I mentioned earlier that although slightly hardier than wool, arcrylic can be destroyed just as completely with the wrong care. It can, in some circumstances, be rescued. I shall now recount one such circumstance.
After feeling pretty ill, I did all the laundry on a 60 degree (centigrade) wash to make sure that any bugs were properly killed. Unfortunately, my handknit arcylic patchwork quilt was killed, too. Well, not quite. The fibers fused together and the spin cycle pulled all the stitches (previously a nice, thick garter stitch) into a thin, misshapen material that ressembled cling-film in its aesthetics, comfort and insulating properties. I was not amused.
However, I was not willing to give up (it is a lovely blanket) and I searched online – it was at this stage that I realised that there are not so many sources on the internet of advice on arcrylic knitwear and how to save it. How to handwash, yes, but not how to undo the damage done.
Adapting advice aimed at vintage wool knitwear owners, I soaked the blanket in lukewarm water in which I had dissolved the leftover dregs of an assortment of hair conditioners and three capfuls of fabric conditioner (I have since realised that synthetic fibers probably don’t get all that much out of hair conditioner, but hey – I could certainly do no more damage than was already done). I then spread it out in the shower (new-builds don’t have baths, but I would have prefered to have put it in a bath) and left it soaking in its shallow pool of highly scented conditioning goo for a few hours.
Next came the rinsing, which consisted of turning the shower on it (cool water setting) and leaving it to rinse thoroughly for about half an hour, with occasional light swilling and massaging so that the slightly fused fibers came apart. Then I turned it out onto a few towels, rolled it up like a Swiss Roll with the knitwear as jam and stood on it, forcing out the excess water. Finally, I laid it out on the hallway floor and spent a good hour lining up the rows of garter stitch so that it was thick and fluffy feeling again.
And I waited.
Three days later, it had dried completely and I was amazed. It had regained most of the springiness and fluffiness that garter stitch has pre-spin cycle and it felt much, much softer. I believe that the heat had not been the issue, but the spin cycle on the washer had been the main culprit – pulling all the stitches tight and drying them like that.
So as for advice, I suggest that if you need to wash arcrylic at a high temperature, 60 degrees (centigrade) is the absolute furthest frontier, and that so long as you handwash it in a bath and don’t agitate or pul the stitches too much, then it will survive such treatment. Of course, if you can avoid it, not machine washing or hot-washing knits is always the best way to do things.