How To Wash Sweaters, Cardigans, And Winter Essentials

You’ve found the perfect fall sweater or cardigan and can’t wait to wear it as the evenings turn crisp. But first, how do you wash it? Washing a sweater wrong can take a perfectly fitted cardigan and warp, stretch, or even shrink it to the point your puppy could wear it. And while that would be adorable, let’s save the good knits for ourselves.

How Often Should I Wash Winter Essentials?

Washing your sweaters, cardigans, and other winter essentials depends on a few factors: 

Type of Clothing: Outer layers like wool coats and fleece jackets truly only need washed 1 to 2 times per season. While thin sweaters, hats, scarves, and gloves should be washed more regularly, every 2-3 times worn. 

How Often It’s Worn: If you wear something only occasionally, like your heavy wool coat it will need to be washed less often than your go-to cardigan that hangs on your office chair every day. 

How It’s Worn: If your winter gloves are saved for date night they may only need to be washed a few times this winter. On the other hand, the mittens that you wear to walk your dog daily will need to be tossed in the wash much more often. 

How Closely It’s Worn: Any clothing item that is worn directly against your skin will need to be washed more often than outer layers. If you have a favorite sweater you love to wear (but not wash) add a thin fitted t-shirt or tank top underneath. 

As the weather warms up and you start thinking about putting your winter essentials away, remember not to store any clothing that is wet or dirty. Give each piece an end-of-the-season clean and allow everything to dry fully.  

How Often Do You Wash Cardigans?

Since a cardigan is worn over another top, you can likely wear it several times before washing it. Taking your lifestyle into consideration, a cardigan should be washed after the second or third wear.

How Should Cardigans Be Washed?

To wash your cardigans, start by checking the care label for any specific instructions. Separate them by color and fabric. Ideally, hand-wash them in lukewarm water with mild detergent, handling them gently and avoiding wringing. 

If using a machine, choose a cold and gentle cycle and consider using a mesh laundry bag to prevent snags. To dry, lay cardigans flat on a drying rack away from direct sunlight. Avoid hanging to prevent stretching. Once clean, fold and store them in a cool, dry place.

Washing and Caring for Sweaters and Cardigans

To keep your sweaters and cardis cozy, check the garment label to see what fabric it’s made of. Fall clothes for women come in many material options but the most common include: 

Cotton: Sort cotton pieces by color to prevent color cross-dying (you don’t want your new cream cardi turning splotchy pink!). Either hand or machine wash and then lay it flat to dry.

Wool: Don’t believe your washer’s ‘wool’ cycle. Wool is best hand-washed. Wash all wool pieces inside out and use a specifically wool-safe detergent. To dry, lay the wool piece on a cotton towel and roll it, gently squeezing out excess water. Never twist or pull on wool. Reshape the piece and lay flat to dry. 

Acrylic: Unlike some fabrics that demand special treatment, acrylic pieces are pretty simple. Washing them with similar clothing in cold or warm water (unless the label says otherwise) is totally fine. More delicate items can go in garment bags to prevent snags. 

To dry, just toss them in the dryer on low heat or lay flat to dry. Do not hang dry sweaters - even the hardy acrylic ones will stretch. 

Polyester: Polyester can be tossed in your washer on cold water settings and dried on the delicate setting of your dryer unless the clothing label says otherwise. Polyester is a synthetic fabric and should never be washed or dried on high heat.

Rayon: Most rayon and viscose tops can be hand-washed or machine-washed. If hand-washing, use room temperature or cold water and a mild detergent. Gently swirl the piece in sudsy water, then rinse with cold water. For machine washing, use a gentle cycle with cold water. 

To prevent wrinkles, place the top in a laundry bag before washing. After washing, gently squeeze (but don’t twist or wring) out any water, and lay it flat on a towel or drying rack to reshape it. You can also use a delicate, low-heat setting in the dryer.

Fleece: Most fleece pieces can be machine-washed with similar fabrics. Just turn it inside out to protect the texture and color. Use cold water and a gentle cycle. Skip using bleach or fabric softener. It's best to air dry by laying the shirt flat. You can use a low heat setting in the dryer, but overheating can cause shrinkage.

Washing Hats, Gloves, Mittens and Scarves

Winter accessories are often made from the staple fabrics of your winter wardrobe: cotton, wool, and cashmere. Remember that suede and leather are best left to the professionals. 

Always check the label first, then follow the same care guidelines above for the fabric of your accessories. If you plan to machine wash, toss each item in its own garment bag to prevent snags and tangling. Avoid the dryer. Always air dry gloves, hats, scarves, and other accessories lying flat on a drying rack. 

Caring for your Winter Wear

Embrace the coziness of winter essentials while keeping them in like-new condition throughout the season. Knowing how and when to wash your favorite sweaters, cardigans, and cold-weather companions is key. With the proper care, your winter favorites will thank you with cozy comfort in the seasons to come.

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