How to Wash & Maintain Wool Sweaters

This article will show you some techniques you’ll need to know in order to easily wash at home what some people consider to be a fairly temperamental garment, wool sweaters.

This video is part of a series we’re doing on garment care, the first video in the series dealt with how to get that musty smell out of vintage clothing.

First of all, wool doesn’t actually need to be washed very often as the lanolin oils that are present in the wool make it naturally anti-microbial. So as long as your wool garments are only subjected to average wear and you give them a little bit of time to air out in between wearings, you won’t actually have to put them through your washing machine or hand wash them all that often. In those situations where you do think that a wash would be best, however, fight the impulse to take your wool garments to the dry cleaner. The solvents that are used in dry cleaning are eventually harsh on wool fibers and will break them down over time.

Cleaned Wool
Cleaned Wool

Essential Truths About Washing Wool

The most common knowledge seems to be that wool will shrink if it’s exposed to water, heat, detergents or other factors.

The detergent acts as a surfactant when washing your clothes.

The water is doing the work of the washing, not the detergent.

Firstly, what’s actually doing most of the washing when you wash your clothing is having water pass over and between the fibers of your clothing. The detergent that you use in your washing machine is acting as a surfactant. Essentially, it is making the water more slippery so that it can more easily get between the fibers of your clothing.

Wool does not actually shrink when washed

It does not actually shrink in the laundering process. Rather, as the wool fibers are agitated back and forth and move around during washing especially during drying, they lock closer and closer together creating another material that you may also have heard of, felt. Sometimes, of course, felting wool can be a good thing such as in the process for making traditional men’s hats. But of course, you do not want your sweaters to end up the same way.

Furthermore, though, the majority of felting is not going to take place in the washing machine since water will be in between most of the individual fibers. Rather, where felting occurs most often is in the dryer as the clothes are dry, hot, and being constantly agitated. So ultimately then, the primary thing to focus on whenever you are washing wool is just to prevent felting. This is true for either of the two techniques we are about to show you.

Shetland Wool Sweater from Pendelton
Shetland Wool Sweater from Pendelton

Wool Washing Techniques

Hand Wash

With that in mind then, hand-washing your wool sweaters is the safest method for cleaning them so it is the method we will go over first.

To get started, add two capfuls of a gentle cleaning agent like wool and cashmere shampoo to a container of room temperature water. Turn the sweater you are going to wash inside out, submerge it in the water, and gently agitate it with your hands so that the cleaning agent is thoroughly worked through. Then, soak the sweater for at least ten minutes and up to half an hour. After you’ve done this, you can rinse the sweater by running cool water through it and when the water is no longer soapy, you’ll know that the garment is thoroughly rinsed.

Before drying the rest of the way, you can take some of the excess water out of the sweater by applying gentle pressure. Keep in mind that you should never wring out a wool sweater as the excessive agitation is definitely going to distort the fibers and might have the potential to cause some felting. By the way, if you see any visible color in your basin of water, don’t worry. The garment has just released some of the excess dye and you’re not going to see any visible loss of color in the garment when you wear it again.

Delicates laundry bag
Delicates laundry bag

Machine Wash

First, turn your sweater inside out. Roll it up as tightly as you can, don’t bunch it but roll it, and then put it inside of a mesh washing bag which should also be rolled as tightly as possible and secured with a safety pin if necessary.

This preparation is done with felting in mind, simply stated, if the sweater is rolled up tightly, it’s not going to move around and it’s not going to come into contact with other garments’ fibers or with its own fibers to a certain extent. Therefore, the risk of felting is greatly minimized. Also, we turned it inside out because if any felting or pilling does happen to occur, it’s only going to be visible inside of the sweater, not the outside. Putting wool items into their own mesh bags is also beneficial for your washing machine as felt fuzz from loose wool items could clog up the machine. Therefore, having things in mesh bags is good for your garments and your machine.

Wool & Cashmere Shampoo

Next, add the appropriate amount of wool and cashmere shampoo, depending both on the size of the machine as well as the load in question. Also, you don’t have to worry about using the delicate or woolen cycle on the machine or worry about spin speed. As long as you’ve got the wool sweater tightly compacted inside the mesh bag and the bag itself is also tightened down, the express cycle on the machine will be just fine.

Once the washing machine is finished, promptly remove your garments both from the machine and from their mesh bags to reduce creasing.

The Drying Process

As we mentioned before, don’t use your dryer. Remember, that’s the location where felting is most likely to occur. Rather, what you should do is lay out your garments flat on a drying rack and leave them there to dry. With the garments in its natural shape, roll up the towels slowly like a sleeping bag using gentle pressure to get out some of that excess water. Wait a few moments, unroll the towel and then put the garment on the rack as normal.

While your sweater is on the drying rack, you can reshape or block it using gentle pressure with your hands. Once you’ve gotten into the shape you desire, just leave it on the rack and then it should dry that way. Avoid placing your garments in direct sunlight or near heat sources like a radiator because this could increase the risk of yellowing as well as shrinkage. Also, you should never hang your wool garments to dry them because gravity will pull on the water that’s left in the garment, unevenly spreading out the fibers and distorting the garments over time. Using a drying rack is your best course of action. The process for washing really is that simple.

Wool Maintenance Tips

To get wrinkles out of your wool garments, it’s best to use a garment steamer rather than an iron as the heat and pressure from an iron will be more likely to distort the natural structure of the fibers. If pilling has occurred, you can take a sweater comb and gently run it across the surface of the fabric in one direction only to remove the pills effectively. Also, using clothes brush in between wears is an easy way to get rid of lint, fuss, and hair and also to release some of those lanolin oils that keep the sweater looking its best.

Olive oil

If you have been hanging to an old sweater that shrunk in the laundry, there is a way to bring these old sweaters back to life. Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a container of hot water, submerge the sweater and swish it around as with the hand washing process we laid out before and then leave the garment to soak in that container overnight. The next day, take the sweater out of the container, lay it flat, and block it as desired, and then leave it to dry completely. After it is thoroughly dried, you can wash it as normal using the techniques we outlined here.

J Hilburn Cashmere wool sweater
J Hilburn Cashmere wool sweater

Sweater Storage

Woolen knitwear should always be stored folded to prevent stretching or distortion of the fibres. Also, woolen cashmere are susceptible to insect damage. When you are storing your wool garments, make sure they have been cleaned first so that you are not providing any food sources for potential bugs. It is best to store your woolens in a cool dry place in a breathable cotton storage bag with a zip closure.

Lavender Sachets

Because bugs can get into openings in a seater chest over time, the seater will also occasionally lose its effectiveness the longer you have it around. Also, storing in plastic encourages yellowing and it might also provide a moisture that bugs will love. Optionally here, you can also include in the storage box a sachet of about a half cup of dried lavender since bugs hate the stuff.

And there you have it, all the techniques necessary to properly and easily wash your wool sweaters and other garments at home.

Did we blow your mind that wool does not actually shrink or did you have a different takeaway from today’s video? Whatever the case may be, share with us in the comments below!


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Cropped Welted Sweaters Are Fab with High-Rise Bottoms and Skirts

High-rise jeans and pants are the new normal in fashion. The point is to showcase the length of the high rise by wearing tucked and semi-tucked tops, or wearing untucked cropped sweaters. 

Cropped sweaters can be very short and midriff baring, which are hard to wear unless you’re confident exposing most of the midsection. A slightly longer cropped sweater with a fluid fit and tapered welt is a much easier silhouette to wear because it covers and camouflages most of the midsection, while exposing the rise of the bottoms. The sweater is sufficiently short to be worn over a high rise without covering it up. The welt on the hem of the top tapers the garment and gives it structure.

Cropped welted sweaters can be fluid or very fluid. Some are shorter, and some are longer, creating a blouson effect. Most are long-sleeved because they’re meant for cooler weather, but versions for warmer weather will pop up soon. This collection shows an assortment of cropped welted sweaters.

1. With High-Rise Pants

Here the cropped welted sweater is pulled far up the waist to make it look even shorter. But you can pull it down a little over the waistband and achieve the same blouson effect while showcasing most of the high rise WITHOUT the tuck or semi-tuck. Unless you wear a camisole, you might expose a little skin when you bend over or reach up high, and you’ll need to be okay with that.

& Other Stories High Waist Gingham Pants

2. With a Flared Skirt

Cropped welted sweaters work extremely well with flared skirts that usually need a tucked or semi-tucked top to create flattering proportions. The tapered welt does a magical job of adding structure to the outfit because it hints at a waistline. The cropped length of the sweater adds further structure and lengthens the leg line. The high yet open boat neckline here works well on the model’s larger bust and shorter neck. Cropped welted sweaters look great with pencil skirts too.

SHEIN Plus Eyelet Detail Textured Crop Sweater

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Wool Sweaters, Just in Outerwear, & More – The Thurs. Men’s Sales Handful

Sales that deserve some attention heading into the weekend or a bit earlier. Might not be some massive once a year event, but still worth a look. Those are what make up these handfuls. Five of the better sales, one for each finger, are below, plus bonus sales if need be. Included are a few picks worth pointing out. 

 

Bonobos: New Arrivals & 25% off $ 175+ w/ QUARTEROFF

Bonobos

Good gravy. (And it is the month for gravy, no?) Bonobos stuff starts out expensive. Real expensive. But the styling sure does appeal to some of you guys, from what I can tell (me too in some cases). 25% off isn’t an extra 40% off sale, but this stuff is just in. And 25% off is better than the normal 20% off code. And it’s that kind of hard-hitting analysis that makes me the clown who runs this ship.

UPDATE: So this is 25% off $ 175+… not just 25% off across the board. Sorry guys, got some bad intel on that one. Anything under $ 175 in the picks above is gonna need an additional small item, from say the sale section, to trip that 25% off.

UPDATE II: Turns out it’ll be 25% off no min between 2pm ET and 4pm ET today?

 

J. Crew: 30% off w/ FRIENDS (or 35% off for rewards members w/ FAMILY)

J. Crew

AND it works on sale stuff too. AND it appears that the classic fit, wider lapel, Moon Mills herringbone blazer is back and up for the code. The darn things aren’t even getting excluded at checkout like they were a couple days back (despite saying they WERE up for the code). So… have at it. Don’t forget that their new rewards program is super easy to sign up for. Just your email and you’re good to go.

 

Huckberry: $ 30 – $ 40 off Buffalo Jackson Bags

Buffalo Jackson

Not the biggest price drop, but they are pretty darn handsome. I think (think?) these are imported from Mexico? Not sure. Free shipping and free returns at least.

 

EXPRESS: 40% off Everything

Express Leather Chukka

Seems like EXPRESS has been doing 40% off quite a bit lately, but, no complaints here. Those Red Wing ripoffs? Total guilty pleasure. They’re not half bad for around $ 80. Somewhere between a boot and a sneaker (the sole is really squishy/foam based). The leather isn’t half bad either. Will they last a lifetime like Red Wings? Of course not. But if you want something a little lighter weight and easier on the wallet, then might be worth a shot. Full review coming soon. Ships and returns for free.

 

GAP: 40% off Everything w/ FFTIME + Extra 10% off w/ BEST

GAP

Was set to expire but they’ve extended it, and added a stackable extra 10% off code. A couple of intriguing new arrivals have hit GAP’s site just in time for their friends and family sale.

 

BONUS Massdrop: UK Made Loake Kempton Chukkas – $ 199.99 FINAL ($ 300)

Loake Kempton Chukkas

They’re back! One heck of a pair of boots for just under $ 200. The problem? It’s friggin’ Massdrop. So it’s final sale. Also, beware of sizing. Sized in UK sizes. Some say go down a full size, some say go down just half a size. Full review here.

 

BONUS II  J.C.F.: 30%40% off Select items w/ 2DAYSONLY

J. Crew Factory seemed to have really cut back on its codes and promos in the fall, so 30% – 40% off feels like a rare treat. Not everything is getting the 40% off cut, but finally some of their fall sportcoats are NOT excluded from a promotion. Big fan of those cotton fisherman sweaters. Especially since they come in a slim fit.

 

Also worth a mention:


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FASHION DEAL UPDATE:

The Hunt: Great Cashmere Sweaters for Work

Great Cashmere Sweaters for Work

Sure, we all know what wardrobe essentials for work professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

So we haven’t talked about affordable cashmere for work in a while — let’s discuss! I was intrigued, upon looking around at the stores, how many “weekend” options for cashmere there are. Hoodies! Boyfriend sweaters! Ponchos! Duster cardigans! If you want more of a classic, sleek look to wear with beneath blazers or on top of blouses (or both!), it can be a bit tricky to find them in stores right now. So we rounded up some favorites! Ladies, what sweaters are you reaching for the most on chilly mornings? Have you bought anything in years past that you still love — or have you bought anything recently that was a great find?

Pictured at top of post: one / two / three / four

 

Curious for past iterations of this roundup? Here they are from 2017201620152014, and 2012.

Here are some of the great cashmere sweaters for work we’re finding today…

 

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great cashmere sweaters for work - Uniqlo

Pictured above: Uniqlo is always a great spot to check for affordable cashmere sweaters for work — they’re warm, classic, and come in a zillion colors. (Pro tip: check out Uniqlo’s Heattech line if you’re looking for a lot of warm options, especially for commuting clothes!) The red V-neck pictured above is $ 79.90, comes in __ colors; the brand has similar options in a turtleneck, crewneck, and cardigan.

great cashmere sweaters for work - Inhabit

This sweater may look basic, but don’t be surprised if it’s one of the softest cashmeres you’ve felt — I was thrilled to find several Inhabit sweaters at Nordstrom Rack. The pictured sweater (above) comes in black in sizes XS-L for $ 79 (originally $ 368!).

great cashmere sweaters for work - HalogenThis Halogen sweater is only $ 89 and has close to 500 super positive reviews at Nordstrom. I love how simple it is — it’s very easy to throw on beneath a blazer, add a statement necklace on top or a dickey beneath it (or an actual blouse!), and wear it to work. It comes in 8 colors, regular and petite sizes, XXSP-XL. The brand has a ton of more casual cashmere options as well.

great cashmere sweaters for work - jcrew

For $ 99+, J.Crew has a ton of great “everyday” cashmere sweaters. (Sadly, they are all excluded from the 40% off promo happening today!) The sweaters are available in sizes XXS-3X, which is great; the pictured crewneck comes in 23 (!) colors. They’ve also got a great everyday cashmere turtleneck. (To discuss: are turtlenecks “back” in style or have I just not noticed how many there were in recent years? I’ve always thought they’re a great basic look — certainly great background for a brooch or two! — but they felt like they were rarer in years past.)

great cashmere sweaters for work - Everlane

I often get asked about Everlane, and I will say that I’ve always been happy with their cashmere and merino sweaters — everything I’ve had has been great quality, and felt like a very current but classic take (so, for example, the longer cuffs here feel very au courant but the sweater itself is classic — not a ruffle in sight, thank goodness, and it’s a polished enough look that you can wear it to work or on the weekend.) The pictured sweater is $ 100, comes in 18 sizes (including some fun stripey options), in sizes XS-XL.

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