How to Care for Your Sweaters

TSG Tip 235: Amy Gardner's Advice on Caring for Knits

Sweater weather marks the start of our favorite sartorial season. However, cleaning our cozy-chic pieces can be a bit perplexing. For advice on how to properly care for our knits, we turned to the experts at Charlottesville, Virginia-based clothing boutique Scarpa, which boasts an incredibly stylish collection of fall/winter wear (in addition to a very friendly and knowledgeable staff). Here is their expert advice for keeping sweaters looking their best throughout the winter and beyond:

Do’s and don’ts for washing and drying: “With any knitwear, we always first recommend following the care instructions on the garment label,” says Scarpa’s Will Frazier. Owner Amy Gardner adds that if you decide to wash your sweaters at home, make sure your 10-year-old son doesn’t run your cashmere through the washing machine and dryer; while learning how to do laundry is an important lesson, knowing how and when to hand wash is even more important—especially when it comes to knits. Here’s what else you need to know:

  • How to hand wash a sweater: Fill a basin with warm water and a gentle detergent. Submerge and soak the sweater and rinse twice, pressing out the water. Lay the sweater on a towel and roll the towel and sweater up together to extract excess water. Unroll and reshape the sweater, and let it dry on a mesh rack.
  • When in doubt, opt for organic dry cleaning: Wondering whether or not your sweater can stand hand washing? Rather than risk it, send your piece to an organic dry cleaner. Natural fibers easily retain odors, and an organic dry cleaner will ensure your sweaters don’t return smelling like cleaning chemicals.
  • Be extra-careful with embellished pieces: If you have specially treated pieces or sweaters with embellishments (such as the exquisite hand-painted cashmere and silk Avant Toi options available from Scarpa), enlist an expert when they need to be cleaned. Infrequent organic dry cleaning is your best option to guarantee a long life for these uniquely crafted pieces.

What to expect from gentle wearing: “One shouldn’t be too alarmed by a little pilling,” Frazier says. In fact, in some cases, like the hand-knit Peruvian cashmere Beuys cardigan by Lauren Manoogian carried at Scarpa, a little shedding is expected and will subside after a few wears. To keep pilling at a minimum, wash cotton-blend sweaters inside out or hand wash wool and cashmere sweaters. Beware of shavers that can be used to remove pilling, as they can damage the fabric.

How to successfully store your pieces: Before putting your sweaters away at the end of the season, give them a thorough cleaning, and use airtight bins or space bags to keep out moths and other creatures. Also, forget the mothballs. Instead, Capi Bowles, Scarpa’s clothing buyer, recommends storing sweaters with natural, herbal repellent alternatives like Moth Away, which is available in refreshing blends such as peppermint, rosemary, thyme, and clothes. This will make retrieving your sweaters after months of storage a much more pleasant sensory experience.

TSG Tip 235  and image of CT Plage Ribbed Funnel Sweater in Ivory from Scarpa in Charlottesville, Virginia. Scarpa is featured in The Scout Guide Charlottesville.