There’s nothing like a sweater. They’re cozy, have a great texture and look, and a good one will last years and years. But they do require more upkeep than your average sweatshirt, and it’s easy to wreck one in the laundry. There are a lot of sweaters out there that aren’t worth your money or your time.. Check care labels and ask yourself if you’re really going to take care of it. Hand washing isn’t that hard, or throwing it in the washer on delicate, cold and alone. No cuddling with sweatshirts or towels.
How to Wreck a Sweater
The washing machine can fuzz and pill a nice sweater in a single wash, much less shrink it to fit your seven-year-old sister. Always check the care tag, and even in the case of sweaters that say ‘machine wash warm’ be very careful what you wash them with, if you choose to wash them with anything else at all. Jeans or rough items can rub on them and felt the fibers, buttons and hooks can catch on them, or things can somehow get tangled up and you end up with one twisted strange spiral sleeve 4 feet long.
Having the right amount of water in the washer for your load also makes your clothes last longer. When you overload the washer your clothes rub on each other and the fibers get split, damaged, and stretched. That’s money down the toilet, honestly. Think about it, you spend hours shopping and finding the perfect awesome outfit. Why would you get it home and let your washer destroy it in half an hour because you didn’t pay attention to the turn of a knob? Less clothes in the wash is better. Yes, large loads use less electricity, but if you’re ruining your clothes you’re not saving money.
More so than any other item of clothing, sweaters need to be washed sparingly. In order to make them last you have to commit to keeping them clean and hung up or folded neatly. If you borrow a sweater, never toss it in the wash thinking you’re doing your friend a favor. You’re not. At all. They may never speak to you again.
The delicate cycle on your washer means that it agitates more slowly and gently, and spins less harshly than the heavy duty or regular cycles. Use cold water, and pour your (measured) small amount of laundry soap in first, not on the clothes.
Blocking and Drying
The best way to dry a sweater is flat, on a towel, properly shaped (or ‘blocked’). I usually roll it up in a light colored towel and squeeze it, and then lay it out on a nice absorbent towel that isn’t a dark color and has been washed often enough that the color won’t bleed on your clothes.. The weight of the water in the wet fibers of a sweater will stretch it. You have to be very careful not to stretch them when you lay them out. Make sure they are lying nice and square, not sort of triangular, stretching out the bottom. Keep checking on it, especially if you live in an area with high humidity. If it doesn’t get enough air it can get musty and sour.
After I’ve flat dried a sweater long enough that it’s almost dry I’ll then hang it, but in such a way that it doesn’t get misshapen. I fold them in half over a line or hanger, still being careful to hold their shape and not have the whole weight pulling from the shoulders or straps and stretching them out and leaving those funky nipples that hangers can leave on your shoulders. For the same reason I don’t hang sweaters or leather jackets on coat hooks. Nipples don’t go between your shoulder blades, just sayin’.
See? Work to maintain. Think 3 times whether it’s a good enough or classic enough sweater to spend time taking care of.
Are Sweaters Worth It?
So are sweaters even worth the work? Yes!! There are some that don’t require as much care, or seem to get better with age, like those old scruffy cotton cardigans. Natural fibers are wonderful. The real wool Icelandic or South American sweaters are really hard to beat for keeping you warm without making you sweaty, and all wool doesn’t have to itch. It has to do with the type of wool, and the length of the fiber. Good virgin wool is quite soft, though you can smell a bit sheepish when it rains you will stay very comfortable even when it’s drizzling, nasty, and damp.