How to Care for Sweaters

Sweaters need special care and usually they have cost you a bit, so it's worth taking the effort to keep them as long as possible. Most fibers, whether natural or man-made, need special attention when in the shape of a sweater, to guarantee that your sweater keeps on looking super for several seasons to come.


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    Fold your sweaters. Don't ever hang them because hanging sweaters will result in a larger sweater than the last time you put it on, or a misshapen profile.
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    Remove pills from your sweaters regularly to keep them looking presentable. Pilling is caused by rubbing during wear and is more apparent around the elbows, under the armpits and on sleeves but can occur anywhere on the sweater. Purchase a hand-held depiller or a small electric shaver made for depilling. Or pick them off by hand in front of the TV.
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    Remove dandruff, hair & lint regularly. Purchase a baby's or child's soft hairbrush from a supermarket or drugstore. The softness of this brush will enable you to quickly brush off these sorts of unattractive sweater companions.
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    Repair the sweater quickly. If a button falls off or a small hole appears, repair the sweater the moment that you discover it. If not, the hole may get bigger or you might just shove the sweater to the back of the wardrobe, dismissing it as unwearable for its minor fault.
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    Give your favorite sweater a break. Wearing it everyday even though you love it will cause it to lose shape or build up hard-to-remove perspiration stains. Alternate it with other sweaters or jackets.
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    Wash most sweaters by hand. Unless the instructions tell you to machine wash a sweater, never do so. Woolen sweaters should always be washed by hand in a gentle soap solution. You can either run lukewarm water and turn a favorite scented soap around and around in your hand under the water to make the water soapy, or you can add soap flakes. If possible, turn sweater inside out to wash and try not to wring a sweater; let it drip dry or roll excess water off in a towel. Wringing can cause it to lose its shape. Be extra careful of sweaters with attachments such as beads, embroidery work etc.; use cool water to prevent the colors from embroidered labels running.
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    Treat cashmere & other delicates very carefully. Cashmere is lovely but its appealing softness makes it prone to pilling and touchy to care for. Other delicate fibers include mohair, angora and lambswool. Wash is in a very gentle solution such as Woolite or Lux Flakes etc. Do not wring - instead roll in a large, moisture-loving towel to remove excess moisture and then leave out flat to dry on a towel. If you have access to a flat sweater drying device, use it.
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    Store sweaters carefully during summer months. Do not use moth balls - they smell very bad and are very unhealthy for human beings. Use cedar balls, cedar sawdust in little calico bags, mixed herbal sachets or dry bay leaves between clothing layers or ask at your health food store for a safe alternative to moth balls. Keep wardrobe clean - dust out and vacuum at the end of each season.
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    Wash any sweater you put away for storage. This is very important to avoid providing a free meal for moths. They will accept the invitation!
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    Store sweaters dry. Whether you are storing your sweaters for a season or for a few days, never put the sweater away damp. This will encourage the growth of mildew or mold and this cannot be removed. It may also spread to surrounding clothing and will smell bad.


  • Be careful when using storage boxes such as cardboard boxes. On the one hand, these are preferable to plastic because they let the natural fibers breathe. On the other hand, they attract nibblers such as moths and mice seeking food and nest material. If you wish to use them, check them regularly during storage. Or try a cedar-lined chest or suitcases.
  • Clothes moths are dark (the lighter ones prefer your pantry). Check for them regularly. If you spot them, air all clothing outside, vacuum the base of the wardrobe, scrub down the walls and check for clothing with holes. Remove clothing with holes and wash these. Repair if possible. If not, donate them for use as rags.
  • There are specialists who will wash your sweaters (including cashmere) by hand for you and there are also specialists who will reweave sweaters. Check in the phone book or on the internet for ones in your local area.
  • It is always a good idea to let your deodorant dry or set before putting on your sweater, to help avoid deodorant stains.
  • Since many good sweaters are made from natural fibers, it is a handy idea to wear a scarf around your neck to provide a buffer between your face makeup and neck grime and the collar of the sweater. It also looks terrific and keeps your neck extra warm during winter. As a bonus, if you are highly sensitive to wool or some other fiber that the sweater is made from, the scarf can serve as a buffer between your skin and the sweater. This is especially useful for turtleneck or high collar styles.
  • If you have a very gentle spin cycle in your washing machine, you could use it for less delicate sweaters to remove excess water after rinsing. Take care though! Don't do this with cashmere or fragile sweaters (angora, lambswool, mohair etc.). And always place the sweater into a laundry garment bag (like the ones used for lingerie) or a pillowcase to avoid any parts of the sweater getting caught up in the machine cogs.


  • Take care with using plastic for storage. If it causes the sweater to sweat (no pun intended) and the fibers may break down. If the plastic is in contact with sunlight, the chemicals in the plastic may react with the fibers of the sweater and either stain it or change the color. Be especially careful with white - depending on the fabric, you may be better off wrapping white sweaters in light blue tissue paper first to ward off discoloration. Of course, avoid getting tissue paper wet, or you'll have blue stains!
  • Avoid using vacuum plastic bags - the tightness of these bags causes the sweater to go out of shape and presses too hard on the fibers, which may start to break down.
  • Iron sweaters with care. If you have not wrung your sweater and you've dried it flat, it should be wrinkle-free and in good shape and not in need of an iron. If it truly needs an iron, use a dampened, thick fluffy towel over the top of it and a low-setting on the iron. Only iron those parts that really need it and you can gently knead wool after ironing to help it move back into shape. Do not iron if the label says no ironing.
  • Spray on your perfume before putting on your sweater - perfume is strong and can weaken the fibers of your sweater. Make sure it is fully dry before putting on your sweater.
  • Avoid wearing jewelry with pieces that catch and fragile sweaters. The jewelry may pull threads and render the sweater unsightly. Always remove jewelry before removing a sweater and only put it on after putting on the sweater.
  • Don't tumble dry sweaters. For the same reason you shouldn't hang them - the heat and tumbling motion will cause the sweaters to become misshapen.
  • Take care of shoe odors affecting your sweaters. The more natural the fiber, the greater the tendency for it to pick up odors. If you store shoes and sweaters in the same wardrobe, ensure that your shoes are clean and relatively odor-free. Or mask the odor with herbal or other scented sachets.

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Categories: Laundry