Q And Answer: How Do I Wash My Sweaters?

October 4, 2010

Q and Answer: How Do I Wash My Sweaters?

Conor writes to ask: I’m a big fan of wool jumpers (or sweaters I guess?) and cardigans. A lot of those I own say hand wash only on the care label. Do you think I could get away with machine washing them on a cool wash? How else can the machine damage them other than with heat?

This is a tricky question, Conor.

Can you get away with washing wool knits in your washing machine?  Probably.  If you use a no-agitation or “kints” or “woolens” setting on your washer, a lingerie bag and a cold-water wash, you’re likely to be OK.  I won’t guarantee it, though.  It’s easy for sweaters to get stretched out of shape when wet, and agitation can make them pill.  My recommendation is to hand wash.

Hand washing a sweater is pretty simple.

  1. Fill your sink with cold water and a detergent designed for hand-washing.  You want something phosphate-free, which will be labeled as such.  In a pinch, you can also use baby shampoo.
  2. Put your sweater in the sink and gently work the sudsy water through.  Be careful not to stretch the sweater while you’re doing this.
  3. Marvel at the gross gunk that fills the water.
  4. Drain the sink.
  5. Refill with cold water, and do the same thing, this time getting the sudsy water out of your sweater.
  6. Place the sweater flat on a dry towel, and roll the whole thing up, pressing to get most of the water from the sweater into the towel.
  7. Lay the sweater out flat on a second dry towel in the shape you’d like it to take – this is called blocking.  If you’d like it to be a little longer in the sleeves or body, now’s the time to gently stretch it out just a bit.

That’s it.  It’s easy.  Remember that unless you spill something on yourself or spend a night in a smoky club, you really only need to do this once a year or so at most.

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