Dry-cleaning your sweaters may be convenient, but the chemicals can strip the natural oils from the yarn, making it lose loft and luster over time. Lindsey Wieber Boyd and Gwen Whiting of The Laundress, an eco-friendly detergent company that also offers a sweater-cleaning service, share their tips on how to keep them clean and pristine.
Embrace modern technology. If you have a newer-model washing machine with a “wool” or “hand-wash” cycle, it’s perfectly fine to toss in any cotton sweaters or wool or cashmere knits that don’t have embroidery or sequins. The agitators in the best modern machines are almost as gentle as swishing clothes around with your hand. Pre-treat the collar and underarms with an enzyme-based stain solution, then be sure to use a sulfate-free cleanser in the machine. The Laundress sells a wool and cashmere shampoo, but baby shampoo is also gentle enough.
RELATED: Fresh Ways to Wear a Denim Jacket This Fall
Take it to hand. If your machine doesn’t have the right cycle, wash by hand. Fill a clean sink or bucket with cool water, add a couple of squirts of gentle cleanser, mix, and then add your sweaters. You can wash as many as will fit in the bucket, as long as they are similar colors; pretreat as mentioned above. After 30 minutes, rinse under the tap until the water runs clear, then press—never wring—out the excess. The best way to do this is to lay the sweater flat on a clean towel and roll to squeeze out dampness.
RELATED: The Case for Splurging on Luxury Basics
Dry right. Sweaters should be laid flat to dry, not draped over a towel bar (which can leave them misshapen). Consider a collapsible sweater rack with flat mesh shelves, which lets you dry several sweaters at a time. You don’t have to painstakingly “block” the sweater; just arrange it in the shape it would be on your body. When completely dry, store sweaters neatly folded—never on hangers, which can stretch out the sleeves.
Maintain appearances. If your sweater pills, gently skim the surface with a sweater stone (a pumice-like rock) in one direction. We don’t recommend those little electric shavers because it’s too easy to either snag or puncture the fabric. There’s a perception that only fancy sweater services can fix holes, but we’ve found that the tailor at the local dry cleaner can usually do the repair, preferably using the extra thread that originally came with the sweater.
How to Wear an Oversized Sweater: