The $8 Secret for Cleaner, Cozier Sweaters—All Winter Long

published Oct 22, 2019
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I have a confession: I went to the dry cleaners for the very first time in my adult life one month ago. I am 26… and a half.

It’s not that I was intimidated by the whole scene or didn’t want to pay the money, either. Does the giant mechanical belt full of clothing scare me? Yeah, a little bit. Would I rather spend my money on other important things, like $25 worth of frozen dumplings at Trader Joe’s? Of course. (I’m not a monster.) But for some reason haphazardly throwing my clothing—all of it—into the washing machine and hoping for the best always seemed better. That is, until I ended up with a dozen ruined sweaters and a lot of regret (though plenty of dumplings, so there’s that).

As the colder months roll around and we’re all left wondering what the heck to do with our beloved turtlenecks and cashmere, I talked to Leanne Stapf, COO of The Cleaning Authority, to get some insight on how exactly we should be washing our favorite cold weather staples. 

To Machine Wash Sweaters, Always Skip the Dryer …And Use a Lingerie Bag!

First thing to know about washing sweaters made from wool, velvet, or cashmere? The washing machine is going to be pretty rough on them, Stapf tells me. And the dryer? Don’t even go there.

“…the delicate fabrics can’t withstand the harsh motions of a washing machine and may turn out matted or smaller,” Stapf tells me of what can happen to sweaters if you’re not careful. “Try using a mesh laundering bag to help reduce the amount of friction the fabric is exposed to, and don’t forget to always air dry.”

You know that lingerie mesh bag you have stuffed in some drawer somewhere that’s supposed to protect delicate bras and underwear in the washing machine but you never use because your bras have survived thus far? (Just me? No?) Turns out you should be using that for your sweaters. While it’s probably a good bet to always dry clean your most expensive pieces (think cashmere, or a beloved family hand-me-down or vintage piece), placing your regular, most-used winter sweaters in a lingerie bag and then air drying them can save you a lot of stress. No trip to the dry cleaners needed. 

But First: Spot-Treat Stains on Sweaters

Trying to spot clean the sweaters before washing them? Stapf has tips for that, too. For a red wine stain on light clothing, use dishwashing liquid and hydrogen peroxide on the stain after blotting as much of the liquid away as you can. If it’s a darker piece of clothing, blot the stain and then add salt. Let the salt sit and then wash it away with cold water, repeating until the stain disappears.

So if you, like me, are trying to avoid the dry cleaners as much as possible, the secret might be as easy as a mesh lingerie bag and not throwing your favorite pieces in the dryer… ever. And if you don’t have a mesh lingerie bag, they’re available on Amazon in all shapes and sizes for way less money than a standard dry cleaning ticket.