When the weather is cold, you know exactly what you want to reach for when getting dressed in the morning—not your silky camisole, not your trendy blazer, and not your fancy work top. No, when the weather is freezing, you want to reach for a trusted, comfy, so-cozy-you-never-want-to-take-it-off sweater. From early fall to the end of winter, a sweater is undoubtedly your best friend. And like any other best friend, sweaters require love and care. While they’re extremely delicate, they can last through many wears and many seasons if you treat them the right way. Here’s how to properly take care of your sweaters so they can last as long as you want them to:
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Remove pills the right way.
Is there anything as annoying as pilling on a favorite sweater!? A perfectly fine and pretty wool cardigan can start to look like an ungroomed dog after a while. Unfortunately, all sweaters pill — it’s caused by rubbing during wear and is more apparent around the elbows, under armpits, and on sleeves, but can occur anywhere on the sweater.
To remove pills easily, hold the sweater flat with one hand and slice the the pills off (one at a time) with a razor. You can also buy a pill remover. Do not pull at them, or else the pilling will become worse.
Turn any 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 with any little possibility that the snag gets caught on something. Snags are not completely fixable, but luckily, they can be placed on the inside, so they’re no longer an issue on 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.
Remove dandruff, hair, and lint, regularly.
A child’s soft hairbrush or a soft toothbrush will help you quickly brush off anything on the sweater (looking at you, dog hair!). Just make sure not to brush too harshly on the sweater or it will loosen the fabric and create pills.
Know how to wash, and when.
Washing a sweater is never easy or fun (though is any laundry “fun?”). Most of the time, you should always hand wash your sweaters to make them last longer and keep the fabric in tact.
To hand wash, fill a bucket or sink with cool water, add a few squirts of gentle laundry detergent, submerge the sweater, and 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) and roll it up in a towel (like a sleeping bag or sushi roll) to suck up all the excess water. Finally, lay it flat on a drying rack or clean towel to dry.
Cotton, silk, or cashmere typically needs to be washed after two to three wears, while wool or polyester can withstand more like five wears. But make sure to follow the directions on the label, and don’t wash any 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.
To extend washes, wear a t-shirt underneath.
Since washing is not ideal for sweaters, there are ways to extend the amount of time you need to wash them. Wearing a t-shirt acts as a barrier between the sweater and skin, limiting the amount of outside forces and smells the fabric interacts with. Since things like sweat, body odor, oils on the skin, and deodorant can cause the sweater to lose its shape, the sweater stays in tact longer when you wear a t-shirt that acts as a barrier.
You can save an itchy sweater.
Is there anything worse than a sweater so itchy, it loses all its coziness!? In order to bring itchy back to soft and cozy, add liquid fabric softener to the cold water when you’re washing your sweater. Allow the sweater to thoroughly swirl around the water and let it sit. 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 and heavy hair masks. Also stick to hydrating or standard conditioner, rather than other formulas meant for volumizing or thickening.
Always store sweaters properly in your closet.
Repeat after me: Never. Hang. Sweaters. Hanging will cause sweaters to stretch out and cause peaks in the shoulders. Keep sweaters folded or rolled in drawers or on shelves. Properly fold them by laying them front-down on a flat surface and fold each arm (from the sleeve seam diagonally across the sweater’s back). Then, either fold it horizontally in half, or roll 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 crease.
Take the time to correctly pack up your sweaters after winter.
Yes, all good things must come to an end, so it’s important to know how to properly pack up your sweaters when you’re storing them for spring and summer. 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!). 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.