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HOW TO WASH A SWEATER

by Lani Kim


Ah, that new sweater feeling! From the moment that posh pullover or cozy cardigan catches your eye in the store, it’s hard not to get excited about all the adventures that await you—whether you wear it to the farmer’s market on a lazy Sunday morning, to the beach on a chilly evening, or you pair it with some sleek boots and a skirt for a polished work look. Really, a sweater makes sense just about anywhere you want to keep cozy and still look sophisticated.  

The issue, of course, is how to clean your sweater so that it stays beautiful wear after wear. This question likely will first pop up after you’ve worn your new sweater to an event with pungent food that you can still smell long after the party’s over—or, after you’ve spilled some wine or sauce on your favorite knit garment.  

There’s always that moment of dread as you bring that precious new sweater to the laundry room, hoping that you’re able to protect its delicate fibers from being forever altered by the same machine that you use to detoxify your sweat-soaked running shoes and dirt-encrusted car mats. Will this machine destroy your favorite new wardrobe addition? You don’t want to end up with pilling, color fading or rips, after all—or to shrink the garment so small that it looks like something that would only fit your little niece.  

Not to worry—you can keep your sweaters looking new, wash after wash. Just follow these tips. 

CAN YOU PUT A SWEATER IN THE WASHING MACHINE?

putting a sweater in the washing machine

Should you dry-clean your sweater? Check the label; unless it explicitly says, “dry clean only,” you can assume it can be washed in the machine. And if you bought your sweater from White House Black Market, you’re in luck; we’ve designed most of our clothes to be washing-machine safe—including dresses, blazers, and even some of our more delicately detailed sweaters (even some you might assume would require extra-special care). Always be sure to check the label, however.  

What about if your sweater is wool or cashmere? While we recommend washing these sweaters by hand and air-drying, the washing machine (cold cycle only) is not completely off-limits. Grab yourself a mesh washing bag (scroll down for more washing hints) and keep it “delicate” all the way around! 

HOW TO CLEAN SWEATERS IN A WASHING MACHINE: A HELPFUL GUIDE 

You can keep your sweaters clean, gorgeous, and in as-good-as-new condition if you follow these simple do’s and don’ts. 

  • DO read the care label. WHBM sweaters will indicate that you should machine wash on the cold temperature setting. Some sweaters may be labeled for hand-washing only; others will need to be washed in the delicate setting. If don’t see a label, cold on the delicate cycle is the safest way to go for any sweater. 
  • DON’T over-wash your sweater. If you’re washing away the lingering evidence of a night in a smoky bar, or a run-in with a lasagna pan, your instinct may be to choose the most vigorous washing cycle available. It’s this sort of overkill that destroys beautiful sweaters, however. Choose the quickest cycle your washing machine offers (which is often the delicates cycle). 
  • DO air-dry your sweater if possible. If you’re not in a rush to wear the sweater in the next few hours, lay your sweater flat on a clean surface and let it air-dry. If you need it ASAP, chose the dryer’s delicate option. Warning: the same maxim about not going overboard with the washing machine cycle applies to the drying option you select. Inflicting the “high heat” option on a sweater can be a death sentence for many garments! 
  • DON’T put your sweater on a hanger while it’s air drying. Doing so will absolutely destroy the sweater’s shape, stretching out the shoulders to the width of a hanger, while gravity pulls the arms to be long enough to fit the wingspan of a bald eagle. Laying flat is always, always the way to go. 
  • DON’T overspend on a specialty detergent (unless you want to).  Using a just-for-sweaters laundry soap is perfectly fine, if you prefer that route because you like a certain fragrance, but if your only goal is to clean your sweater, you can use the same detergent you use on your other clothes. 
  • DO use a mesh bag designed for washing delicates. You will see these bags in the grocery store in the same aisle where you’ll find laundry detergent and fabric softener. They’ll protect your sweaters from getting roughed up in the washing machine, acting as a shield from other items in the load and the metal basin the clothes are tossed about within.  
  • DO wash your sweaters with other, delicate items.  If you already wash intimate apparel such as bras and panties separately, you can add your sweaters to this load. Try not to mix sweaters in with sturdier items like towels or jeans.  

HOW TO REMOVE A STAIN FROM A SWEATER

wine can stain sweaters

We know you’re going to wear our sweaters to your favorite social occasions—dinners out with good friends, family holiday gatherings, and brunches with the besties. Clinking “cheers” can lead to spills, however, and if a chocolate fondue fountain is involved, all bets are off.  

So how do you prevent these “oopsie” moments from turning into stains that make your favorite sweaters unwearable? The secret is spot treating. 

Follow these simple steps. 

  1. Be quick. As soon as you notice the spot, grab an object such as a butter knife or wooden spoon or nail file, and use it to try to remove any visible residue from the sweater. 
  1. Blot with soap. Take a napkin or towel and blot it with laundry soap. Then touch this fabric to your sweater. Let it sit for a moment, apply more soap, then blot a little more. 
  1. Run it under the sink. Turn the sweater inside out and run warm water directly on the spot. 
  1. Add vinegar. The spot likely will have disappeared or diminished by this point—but if not, don’t fear. Add a little white vinegar to the spot and let it sit for an hour, then wash it on cold the same way you would if it just needed an everyday cleaning. 
  1. Call in the big guns. If you still see a stain after you’ve washed the sweater, try a stain remover and wash it one more time. 

Sweaters are designed to be worn at your favorite occasions—so don’t let fear of the washing machine keep them tucked away in the back of your closet. And be sure to keep the wine (and chocolate!) flowing freely, because with a little soap, it all comes out in the wash. 

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