How To Wash Sweaters Properly: Easy Care Guide

KDC - Grey swater halfway inside a washing machine

Table of Contents

Whether it’s a chunky cable knit, a delicate cashmere, or a trusty wool, a good sweater is a wardrobe staple. But, let’s face it, sweaters can be a bit high-maintenance. They can shrink, stretch, or lose shape if not treated carefully. That’s why knowing the right way to give them some TLC is essential.

Learning how to wash sweaters properly is the first step in caring for these garments. Sweaters are made of different materials, requiring specific cleaning methods. Some can be tossed in the washing machine, while others must be hand-washed or taken to a professional cleaner. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered – literally and figuratively! In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the dos and don’ts of washing sweaters so you can keep them looking and feeling their best for many cozy seasons.

Why do you need to wash sweaters differently?

KDC - Stack of sweaters

Washing sweaters differently is essential because their fabrics are delicate and prone to shrinking, stretching, or pilling when exposed to harsh detergents, rough agitation, or temperature changes. Giving your sweaters the care they deserve will help them last longer and stay looking their best.

Now, let’s dive into the essential steps for properly washing sweaters so you can confidently care for your cozy wardrobe.

How do you wash and care for a sweater?

Washing sweaters the right way is just one part of the equation for keeping them clean and cozy. You must also know how to care for them before and after washing. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to wash sweaters and the best way to store sweaters to help you out:

1. Read the care label

The care label is like a sweater’s instruction manual. It tells you everything you need to know to keep that bad boy in tip-top shape. So, before you do anything else, take a moment to give it a good read. The label will typically have one of the following instructions:

  • Machine wash: If your sweater is machine washable, you’re lucky! But don’t get too excited and throw it in with your jeans. You must still use a gentle cycle and cold water to play it safe.
  • Hand wash: A hand wash label means your sweater needs extra attention. Fill a sink or basin with cool water and add a mild detergent. Gently spin the sweater in the water, let it soak, and then rinse it thoroughly. Easy peasy!
  • Dry clean: If the label says “dry clean only,” you have a fancy sweater. In this case, your best bet is to hand it over to the professionals or use a home dry cleaning kit. We’ll talk more about that later.
  • Other instructions: Some care labels might have specific do’s and don’ts, like avoiding bleach or using a certain type of detergent. So, watch for those and follow them to a T.

2. Prep for washing

Once you’ve deciphered the care label, it’s time to get your game plan in order. But before you start washing sweaters, there are a few things you need to do:

  • First, check the sweater for any stains. If you spot a pesky mark, gently blot it with a stain remover or detergent. Be careful not to rub the stain, which can worsen it.
  • Second, close all the buttons and zippers on the sweater. This step is essential to prevent snagging and damage to the garment during washing.
  • Third, place machine-washable sweaters in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase. This extra layer of protection will help minimize the risk of stretching or snagging in the machine.
  • Lastly, add a mild detergent to a clean sink or basin with cool water for hand-wash-only sweaters. Give it a gentle swirl to create some suds.

3. Time to get your hands dirty!

If you’re hand-washing a sweater, this is where the real fun begins. Follow these steps to ensure a successful wash:

  • Step 1: Submerge the sweater in the water and gently press it down to immerse it fully. Let it soak for about five minutes to loosen dirt and oils.
  • Step 2: After soaking, carefully swish the sweater around in the water. Be gentle and avoid any aggressive squeezing or wringing, which can cause the sweater to lose shape.
  • Step 3: Drain the soapy water and refill the sink or basin with clean, cool water for rinsing. Repeat this step until no more soap suds are present, indicating that the sweater is thoroughly rinsed.
  • Step 4: Gently press the sweater against the side of the sink or basin to remove excess water. Avoid twisting or wringing it, as this can also cause stretching and damage.

4. Machine-wash like a pro

KDC - Woman using a washing machine

If your garment is machine washable, here’s one of the best ways to wash sweaters:

  • Step 1: Place the sweater inside the laundry bag or pillowcase in the washing machine.
  • Step 2: Add a mild detergent suitable for delicate fabrics. Avoid using bleach or harsh laundry additives, which can damage the sweater.
  • Step 3: Select the gentle cycle and cold water temperature on the washing machine. High temperatures can cause shrinking and color fading, so it’s best to play it cool.
  • Step 4: Start the machine and let it work its magic!

5. Handle with care

Once the sweater is clean, your job is far from over. The following steps are crucial for maintaining its shape and quality. Here’s what you need to do:

If you hand-washed the sweater, carefully lift it from the sink or basin and transfer it to a clean, dry towel. Gently roll the towel with the sweater inside to absorb excess water. Then, reshape the sweater and lay it flat on a dry towel or a see-through or mesh drying rack to air dry. Avoid dry hanging or using a dryer, as the weight of the water can cause stretching.

6. Be patient

I know you’re eager to wear and show that freshly cleaned sweater to the world, but hold your horses! We’re not quite there yet. A vital step is to patiently wait for them to dry. Depending on the sweater’s thickness and the humidity, it can take a few hours to a full day.

7. Undergo final inspections

Once the sweater is completely dry, give it one final inspection. Look for any remaining moisture because wearing a damp sweater is a big no-no. If it’s all good to go, congrats! You can now wear your sweater with pride and enjoy its cozy goodness.

How do you safely store a sweater?

Now that you learn how to wash sweaters, it’s also important to learn how to store them properly. First, make sure it’s clean and completely dry. Then, fold it neatly to avoid stretching. Store in a cool, dry place, and consider using zippered plastic bags or cotton garment bags to protect from dust and pests. Properly storing sweaters will keep your clothes in great shape for the next wear.


It’s important to be careful when washing sweaters to keep them looking their best. Follow the instructions on the tag, use gentle methods, and don’t stretch them out. When learning how to wash sweaters, always adhere to the care labels. Key steps in washing sweaters include avoiding harsh chemicals and not using excessive force during the cleaning process, which helps maintain their original shape and texture. After cleaning, let them air dry flat.

When it comes to learning how to store sweaters, keeping them in a cool, dry place is crucial to prevent damage. It’s vital to know the best methods for storing sweaters properly to ensure they retain their shape and remain free from wrinkles or unwanted creases. Knowing how to wash sweaters and appropriately drying them is half the battle; proper storage is equally vital.

If you have special or “dry clean only” sweaters, getting help from professionals who know washing sweaters effectively is a good idea. They are equipped with the right tools and knowledge to clean them without causing any damage. Every detail, from washing to storing sweaters, is pivotal in extending the lifespan of your cherished items.

Elevate your sweater care with Kelly’s Dry Cleaners!

Elevate your sweater care game with Kelly’s Dry Cleaners. Whether it’s washing or storing sweaters, we’ve got you covered! Our Farmington laundry services are designed to make your sweaters last longer and look their best. From following care label instructions to gentle washing and expert dry cleaning for specialty pieces, we’ve covered your sweater needs. Experience the difference today at Kelly’s Dry Cleaners.