant, I don't have any trouble with deodorant on any of my clothes, wool or other.


    ETA: I highly recommend flat drying racks like these. Hanging wet wool will stretch it.
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 10-22-2013 at 06:29 AM.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    the dry side
    Posts
    4,367

    Washing wool baselayers?

    One thing to keep in mind about Smartwool is that it has been processed so that it doesn't require the same care as traditional, untreated wool. They have a proprietary process that affects the fibers, eliminating shrinking or itching. Essentially it's wash and wear: washer, then dryer. You don't have to worry about the whole agitation and temperature aspects of laundering. I have Smartwool,socks that I've been washing and drying for years, and merino base layers that I have been tossing in the wash with like colors and regular laundry detergent, for years. I line dry all my base layers just because things last longer if they don't spend a lot of time in the dryer. I wear my base for skiing. Some times it gets washed in the washer and dried in the dryer twice a week from Dec through March. I would never do this with non Smartwool items.


    http://www.smartwool.com/care

    The "why Smartwool" page has some photos of how the proprietary process changes the fiber so it doesn't shrink
    http://www.smartwool.com/discover/#m.../why-smartwool



    For "classic" (not Smartwool) wool items, yes, I'd handle with care. The whole idea with not washing classic wool items until they really smell is based on the fact that gentle hand washing and air drying flat to prevent shrinkage I s a pain. Sweat is hard on fibers (salt) so it's preferable to keep things clean.

    Last hint: baby shampoo is just as gentle and maybe more, and cheaper than other products specially marketed for washing wools and delicates.

    Irulan
    Last edited by Irulan; 10-22-2013 at 08:36 AM.
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