Hello, sweater weather! Sweaters are the best in autumn and winter because they are so warm and fuzzy. One problem: some delicate sweaters made of wool or cashmere have to be dry cleaned in case they shrink or are damaged in the wash. But what if you accidentally spilled delicious lemony fig jam, or some savory roasted tomato sauce? Dry cleaning can be so inconvenient, not to mention expensive at times. But I’m here to tell you that it’s actually perfectly fine to wash sweaters in the washing machine, if you follow these tips!
How to Wash Wool Sweaters at Home:
Always Check the Care Label
There is usually a white care label on the lower left side of a sweater (or any clothing apparel). This care label has guidelines on how to wash the item, including laundry symbols. Check the said label to see what your sweater is made of to get an idea on what the best washing machine settings would be. For example, any sweater that has cotton, polyester, or a mix of the two (may also include other materials) are fine to put in your regular wash. With 100% wool or cashmere, you want to be more careful. These materials require lighter loads, lower water temperature, and delicate cycles!
Use Cold or Lukewarm Water
Be sure to put your washing machine settings to cold and delicate. Some fancy machines may even have separate “wool” or “cashmere” settings; if available, go for that one. The “warm” option for water temperature is also fine, if it’s less than 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius). Otherwise, if you can manually set the water temperature, be sure to keep it around or lower than 86 degrees F.
Heat from dryers will cause soft and delicate material to shrink. Once out of the wash, hang your sweater on a clothesline or rack to air dry. If you have neither of these, you can even hang or drape your sweater pretty much anywhere in your home — I like to use a clothes hanger and a small hook that I have stuck on my dorm wall. Another great tip before hanging your sweater is to roll the sweater in a towel to squeeze out any excess water, unroll it, and give it a good shake or two. This will help your sweater maintain its softness and shape (nobody likes lumpy, scratchy sweaters!).
Soak in Soapy Water
Soak your sweater in soapy, lukewarm (or cold) water for about ten minutes before putting it in the wash. A pre-soak helps minimize the chances that your sweater will be damaged during the washing machine cycle. This also means that you also don’t need to use detergent that has chemicals that may damage the sweater material. If you absolutely must use detergent, here are some alternative natural and eco-friendly detergents you can get, and not just for delicate sweaters, but for regular use.
Flip the Sweater Inside Out
Constant rubbing of wool may agitate the material. Therefore, be sure to flip your sweater inside out; this is a good way to avoid potential damage done on the outer side. Follow these tips and you will find yourself rarely going to the dry cleaners in the winter. As a college student, I never go dry cleaning, and I have found that these tips are fool proof — all of my sweaters are in perfect condition, and ready for the colder seasons!