How to Care for Sweaters

How to care for sweaters
Cuyana Alpaca Cape, Tiger of Sweden Linen Sweater, Community V-Neck Wool Dress

As silly as it sounds, January in California means real winter. There is rain predicted in the forecast for 2 weeks straight and it finally feels cold. We’ve been in a severe drought so while part of me wants to miss the sunshine, I have to say I’m welcoming all of this water with arms wide open. Since this means I’m living in my warm sweaters, I’m taking some time today to share what I look for when buying, and how I take care of my sweaters.

1. Research before you buy.
Do a little research about different types of fabric content before you make your purchase. Although care can be more time-consuming, I prefer to buy sweaters made from more natural fibers like wool, cotton, and linen. Read the washing instructions so you know what you’re getting into. Pure sweaters made from wool or cashmere are usually dry clean only, but some you can get by with hand washing (and it even says so on the label). Make sure it fits! Most sweaters can not be altered if they do not fit properly.

2. Follow care guidelines.
I’ve emphasized this before, but care guidelines on clothing are so very important! On some sweaters you can get away with a hand wash. I wash most of mine on a very delicate cycle in a front-load washing machine. I then lay them flat to dry and reshape a little. If they don’t fluff up right or have wrinkles, I go over them with a steamer. As with my denim, I wear sweaters multiple times between washes unless they are very obviously dirty.

3. Perform routine maintenance.
It doesn’t seem to matter what type of fabric a sweater is made from, they all pill. Some of my sweaters pill less than others, like my alpaca cape, but others pill very easily like my soft wool dress. I am really bad about shaving them regularly, but I should do it before every wear so it is quick. I’ve had to stitch up and patch random snags before, but luckily I’ve never had to deal with any major damage.

4. Store properly.
You should never hang your sweaters. Ever. It depends on the weight, but the fibers will very likely be stretched out of shape and that’s not something anyone wants. I fold mine loosely and store them in a drawer on their own. I try not to pack the drawer too full so they aren’t prone to wrinkles or folding damage.

5. Wear and love often!
Do you have any favorite tips for how to care for sweaters?

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Responses to “How to Care for Sweaters”

  1. All natural fibre sweaters can be hand washed! You need to be gentle and use a mild soap — I just rub a bar of olive oil soap through the water. Rinse a few times by re-filling the sink with clear water, press to get out some of the water, roll in a towel to get out the rest, then lay flat to dry. I have cashmere that looks essentially new I’ve had for 20 years that was handled this way.

    The “Dry Clean Only” label is usually a sign of a poor-quality yarn, either one spun with a short fibre or a loose-spun yarn (such as roving), and is a way of excluding liability for damage: if it says “dry clean only” and you didn’t, they don’t have to give you your money back when it falls apart — but it’s a sign they expect it to fall apart anyway. Even then you can hand-wash them — you’ll just have to be careful, and maybe use your sweater comb to get out a few more pills.

    This is true of most things that say “dry clean only” — unless they’re heavily beaded, made of animal skin or certain waxed cloths, very old, or made of certain extremely fine silks (silks you will never find in mass market retail), you can almost certainly get away with hand washing.

    Source: knitter of 25 years, sheep and alpaca farmer, ex-product liability lawyer.

    1. Thank you for all of this wonderful advice! It does make sense that they would put “dry clean only” to limit liability. There have only been a couple of sweaters I didn’t trust to hand/gentle wash, haha.

  2. Great post! I try to take care of my sweater and I always wash everything on delicate or by hand and lay them flat to dry. Picking up a little fabric shaver was probably the best thing I ever did for when they pill

  3. Neely Moldovan

    The only time I’ve been to Paris is the winter and I could not believe how cold it was. I was very unprepared!

  4. Great advice! I get to wear my sweaters for a longer period of time here in Toronto, so I really see the importance of taking proper care of them. 🙂

  5. Elizabeth O

    I tend to dry clean my cashmere and wool sweaters or hand wash them in cold water. I roll my sweaters up like towels to keep them from wrinklng.

  6. Tami Qualls

    I sadly had to throw out two of my favorite sweaters this year. They had been loved (okay, mistreated) a little too much over the past few years. I need to take better care with the new sweaters I bring home.

  7. i just got my husband a sweater and followed the instructions (against my better judgement)…it said to put it in the washing machine. wish i hadn’t! it ruined 🙁 love your tips! i need to put mine in a drawer.

  8. Great Tips! My sweaters are always either shedding or balling up!

  9. I live in Texas where we have long summers. So I’m not as versed in sweater care. I had to learn the hard way that Dry clean only means Dry clean ONLY. Even if you lay them flat after washing

  10. Super cute sweaters. I hate pilling – it always seems to happen to my faves…probably because I wear them most often (duh!). These are amazing tips. Thank you for sharing!

  11. I am so big on reading the care guidelines for every piece of clothing I wear now. After shrinking sweaters and shredding pieces of clothes in the dryer, I make sure to take care of every piece of clothing carefully.

    Iesha aka Lesh

  12. such great tips! I’m so terrible at reading care instructions, I need to get better at it!

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