Whether you have purchased a handmade crocheted item or made a gorgeous afghan for your home, knowing how to care for it is important. Properly cared for, most handmade items will last a lifetime. Depending on the type of yarn used to create the item, you may be able to just throw it in the wash.
There are several types of wool. Virgin wool has not been washed or treated. This type of wool retains its natural water repellency. It is normally not as soft as other types of wool, but it will last forever. Virgin wool should be hand washed in cool water and laid flat to dry. Never twist or wring when wet. Instead, gently squeeze excess water from the piece and roll it up in a towel. Then lay it flat to dry and reshape if needed.
Superwashed wool is usually Merino. This is very soft and it can be machine washed in a delicate cycle with cold water. Use Woolite or other soap specific to wool. Lay flat to dry. Do not machine dry, it will shrink.
If the wool is blended with acrylic, polyester, rayon, olefin, or nylon, it can be machine washed and possibly machine dried on low. If the blend contains metallic threads, it is a handwash only item. If the wool is blended with cotton it is best to hand wash and dry.
Specific Sheep Wool
Care for Merino, Lincolnshire and other items made from a specific breed of sheep the same way as you would treat virgin wool. The same holds true for baby Alpaca. If the item happens to be a rug or floor mat, shake out all dirt first and give it a thorough vacuuming. If you still feel the need to wash a wool rug, try using a dry cleaning method that is wool safe. You could hand wash a rug, but it will take forever to dry.
Mohair and Angora
Mohair comes from an Angora goat. Angora comes from either a Jersey Wooly or Angora rabbit. This type of yarn should be handwashed and laid flat to dry. Use a gentle soap that is suitable for wool. Reshape the item if necessary.
Most cotton items can be machine washed. Air drying is recommended to avoid shrinkage. Crocheted garments made from cotton tend to stretch over time. If your sweater or shawl seems to be growing on you, running it through the dryer on air dry or low will take care of the problem.
Always handwash and air dry silk and silk blends. Heat will destroy the fibers, so wash in cold water and air dry. Store silk items away from sunlight. UV will degrade silk quickly.
Acrylic and other synthetic fibers
The great thing about acrylic yarn is that it is machine washable and you can throw it in the dryer. If you wash the items in cool water and dry on low heat, it will last forever. If you dry acrylic on high heat or wash it in hot water, it will become increasingly stiff. For large items like blankets, throws, and afghans, toss a few tennis balls in the dryer. This will help speed up the drying time and it will keep the blanket fluffy.
For items that cannot be washed—like pillows—spot clean when needed. You can vacuum pillows to extend their life. If they really need a cleaning, see if you can remove the crocheted cover and bring it to a dry cleaner. Almost all fabrics can be dry cleaned. The rare exceptions are fibers like metallic threads that will not hold up to heat and chemicals.