Keeping Sweaters Looking Like New

A girl relaxing by the sea on a winter day wearing a warm sweater

During the cold season, a favorite sweater can be your best friend.  A new sweater lays smoothly, hugs your body in the right places, and has no stray fibers.  It is free of loose threads and stains, and it even smells nice.  But sweaters are often high-maintenance, and old sweaters look depressing, fit poorly, and may show wear.  Dry-cleaning is, of course, the best way to clean sweaters and maintain their beauty.  But dry-cleaning costs can be prohibitive.  So how can you keep your sweaters looking like new?  Follow these steps to provide some of the most expensive elements in your wardrobe with the special care they need at a low cost to you.

  • Wear a cotton shirt under your sweater.  This prevents body oils and sweat from penetrating the fibers of the sweater, meaning you can get more than one wear out of it.  More wear and less wash is always a good thing for sweaters.  Washing is especially hard on these garments because the woven fibers stretch and shrink drastically during the wash/dry process.
  • Never put sweaters in the washing machine.  Always hand wash them by filling a sink with cold water, adding a small amount of detergent specially formulated for “delicates,” and gently soaking the sweater. 
  • If you have deodorant stains on the inside of your sweater, turn it inside out and carefully scrub the sweater against itself in the water until the deodorant dissolves.
  • For sweaters made of synthetic fabrics, sometimes it is okay to drape the sweater over the bottom rung of a plastic hanger (though don’t hang it by the shoulders—this will stretch it out!) and let it drip-dry over the sink or tub—or outside, if weather permits. 
  • For other sweaters, make sure that you can find a place to lay the sweater flat, preferably on a towel over a ventilated surface.  Barring this lay your sweater on a towel on a water-proof floor (like linoleum or tile), and change the towel frequently, flipping the sweater so that it does not lay too long it its own moisture and dries evenly.  Ideally, you can find an area that has enough air flow to speed up the drying process, like under a heating duct.  If the sweater is almost dry, you can drape it over the towel bar in your bathroom so that mold does not begin to grow, producing an unpleasant, musty smell.
  • Never hang sweaters; always fold them up and put them in a drawer.  Use scented sachets to make them smell good.
  • Be mindful of your sweater while wearing.  Don’t pull on the sleeves—this will stretch them, and the rest of the sweater, out of shape.  Push up the sleeves when using a mouse; the constant motion of the sweater sliding against the surface of your desk can dirty the sleeve and wear out the fibers.  Try to avoid your purse strap rubbing against the shoulder of your sweater, as the motion will pull and pick the weave.  Don’t allow Velcro, such as on a bag or coat, to come in contact with your sweater—this has an instant, disastrous effect!

Keeping your sweaters looking like they did the day you bought them isn’t difficult.  It may take a little more work than you’re used to, but these cost- and fashion-saving practices will make it well worth it as you move from season to season.

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(Related Categories: Make Clothing Last)