How Often Do You Really Need To Wash A Sweater?

by Miki Hayes

As much as I love summer, few things excite me more than being able to pull out my trusty cable-knits come fall. But when chunky sweaters begin to replace cotton tees, laundry time can become a bit more confusing. Because how often do we really need to wash our sweaters? And what's the best way to do so? I, for one, am always scared that that one extra cycle will be the death of my favorite sweater, whether it's because it loses its softness or it just shrinks. Thankfully, sweaters don't need to washed after every single wear, unless it becomes dirty from a spill, smoke, or sweat. While general guidelines suggest washing a sweater after two to five wears, experts at the garment-care boutique Madame Paulette said the magic number is four in an interview with Madewell's blog.

By giving your sweaters more wears between washes, they will better retain their softness and structure and just generally last longer, which is always a plus. But sweater longevity can be further increased by the way in which you choose to wash them. Generally speaking, you can machine-wash sweaters. But of course, this depends on the fabric. If you're a little hesitant, a gentle cycle with cold water should keep everything in tact. But if you're in doubt, or need to wash angora, chenille, or some wools, hand-washing is the way to go.

If you find you need to hand-wash some sweaters, here's the safest procedure, according to Madewell:

  1. Fill a sink with cool water before adding a bit of gentle detergent. Don't add a load's worth of detergent, but just a couple of splashes.
  2. Turn your sweater inside-out (to help prevent pilling) before swishing it around in the water, and then let it soak for about 30 minutes.
  3. After the soak, rinse your sweater well with cool water.
  4. You can tumble-dry your sweater on low heat, but if you'd rather not risk any potential shrinkage, instead gently squeeze out the water (never wring your sweaters) before rolling the sweater in a towel to absorb any excess water.
  5. Finally, lay your sweaters flat on a drying rack to help it retain its shape and avoid those annoying shoulder bumps.

But if all this is really just too much, say hello to your neighborhood dry cleaner.

Images: Maria Morri /Flickr