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Dec 14, 2012

Wool and the Art of Sweater Maintenance: 5 Tips to Care for and Make Your Sweaters Last

created at: 12/14/2012The cooler months bring boots, jackets, and best of all: sweaters. Worn well, they echo the classic men of yesterday. Investing in one or two quality pieces made from 100% wool is preferable than several from acrylics or blended fabric, as they'll stick around for many falls and winters to come, and look better in the process. (Not to mention keep you warmer.) If you take care of them well, they'll last until your beard goes gray, and you can pull off the weathered fisherman with a warm heart look of Mr. Hemingway here.

1. Don't dryclean or machine wash.  Not only does hand washing keep your wool clean, it'll actually make your sweater softer over time. Wash in cold water, inside out if possible. That way, you'll be able to target the dirtiest spots - those next to your body. 

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2. Fold sweaters, never hang. Gravity, in this case, is not your friend. It pulls on the sweater, distorting its shape. Plus, hangers can often create dimples at the shoulder and stretch the neckline. If you don't trust your ability to fold one without creases, snag a folding board from the home store ($5-10). They work wonders.

3. De-pill, de-pill, de-pill. While lower-quality sweaters will pill faster, eventually, you'll end up with those little balls...which my brother-in-law calls gniffs (hard g pronounced.) Weird. You want to remove these as soon as they show. Some say you can shave them off with a face razor, but I recommend investing in a sweater stone. It'll last forever, and you can control the amount of force, unlike the battery powered machines. Or, cut them off individually with a pair of small scissors.

4. Dry flat and reshape. The "never hang" rule applies to just-washed sweaters even more than dry. Wet wool can take days to dry fully, and the water adds extra weight, stretching and distorting the shape even more. When you're done washing, don't wring the sweater out, just shake it until you can remove as much water as you can. Then, lay it out on a towel, and reshape it as it dries. 

5. Sink the snags. If your sweater snags on the outside, use a needle or pin to push the yarn back into the weave, or at least to the inside of the sweater. Bury the loose thread as best you can, tying it if possible.

 

Do you have any favorite sweater maintenance tips? Please share them in the comments below.

 

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You neglected to mention moth balls. Are they a better alternative to washing wool sweaters. Personally, I prefer to not wash my wool sweaters.

Uhm yeah, handwashing is a big pain in the patoot. I discovered a long time that gentle cycle in cold water+woolite+drape (not hang) to dry works really well. My sweaters are no worse for it.

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