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How to Make Your Sweaters Last Forever

Here’s a secret…you don’t always have to follow instructions. Case in point: sweaters that read “Dry Clean Only” on the tag don’t actually have to be taken to the cleaners every time they need a wash. Even with the very best, most trusted cleaner, mistakes can be made, not to mention that the price tag can add up, leading to double or triple the investment you’ve already made in high-quality pieces. Take things into your own hands (literally) by washing your knits with detergents and shampoos from The Laundress, specially formulated to be gentle and eco-friendly for sensitive fabrics like wool and cashmere.

For many of us, a big part of spring cleaning is the ritual of storing away our heavy knits. Because of the delicate nature of these textiles, it’s essential to make sure everything is properly cleaned before storage. That way, you’ll deter any pesky sweater-eating bugs from ruining your favorite sweaters. Whether you’re looking to make room in your closet for more spring-ready pieces, or you just need to refresh your well-worn sweaters, consider this your ultimate guide to cleaning and caring for wool and cashmere (thanks to our friends at the Laundress), in just four easy steps.

STEP 1: Prepare.

For heavier-knit sweaters, remove any pills with The Laundress’ Sweater Stone. This gentle pumice picks up any pills, leaving behind a finish that’s as good as new. Glide in one direction over the area you want to treat in short, gentle strokes and shake out to remove excess pumice and pills. For finer knits, try a sweater comb to preserve the delicate fibers.

STEP 2: Clean.

Separate your items by color and turn inside out. To hand wash, make a bath in a basin of cool or tepid water with two capfuls of Wool and Cashmere Shampoo and submerge your garments, using your hands mix the water and detergent. Soak for half an hour, or more—a longer soak for wool and cashmere won’t affect the garment. If items are silk, keep the piece soaked for just thirty minutes, as you may risk losing its shape. We prefer hand washing, but if you want to use a machine, make sure it’s set to a delicate cycle and run with cold water. Add Wool and Cashmere Shampoo. With your garments still inside out, place in a mesh laundry bag. Let the cycle run and remove immediately to prevent any disfiguration.
STEP 3: Dry.

Lay a towel down on an even surface and lie your garment on top in its original shape. Roll the towel up like a rolling pin to remove excess water, then unroll and lay the item flat on a drying rack or towel. You can hang your item if it won’t stretch or deform, but we recommend playing it safe and just letting it rest flat. Once your garment is dry, you can remove extra pills with the Sweater Stone as needed. 

STEP 4: Store.

Always launder wool and cashmere at the end of the season before you store away for next winter. Even if you only wore a sweater once, it’s essential to wash away any trace of what moths feed on, which, unfortunately, includes your body’s oils, products, and perfume. Once dry, fold your knits and place them in a breathable cotton bag with a zip closure. Contrary to popular belief, plastic bins will retain moisture, creating a damp atmosphere where bugs will gleefully thrive. For extra protection, throw a sachet into your cotton bags with ½ of a cup of dry lavender (a bug’s kryptonite) and store in a cool, dry place.

This cleaning technique is so easy to master, and even though we keep even our heaviest knits on hand all through the year (office air conditioning, anyone?), we love the ritual of hand-washing our sweaters come spring to mark one season’s end and another one beginning. Caring for our finest fabrics properly really makes us appreciate the care and construction that goes into every detail of design. Hand washing your items will ensure that they’ll look pristine for years to come, retaining their shape, color, and cozy feel, season after season.
Photos by David Kitz Styling by Kate Brien