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The magic of snow-cleaning: How to wash your woollen clothes in Sweden

Thought snow was just for sledding, snowball fights, and cursing at while trudging through on your way to work? Think again. You can also use it to wash your clothes in the depths of the Swedish winter. Here’s how.

The magic of snow-cleaning: How to wash your woollen clothes in Sweden
Snow is a surprisingly efficient, fun and environmentally-friendly way of cleaning clothes and carpets. Photo: Tina Stafren/imagebank.sweden.se

Snow-cleaning is a method that has been used for decades and decades.

It is particularly good for getting dust and dirt out of carpets and woollen clothes. Wool is a “self-cleaning” fabric – its properties naturally repel dirt and neutralise bad odours – so even just hanging a woollen sweater outside helps keep it fresh, and snow works even better.

The snow won’t remove stains, so if that’s the case you may have to wash it. It will however help to freshen up your sweater, making it last much longer before you have to use any heavy-duty detergent.

Here’s The Local’s editor’s guide to how she snow-cleaned her woollen sweater.

Follow these steps:

1. Hang or put your woollen sweater in a bag outside and leave it there for a few hours. This is so that it gets cold and won’t later melt the snow when you put it on the ground.

The outdoor temperature should be a few degrees below freezing – ideally as much as -10C – because the trick is that the sweater should stay mostly dry and not get soaked.

Powdery snow, which contains less water, works best for washing clothes.

Leave the item you want to wash outside somewhere where it doesn’t touch the snow for a few hours so that it gets cold. Photo: Emma Löfgren/The Local

2. Spread the sweater out on top of a clean layer of snow. Gently push it down, but not too much, just so that it definitely touches the snow, not so much that it picks up dirty soil underneath the snow. Then cover it in snow – again, clean snow – and pat it gently.

You should cover the entire sweater in snow. Photo: Emma Löfgren/The Local

3. Leave the sweater in the snow for several hours, or overnight. Unless you live so far north you can rely on temperatures staying below freezing, it is a good idea to have a look at the weather forecast so that you know the snow won’t melt in the meantime.

4. Now rub snow all over the sweater (less gently than before, but still not more than you know the item can handle), then shake and pat the snow off as much as you can. Bring it back inside and lay it flat to dry – after that, it should be good to wear.

The steps above can also be replicated for carpets, which you can usually whack with a bit more force (and even jump or walk around on to make them sink into the snow) and vacuum when you bring them inside to make sure you get all the snow and dust out.

Member comments

  1. Thanks for this Emma. I’d heard of snow cleaning before, but never explained so clearly in a step-by-step method, as you have done.

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