How To Wash Sweaters Correctly, So They Last More Than One Season

I hate to break the news to you, but you've been washing your beloved turtlenecks and cashmere wraps all wrong. Luckily, learning how to wash sweaters correctly isn't hard, it's just easy to overlook. I've come to the conclusion that it's time for an intervention, for all of us sweater-owners. We spend our hard earned money on fabulous sweaters, but instead of treating them with TLC, we go and hammer them to nubby shreds in the funky machine at the laundromat. They don't deserve that sort of abuse!

Now, I'm not suggesting you abandon your free spirit ways and become a dry cleaning regular. That's an egregious waste of money that could well be spent on more sweaters, IMHO. No, I'm merely suggesting some simple alternatives to throwing your ivory knit cardigan into the machine with your blue jeans. I've got some nice ideas for you—if you're willing to give up your hard-washing ways.

Best of all? That awesome Alexander Wang sweater you bought for half your paycheck will last for years to come. Or, you can do what you've been doing and get the results you've been getting. I won't judge, but, boy, will you miss seeing that sweater when it's gone.

Here are some tips you should consider when washing your sweaters.

Use The Right Laundry Detergent

Take some detergent cues from Ashley Little at Craftsy for machine washing knits. She recommends liquid laundry soaps made specifically for delicate wash. Grocery store laundry products can be okay if they're alcohol-free and mild. Alternatively, try baby shampoo.

Mind Your Materials

Is your sweater acrylic, angora, cashmere, or wool? The wise gang at Clean Organized Family Home has answers on machine washing most materials, what water temperature to use, and which dryer setting to select. Fast tip: Natural materials tend to need cold water and people made materials tend to use warm (not hot) water.

Read The Label

Reading the label might take some time, but it's well worth it, and by label, I don't mean the one that reads Dry Clean." Look at the fabric content label. According to Women's Day, a sweater can be hand-washed if the primary content is wool or cashmere–even if it claims to be dry clean only.

Don't Be Scared To Hand Wash

Honestly, it's not so bad. Check out this short demo by Clinton Kelly for easy peasy home hand washing. If you're too rebellious to watch the video (I get it, that's why we're having this intervention), that's OK. Here's the TLDR: Soap, water, swish the sweater, squeeze (don't wring), fresh water, swish-swish again, squeeze (don't wring), lay flat, and pat. You can make a song out of it if you want. Reasons to avoid hand washing include mad embellishments, leather, suede (I hope you have a suede sweater), or silk dupioni.

Keep These Other Important Washing Tips In Mind

  • Always turn sweaters inside out to keep them pretty.
  • Never machine wash a chenille sweater—the label may say it's okay, but it will compromise the softness.
  • In many cases, you can actually stretch a sweater that has shrunk, and shrink a sweater that's too large.
  • A good rule of thumb is to wash your sweaters every four or five uses.
  • For delicate knits, toss them in a mesh lingerie wash bag before they go into the machine.
  • When your sweater pills (nubby alert!), carefully shave the offending balls off with a razor.
  • Don't dry hand washed sweaters in direct sunlight. They too, need protection from the sun.

And just like that, you have entered the world of long-lasting sweaters. It's an easy transition to make, one that will serve your closet and fashion options well. Now go forth, into the fast approaching sweater season, and be clean.

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