Once the temperatures dip, fall brings many things: changes in leaves, pumpkin spice everything, and our favorite ... sweater weather. There is something ultra-luxe about cuddling up in chunky wools and super soft cashmeres, but wearing those turtlenecks and cardigans does come with a hefty price tag—and, yes, we are talking about outrageous dry cleaning bills. We spoke with Gwen Whiting of The Laundress to find out how to skip the professionals and wash your sweaters at home.
Know Your Materials
"Check the label," says Whiting. "Anything part of the wool family is the most delicate fabrication, so if you have something that is 90 percent silk and 10 percent wool, you should clean it as you would something that is 100 percent wool—that includes goat, alpaca, or any animal hair."
Pre-treating Is King
"When you have a cotton shirt and you spill coffee on it, it is a topical stain because of the weave, but with sweaters, yarns are spun and twisted, so you've got a much more complicated, deep stain," says Whiting. "Use a wash and stain bar on really exposed areas like the collar where there is makeup, the underarms, which often have deodorant stains, and the cuffs."
Tepid Is Top
"Always soak your sweaters in tepid or lukewarm water," says Whiting. "Sweaters shrink in the washing machine or dryer because of too much heat. Don't make this mistake."
Use a Mild Shampoo
Though many people assume that a cleanser like Woolite is best, Whiting prefers something formulated for natural fabrics, like The Laundress's Wool & Cashmere Shampoo. "When you use a detergent like Woolite that has enzymes, it strips the sweater of its natural fibers, so you end up feeling like you just got a perm or dyed your hair—it's crunchy and brittle," she says. The same goes for dish soap, as well.
Soak, Soak, Soak
Whiting recommends soaking your sweater for up to 30 minutes, with little movement. "Spinning your sweater too much will agitate the fibers and cause it to shrink," she says.
After your sweater is clean, Whiting says to roll it in a ball to remove excess water. "You can also place your sweater in a towel to get rid of water, it's just the same as wrapping your hair after it is washed," she says.
Lay It Flat
"Don't place your sweater on a hanger or over your shower rod to dry; that will distort its shape," says Whiting. She suggests placing it on a clean towel in your bathtub. "Lay it like you would if you were lying on the floor, that's the best way to get great drying results."