How to Get Your Old Sweaters in the Best Shape of Their Lives

updated May 3, 2019
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It’s that wonderful time of year affectionately dubbed “sweater weather.” But those sweaters that have been sitting in storage for two to three seasons could probably use some freshening up. Here’s how to care for your sweaters so they can keep you warm and looking your best year after year.

How to Wash Sweaters by Hand

To make sure that your sweaters are handled with the delicacy they deserve, you can’t go wrong with hand washing.

  • Fill a small plastic tub with cool water and add a small amount of mild detergent. Dish washing liquid works also.
  • Add 3/4 cup of white vinegar.
  • Turn your sweater inside out and put it in the tub.
  • Swish the sweater around a bit.
  • Soak for 10-15 minutes.
  • Rinse by removing the sweater and replacing the water in the tub with clean water. Swish gently in the clean water and repeat a few times.
  • Do not wring your sweater.

How to Wash Sweaters in the Washer

You can achieve the same kind of gentle wash in the washer by keeping the following tips in mind:

  • Place the sweater in a small mesh laundry bag (like this one).
  • Only put delicates or other sweaters in at the same time.
  • Choose the delicates or hand wash cycle.
  • Make sure the water is cool.
  • Choose gentle detergent.
  • Make sure the cycle is short and slow and the spin speed is low.

How to Dry Sweaters

Don’t ever tumble dry your sweaters: they’ll shrink, pill and wear down quickly. Even if your dryer has a sweater drying rack, you’re always better off air drying if you have the time and patience.

Never wring your sweaters. Immediately after washing, lay your sweater flat on a thick white towel and roll, gently squeezing out as much water as you can.

Dry your sweaters flat rather than hanging so that you don’t stretch the fibers. Here’s a rack that dries more than one sweater at a time and a pop-up option that’s easy to store.

Sweater Storage: Is Hanging or Folding Best?

Hanging sweaters might be tempting if you have more closet space than dresser space, for instance. But hanging them the typical way can stretch them and leave those awful hanger marks in the shoulders or arms of your sweater.

(Image credit: The Happier Homemaker)

The Happier Homemaker shared a smart way to hang a sweater without damage. Visit her site to see more photos and a video of this method.

To make sure your sweaters don’t topple over if you store them by stacking, fold them into a uniform shape. Keep your stacks neat by using a sorter like this hanging sweater rack or try dividers or bins.

Reviving Well-Loved Sweaters

Even sweaters that are treated with the utmost care can develop pills. But a good de-piller will give new life to your favorite pieces. If you don’t have one yet, this little machine will become your new best friend.

For sweaters that need a last-minute refresh before you wear them, try using a steamer or even an iron with the steam setting on gently passed over your sweater.