How to Keep Your Sweater Looking Like New

Sweater season is upon us—and while that means all sorts of good things (fall festivities and cozy weekend wear among them), it also means a slight shift in the way we take care of our clothes. Read on for our favorite tips on how to handle your favorite knits.

While You’re Shopping…

model-wearing-turtleneck-sweater
Photo by Robert Maxwell

Think you’ve scored a great deal? Before you ring up that new sweater, check the weave (especially on wool and cashmere items). It should feel close and tight—the looser the weave, the more the fabric will be prone to pilling.

Before You Wash…

First things first: Check the care label! It will tell you whether it’s safe to toss your sweater in the washing machine, or if it requires special care, like hand-washing or dry cleaning. If your sweater can go in the washer, follow these easy tips:

  • Skip the spin cycle: The rough motion can stretch knits and ruin their shape.
  • Just like jeans, knits and sweaters do best when you put them in the washer inside out. Also button any buttons and zip any zippers to help clothes maintain their shape and avoid any snags.

While You’re Washing…

Always use the gentle cycle on knits, and use the “like with like” rule. Rougher fabrics like denim can create pilling on delicate knits.

Include a fabric conditioner, like Downy, with knit loads to keep the fabrics soft. Conditioners also help keep the fibers in knitwear lubricated during washing, so they don’t become fuzzy.

For extra protection, toss knits in a mesh lingerie bag to minimize their surface contact with other clothing.



While You’re Drying…

Even if the care label says your garment is dryer-safe, it’s best to skip this step when it comes to sweaters. Instead, simply lay them out flat on a towel to air-dry—this will help avoid shrinkage and pilling.

Never hang knitwear to dry—this can stretch the weave (especially when the fibers are heavy with water) and destroy your garment's shape.

How to Rehab…

If your sweater has already hit the pilled stage, don’t worry, there’s hope. Battery-operated defuzzers, like this one from Conair, make short, easy work of safely removing the pilled layer from knitwear, without damaging the garment itself.