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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Marvel at the gross gunk that fills the water.
- Drain the sink.
- Refill with cold water, and do the same thing, this time getting the sudsy water out of your sweater.
- 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.
- 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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