How to Wash Your Expensive Wool Sweaters the Right Way

July 26, 2020

I basically live in sweaters as soon as the temperature drops below 50 degrees. In the past couple of years, I made the decision to start swapping out all of my acrylic and polyamide sweaters for more sustainable and high quality pieces made out of wool. This was a huge investment on my part. A lot of my wool sweaters cost me upwards of $200, but I consider their price tags well worth it. Wool sweaters are warmer, better for the planet and hold their quality over time. 

Whether I’m headed out to the bars for après or just working from my desk at the office you are likely to find me wearing my favorite white wool cardigan. It’s warm, cozy and compliments every outfit I own. Can you blame me?! After wearing my sweaters every week October through March, they got more than a little dirty. 

The sleeves of my white cardigan were tinted black from being rubbed across every surface imaginable. I spilt coffee on the front of my favorite turtleneck and the inside of my pullover was crusted in deodorant residue (eww!). My wool sweaters were desperately in need of a good clean but can you even wash wool?! The answer is thankfully yes and I’ll teach you how. 

Why You Should Clean Your Wool Sweaters Before Storage

I live in a small house with barely any storage. In the summer I have to choose between keeping lightweight dresses in my closet or storing my bulky wool sweaters. It’s pretty much a no-brainer. In the summer, I pack all of my sweaters into storage bins and keep them in our garage until the Fall when I need them. Before storing your wool sweaters it’s really important that they are clean. 

Bugs like moths, carpet beetles, and silverfish are attracted to old sweat and stains. If these insects get ahold of your sweater they will eat and damage the wool. 

Odors from sweat and stains only grow more powerful as they settle into your clothes. If you don’t clean your sweaters before storing them for the summer, you might find that they have a pretty foul odor when you go to wear them in the Fall.

Tips for Storing Your Wool Sweaters

  • Stash your wool sweaters in an air-tight plastic container to keep out any bugs or moisture.
  • Store in a cool, dark place like your basement or garage. Storing your sweaters in direct sunlight can start to destroy the color of your sweater.
  • Toss a sachet of lavender into your sweater bin. Lavender is a natural way to help ward off pests (bugs hate the stuff!).

The Different Ways to Clean a Wool Sweater

Before getting started, check the instructions on your sweater’s care label. Brands will either ask you to hand wash or dry clean your wool sweaters. 

Dry cleaning is the easiest option for cleaning your wool sweaters—who doesn’t love having someone else do all the work, amiright? Unfortunately, drycleaning can get expensive and most dry cleaners use toxic chemicals to clean your clothes. I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t want chemical residue on my clothing or my skin. 

If you rule out drycleaning, you are left with the option of washing your wool sweaters at home. While some sweaters state that they can be cleaned using a washing machine, most brands will advise that you wash your garment by hand. Hand washing is by far the safest way to wash your wool sweater (including blends). Let your sweater’s care label be what dictates your decision! 

How to Wash a Wool Sweater by Hand

What You’ll Need

Clean Your Sweater

  1. Fill a bucket full of cold or tepid water. You can also use your sink. Add two capfuls of Wool & Cashmere Shampoo to the water. Mix it around until you start to see soap bubbles form. 
  2. Submerge your sweater in the bucket and gently swirl it around in the soapy water. You should start to see the water darken; this is how you know that you are removing dirt and other particles from the wool. If your sweater has any hard to remove stains, you can pretreat them with Stain Solution or a Stain Bar. Allow your sweater to soak in the soapy water for 10 minutes
  3. Remove your sweater and drain the dirty water from your bucket. Refill your bucket with fresh water. Rinse your sweater by gently swirling it around (just like you did with the soapy water). Do this step twice!
  4. Gently remove any leftover water from your sweater by pressing it out. Do NOT wring your sweater! This can stretch out the fibers and damage the fit of your sweater.

Dry Your Sweater

Make sure to dry your sweater on a flat surface. Never hang your sweater out to dry. This can cause it to stretch out and lose its shape. 

  1. Spread a towel out onto the floor. Place your sweater in the middle of the towel and roll it up like a jelly roll to extract any extra water. It is okay to apply extra pressure to the towel by kneeling on it. 
  2. Unfurl your sweater and allow it to dry flat using a new towel or a mesh rack. If you are washing your wool sweaters in the summer it’s okay to speed up the drying process by placing them outside on a towel in a sunny area of your yard.
  3. Reshape your knit using your hands. As the garment dries it will set in place.

Depill Your Sweater

You can make your sweater look brand new by easily removing fuzz balls with a depiller. 

  1. Spread your sweater out on an ironing board. 
  2. Test your depiller on a section of your sweater that is not easily seen. I tested mine on the inside collar of my sweaters. 
  3. Turn on your depiller and gently glide it over your sweater in the same direction as the stitching. This will be horizontal or vertical depending on the knit. Make sure not to press too hard on your sweater or you might create a hole in its wool!

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