Laundering is the #1 cause of wear and tear on knit wear. Because we often wear clothing items under our sweaters, and also because we don’t tend to sweat a lot in our cold weather clothing, there is often less of a need to wash sweaters like we might with other clothing items. Good News….because washing machines are to sweaters what drugs are to human beings. They cause knits to stretch, shrink, fray, become misshapen, pilled and faded. While hand washing knits is always a better idea, it’s often not realistic. I wash my sweaters as infrequently as possible, on the most gentle setting available, in warm (not HOT, not COLD) water, with as little soap as possible. I do not use fabric softener (although apparently you CAN use it to fix a shrunken sweater!), bleach or other laundry additives whatsoever.
Sweaters prefer to be folded. Hanging them causes them to become misshapen under their own weight. And DEFINITELY don’t hang them to dry!! While I fold all of my laundered sweaters and put them on shelves or in drawers, i don’t have the space to dry them without hanging them. I have this little hybrid trick I use: Fold them, then hang them folded in half to dry. Leave them for 1 day folded one way, then fold them the opposite way and re-hang them folded in half for another day. Make sure they are completely dry before putting them away to make sure they don’t get ‘musty”. It works perfect, takes up a lot less space than laying them flat to dry, and you don’t have to be an engineer to learn my trick.
If you insist on doing something other than my way (hehehe), you could follow this tutorial from the Today Show on how to properly hang your sweaters. I personally think that if you need a video tutorial on how to hang your sweater, “their way” is too complicated. But hey, you-do-you-boo.
Or…. try this puzzle from The Happier Homemaker….which frankly, ended in my sweater enjoying nice a flight with it’s friend “hanger” from the north side of my room to the south side of my room. You are probably smarter than me, though….let me know how it goes for you.
Your dryer will ruin your sweaters’ life the first time you use it. Sooooooo what is the best way to dry a sweater? You could hang them to dry like I do (see above) OR, you could just lay them flat if you have tons of room….or I don’t know….just don’t put them in the dryer…okay?
Illustration by Sam Woolley
Besides being super ugly and bad for your sweater reputation, its actually bad for your sweater’s health as well. It starts with pilling, but it quickly progresses to snags. No beuno.
Pills are caused either by friction, or by fabric content (or both). Wool in particular is a bad fabric for pilling. According to cottonworks.com “If you were to look at wool under a microscope you’d notice that there are actually scales on the fiber. Those scales can cause the fiber to lock together, which creates pills.”. So, of course I had to go down the rabbit hole of looking at wool under a microscope. Yep. looks like scales.
This lead me to look at stitches in fabric under a microscope, which then lead to stitch
es in human skin under a microscope, which started a 35 minute diversion from writing this blog that ended with this: A Banana under a microscope. You. Are. Welcome.
Some ideas on how to slow pilling down:
Wash your sweaters inside out to eliminate (or reduce) the friction caused by your sweater bumping on other items or the washer itself.
Wash on a gentle cycle
Wash item separately
Do not put item in the dryer
If all else fails, Invest in a sweater shaver, and begin the most satisfying journey of your life: De-pilling (un-pilling? Anti-pilling?) your sweaters. Pick one up at London Drugs Cottonwood, or at London Drugs online.
Warning: sometimes sweater shavers get angry. Out of the blue, and without warning, they may decide to eat your sweater. Normally when they do this, it’s after you have spent 2 hours shaving your sweater, and you have like 1 square inch left to do…then BAM! If this happens, sorry. It was fun while it lasted, your sweater is now officially garbage. Look at the bright side…this might be the universe telling you that your sweater isn’t worth saving.