Your Ultimate Guide to Sweater Care

Keep the shrinking, snagging, and pilling at bay by taking proper care of your sweater.

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Sweaters are a wardrobe staple this time of year—and you definitely want your investment into cashmere or wool sweaters to last. But those plans can hit a snag if, well, your sweater gets a serious snag (or shrinks or gets misshapen).

Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to take good care of your sweaters, so they look great season after season. Try these tips to find high quality sweaters—and keep them looking their best.

Shop for Sweaters Wisely

That $250 cashmere sweater may seem steep, but often the more expensive sweaters feature a thicker, tighter weave that'll last longer than their cheaper counterparts. Before you buy, examine the weave of the sweater—tighter weave sweaters are more likely to last than ones that have a more open weave.

You might also want to consider a cashmere blend—you'll sacrifice a bit of softness, but make up for it with a sweater that might handle more wear and tear.

How to Wash a Cashmere Sweater or Wool Sweater

Unless your sweater's care instructions say to dry clean only, your wool or cashmere sweater can stand up to a (very gentle) tumble in the washing machine. Here's how to wash a wool sweater or cashmere sweater and still protect it from damage.

Prep your sweater for washing

Turn your sweater inside out so wear and tear happens on the inside of the garment—not the part you see when you're wearing it. Snap, button, or zip any fasteners to minimize the chances of snags.

Wash your sweater gently

Hand washing your sweater is probably the safest bet—just fill a sink with lukewarm water with a mild detergent or baby shampoo, swish it through a few times, then let it soak for 10 minutes. Rinse gently but thoroughly.

If you want to use your machine, use the gentlest setting, skip the spin cycle, and use a detergent that rinses clean and does not contain any dyes. Only wash like with like—don't run your sweater through with denim or other rough fabrics, unless you love pilling.

Be careful when you dry your sweater

Wringing out your cashmere or wool sweater can stretch and misshape the fibers. Instead, lay it flat on a clean, dry towel, and roll up the towel in a jelly roll-like spiral to squeeze out the excess water.

Then unroll it, and lie your sweater flat on a fresh towel to dry.

How to Fix a Pilled Sweater

Whenever your sweater's rubbing against something else, like your bag at your hip or against itself under your arms, it can develop tiny pills. Fortunately it's easy to remove the pills and get your sweater back into tip-top shape.

Don't pull sweater pills

It can be really tempting to want to pull pills off, but you risk damaging the sweater.

Use the right sweater tools

Clothing shavers are specially designed tools that can help remove pills and get your sweater back into tip-top shape.

For larger pills that are far off the fabric, you can use a small pair of scissors to carefully trim off pills.

Protect your sweater when you wash

Preventing pills is even easier than fixing them. To minimize the chances of pilling going forward, put your sweater in a lingerie bag to help protect it when you wash, and use fabric softeners to help condition the fibers and reduce the chance of pilling.

How to Fix Sweater Shrinkage

It happens—somehow, someone sneaks your favorite wool sweater into the dryer. But that doesn't mean you need to give it away to a small child. Here's how to refashion your sweater after a run through the dryer.

Soak it again

Put the sweater in a water-filled sink, along with a capful of conditioner. Let it sit for 10 minutes to help soften up the fibers.

Reshape the sweater and let it dry

Gently reshape the sweater to the dimensions you need, then lay it out on a towel to dry.

How to Fix Sweater Snags

All it takes is a quick run-in with a nail or sharp edge to do some serious damage to your sweater. Fortunately, many sweater snags can be repaired to keep your sweater looking new.

Use a needle or crochet hook

The needle or crochet hook can gently push or pull the snag back through to the inside of the sweater.

Keep it from unraveling

Knot the snag so that it can't come back through or get worse. You can also apply a dab of clear nail polish to the knot to help keep it from getting worse.

How to Store Sweaters

When it's finally time to put your sweaters away for the season, make sure they're clean—crumbs or stains might attract pests or become harder to remove after months in storage. Use lavender or cedar to naturally keep pests at bay, and store your items in an airtight bag or container in a dry, temperature controlled area of your house (skip hot attics or humid basements).

Products to Add to Your Sweater Care Kit

Repair Kit

Product photo of the SINGER Wardrobe Repair Essentials Knit Fix, red
Courtesy of Amazon

This clever kit enables you to care for snags or pilling on the go, with a sweater comb for taking care of napping or pilling, and a repair tool to help you pull snags through to the other side of the garment.

Fabric Shaver

Product photo of the BEAUTURAL Fabric Shaver and Lint Remover
Courtesy of Amazon

To keep your sweaters in tip-top shape, use this battery-powered shaver to trim away fuzz and pilling.

Dry + Dry Bags

Product photo of the Dry & Dry Premium Hanging Moisture Absorber
Courtesy of Amazon

When you're storing your sweaters, moisture is the enemy. These dry bags help absorb any moisture to ensure your favorite sweaters come out of storage smelling fresh.

Crease Release Spray

Product photo of The Laundress - Crease Release, Classic Scented, Wrinkle Release Spray
Courtesy of Amazon

Easily spray away crinkles and wrinkles with crease release spray. (It also gives your sweaters a fresh-from-the-laundry smell with lily of the valley and sandalwood.)

Wool and Cashmere refresh spray

Product photo of The Laundress New York, Wool Cashmere Spray Scented AllergenFree Fabric Refresher
Courtesy of Amazon

Help your sweaters stay fresh between launderings with this cedar-scented spray that works for dry-clean sweaters too.

Sweater storage bag

Photo of a Household Essentials Sweater Storage Bag
Courtesy of Amazon

This canvas and plastic bag helps protect your out-of-season sweaters from dust and pests—and the clear plastic top makes it easy to see and find the sweater you're seeking.

Soak Wash

Product photo of Soak Wash full size 375ml/12oz -Scentless
Courtesy of Amazon

Don't like strong fragrances? Clean your sweaters with this eco-friendly cleanser, which is scentless and doesn't even need to be rinsed from your clothes.

Wool and Cashmere Shampoo

Product photo of The Laundress New York - Wool & Cashmere Shampoo
Courtesy of Amazon

Give your sweaters a good handwash with this cedar-scented shampoo. (It's perfect for a pre-storage wash, to help keep moths at bay.)

Bamboo Charcoal Air Purifying Bags

Product photo of CLEVAST Bamboo Charcoal Air Purifying Bags
Courtesy of Amazon

These charcoal air purifying bags help keep moisture and odors at bay—just refresh them once a month by placing them in sunlight. When they're off sweater duty for the winter, you can use them to keep gym bags and other smelly areas fresher.

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