Shopping My Closet
January 25, 2017

How to care for sweaters: laundering, pill removal, storage

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How to care for sweaters: laundering, pill removal, storage |

Now that we’re in the thick of the winter season, sweaters are in full rotation. Whether you’re pulling out sweaters already in your closet or making some new additions, this post will be dedicated sweater care and maintenance, covering everything from laundering to removing pills to storage.


Make sure you understand the care instructions for your sweaters. Is it machine wash, hand wash, or dry clean only? Reading the clothing care tag carefully will help you to prolong its wear.

How to care for sweaters: laundering, pill removal, storage |


If your sweater is made of anything aside from a wool-derivative or cashmere, chances are you’ll be able to machine wash it. Simply follow the care instructions to keep the sweater clean but also, fresh and new looking.

Wool and cashmere take a little bit more effort to care for but it’s not impossible. Here’s my breakdown of how to care for them:

If you’ve spent any time near a clothes steamer, you know how hot it can get. This makes it the perfect use for sweater care. The hot steam kills off any odor-causing bacteria or eliminates that “I’ve spent too much time at Starbucks” coffee smell that’s traveled home with you long after you’ve left the shop.

I use this steamer – it comes with an over-the-door steam pad and protects the door itself from absorbing any high heat and possibly damaging the wood.

Vodka isn’t only for consuming – you can use it to get the smell out of your clothes! The alcohol kills off bacteria and is odorless when it dries. In a spray bottle with an adjustable spray valve, mix 2 parts of cheap, high-proof vodka to 1 part water. Adjust the valve so it comes out as a fine mist as to protect delicate fabrics from drenching liquids.

If there’s either a lingering odor or stain, I turn to this in-home dry cleaning kit. I use the included spray to pretreat any stained areas. Then, I place my sweaters into the bag along with the cleaning cloth. Set the dryer on medium heat and 30 minutes later, I have clean and refreshed sweaters. To date, I’ve had no problems with shrinkage or malformation on my wool or cashmere sweater. It is an economic advantage compared to a traditional dry cleaning service. Also, the fabrics have less exposure to harsh chemicals that come with dry cleaning that can cause breakdown or fading.

I reserve handwashing sweaters when I have deeply involved stains. Fill up a bucket or sink with cold water and use this wool/cashmere shampoo. Gently agitate the stained areas and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Rinse the sweater with clean water, pick it up like a ball and squeeze out as much excess water as possible without wringing it. Never pick up wet (delicate) sweaters by the shoulders as the weight of the water will cause it to lose its shape. Place the sweater on one end of a clean, dry towel and open it up so that the sweater is laying flat. Then, roll the sweater up in the towel (like a pinwheel) to get out more water. Lay it flat to dry.

How to care for sweaters: laundering, pill removal, storage |

Black sweater (similar) // Cream turtleneck sweater // Navy cable knit sweater // Grey tie-cuff sweater (similar) // Pink sweater (similar) // Tan split back sweater



Wear a base layer underneath your sweaters. Why, you ask?
1. Dressing in layers allows you to take off the sweater if you get warm(er) during the day
2. It serves as a barrier between your skin and sweater. This prevents direct contact of the skin on the sweater and lessens the transfer of body oils, sweat, and odors.
3. You probably don’t have to think twice about throwing the base layer in your laundry and as a result, extend the time between washes for your sweater.

My personal favorite base layers are these “heat-tech” ones from Uniqlo. The cut is fitted so it keeps the core warm. It’s available in a variety of cuts: tank top, camisole, short sleeve, long sleeve, and turtleneck. Note: the long sleeve is more like ¾ sleeve – perfect for layering underneath your sweater without showing the base layer.

How to care for sweaters: laundering, pill removal, storage |

Crop sweater with front pockets (similar)



I have a few tools in my arsenal when it comes to those pesky sweater pills: a sweater comb, sweater stone and sweater/fabric shaver. If possible, make sure to start in inconspicuous area and work your way towards the more visible areas. For either the sweater comb or stone, use one hand to hold the sweater and use the other hand to make short, unidirectional strokes to catch the fuzz. Personally, I prefer the sweater comb for delicate sweaters or loose knits. For the sweater shaver use a circular motion to catch the pills. Over time, pills can accumulate, so I find it’s easiest to do this after each wear. That way the task doesn’t seem so daunting to tackle and also, prevents your sweater from having a dull look.


You’ve probably heard it time and time again: never hang your sweaters. This causes them to lose their shape and can result in hanger marks at the shoulders. Folding is the best method to store your sweaters. If you absolutely have to hang your sweaters, try this alternative method.

How to care for sweaters: laundering, pill removal, storage |

This method is probably best for lighter weight sweaters. Bulkier ones can cause a strain on the hanger and weigh down a thin closet clothing rod.

For storage after the winter months are over, I use these canvas bags. The canvas helps the fabrics to “breathe” and decreases any disintegration. The zipper is perfect for preventing any bugs from coming in. If you opt to use plastic storage bins, get a large cut of cotton fabric and wrap the sweaters in that. The cotton helps to protect the delicate fabrics from condensation that may build up in the bins. If you’re storing for a prolonged period of time (i.e years), remember that plastic isn’t as permeable as canvas and can increase the rate of fabric break down. Also, you may consider adding some cedar blocks or lavender satchels to deter bugs from infesting your sweaters. Store any of these items in a cool place and away from direct sunlight.

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How to care for sweaters: laundering, pill removal, storage |

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