As soon as the temperatures outside start to dip, the first thing I want to do is throw on my warmest, comfiest sweater. Cozy knits are an effortless uniform that can get you from early fall through the end of winter, but to ensure they last that long, sweaters require love and care. While knit fabrics can be extremely delicate, a good sweater can last through many wears and many seasons if you treat it the right way. Ahead, we’re sharing eight sweater care tips to help you properly take care of all your knits so they last as long as possible.
1. Remove pills the right way.
Is there anything as annoying as pilling on a favorite sweater? A perfectly pretty wool cardigan can start to look like an ungroomed dog after a while if you’re not careful. Unfortunately, most sweaters will eventually pill. It’s caused by rubbing during wear and is more apparent around the elbows, under the armpits, and on the sleeves, but it can occur anywhere on the sweater. To remove pills easily, hold the sweater flat with one hand and slice the pills off (one at a time) with a razor or a battery-operated pill remover. Warning: Don’t pull on them—it will only cause the pills to get worse.
2. Turn noticeable snags inside out.
Snags (AKA when the stitch comes out of the sweater) are the worst because they seem unfixable, and you risk the sweater unraveling if the snag gets caught on something. You can’t completely undo a snag, but luckily, this sweater care hack will ensure it’s no longer visible from the outside. Simply turn the sweater inside out, insert a crochet hook into the same stitch as the snag, and carefully pull the snag through (a safety pin will also work in a pinch). You’ll no longer be able to see the snag, and you won’t run the risk of it getting caught on something.
3. Regularly remove hair and lint.
The soft fabric of sweaters can sometimes act as a magnet, attracting dust, lint, dandruff, or strands of hair. For an easy fix, use a soft-bristled toothbrush or lint brush to quickly brush off anything on the sweater—looking at you, dog hair! However, make sure not to brush too harshly or you might loosen the fabric and create pills. You can brush your sweaters before every wear, or give all your sweaters a monthly once-over to prevent lint, dandruff, dust, or hair pile-up.
4. Know how to wash (and when).
PSA: Washing your sweaters doesn’t have to be a pain. Most sweaters should be hand-washed so they last longer and the fabric remains in good shape. To do this, fill a bucket or sink with cool water, add a few squirts of gentle laundry detergent, and submerge the sweater. Let it soak for about 30 minutes, then rinse it under cool water. To dry, gently squeeze water out of the sweater (never wring it out) before laying it out on a clean towel. Then roll the towel up (like you would a sleeping bag) to suck up all the excess water. Finally, lay it flat on a drying rack or clean towel to dry.
As a rule of thumb, plan to wash cotton and cashmere after 2-3 wears, while wool or polyester can withstand about five wears. But make sure to follow the directions on the label, and don’t wash more often unless the sweater has a stain (like sweat or a spill). And if it says dry clean only (as it does with most wool), then you know the drill: dry clean only.
5. To extend washes, wear a T-shirt underneath.
Even gentle hand-washing can wear down the quality, fabric, or softness of any sweater over time, so if you wear your sweaters frequently, consider wearing a T-shirt underneath to extend the time in between washes. The shirt will act as a barrier between the sweater and the skin, protecting the fabric from sweat, body odor, oils on the skin, and deodorant. Since all these things can cause wear and tear (or create the need for more frequent washings), the sweater stays intact longer. Now all you have to worry about is spilling your latte.
6. You can save an itchy sweater.
If your sweater has gone from soft and cozy to unbearably itchy, this sweater care hack can help. When you go to hand-wash the sweater, add some liquid fabric softener to the cold water and swirl it around before you let the sweater soak. You can also try adding half a cup of hair conditioner instead of fabric softener for extra softness. Just make sure you avoid 2-in-1 conditioner/shampoo combinations or heavy hair masks. Instead, stick to hydrating or standard conditioner (not other formulas meant for volumizing or thickening). After 1-3 treatments, your sweater should be back to its soft and cozy self.
7. Store sweaters properly.
Repeat after me: Never hang sweaters. Hanging will cause sweaters to stretch out and create peaks in the shoulders. Instead, fold or roll sweaters and store them in drawers or on shelves to maintain their shape and quality. To properly fold a sweater, lay it front-down on a flat surface and fold in each sleeve diagonally across the sweater’s back. Then, either fold it horizontally in half or roll it from the bottom hem up to the collar. If you must hang them, fold the sweater over the hanger, on top of a piece of tissue paper to prevent creases.
8. Pack up sweaters after winter.
All good things must come to an end, and when sweater season is over, your sweaters deserve to be stored the right way to help hold their shape and prevent damage through the spring and summer months. Don’t just throw them in bins as is and hope for the best. Take the time to properly clean them, fold them, and put them in clothing storage bags (that are breathable) or boxes (as long as they’re made out of cotton or canvas). Add in a small satchel filled with lavender to prevent bugs (and keep them smelling fresh!). Another hot tip: Do not put sweaters in vacuum-sealed storage bags. It might seem like it’s saving space, but locking in moisture can cause yellowing or mildew, which is the last thing you want when you pull your beloved sweaters back out next fall.