Pumpkin spice might have arrived at Starbucks while the calendar still said August. But it is now mid-October, which means light sweater weather is here for us in the Northeast and heavy sweater weather is coming. So here are 5 suggestions for taking care of your sweaters throughout this pumpkin-spice-sweater–weather–spooky season. Not only will they help keep your sweaters (and other knits) fresh throughout fall, they’ll also help ensure that the sweaters you love are with you for years to come.
First Steps First
The first step is obviously to get your sweaters out of storage (if you rotate your closet with the seasons) or pull them to the front of your closet. This is a great time to look them over and make sure they don’t have any holes, snags, or other damage that you didn’t notice last year.
If you haven’t already, get your sweaters out and look them over.
After that, taking care of your sweaters is really about proper care and maintenance, so here are 5 (plus one) suggestions in no particular order.
1. How to Hang Your Sweaters
First, if you can keep your sweaters folded on a shelf or in a drawer or basket, that is the better way to store them.
But if you must hang your sweaters, here’s how.
Don’t hang your sweaters up the same way you would a blouse. Doing that creates indentations in the sweater shoulders where the hanger was. And while some sweaters can spring back into shape, many can’t, so better safe than sorry.
Instead, either drape your sweater over the crossbar of the hanger. Or lay them over the hanger sort of like you (or someone much preppier than you) would wear a sweater around your shoulders.
You can also fold the sweater in half, put the arms around one side of the hanger neck, and the body of the sweater over the other so that the hanger hook is sitting right in the armpit.
Hanging your sweaters this way is all about helping your sweater maintain its shape. Because most sweaters are made of knit fabric they have stretch to them. When you hang a sweater up like you would a blouse the sweater’s own weight can stretch it out of shape.
These methods of hanging sweaters help distribute the weight and support the sweater.
But again, if you can, store your sweaters folded, that’s even better than hanging.
2. Don’t Overwash Your Sweaters
Don’t over wash your sweaters. (Or any clothes, really. But we’re focusing on sweaters here.) I talk more about this in Personal Style Fundamentals: 27 keys to building a wardrobe you love.
The smell test is a thing for a reason. Combine it with common sense and you’re pretty good to go.
You may have heard that body oils, salt from your sweat, dirt, bacteria, etc can also cause wear and tear on your clothes, so you should wash everything immediately to make sure it’s clean. While it is true that oils, salts, dirt and bacteria do contribute to the breakdown of clothing fibers, this is a process that takes time.
When it comes to day to day clothing, use common sense. Ask yourself, what’s a reasonable level of oil, salt, dirt, bacteria, etc to expect on this garment based on the environment I was in, what I was doing, and how long I wore it?
If it’s a reasonably low level, air the piece out, spot clean it if necessary, and wash it after a second wear.
That was pulled from Personal Style Fundamentals which has a whole section on washing your clothes so they last. You can sign up here for your free copy right here.
At the simplest, only wash clothes when they’re dirty.
3. Avoid the Machines
In addition to not washing sweaters when they aren’t dirty, avoiding overwashing also entails avoiding overly harsh washing methods.
On the whole, sweaters last the longest when they are hand washed and laid flat to dry. Again, some sweaters can go through the washer and dryer and last for decades but many can’t.
Assuming a sweater can just go through the washer and dryer is an expedient way to destroy it.
4. What to Do About Snags and Holes
At some point, you’ll get a snag or a hole in in a sweater that you love. Like all clothing mending, these are best dealt with as soon as you notice them.
The exact fix depends on the sweater and type of hole, but here are some options:
- Work a small snag back into the knit fabric (easier with thicker fabrics).
- Pull a snag through to the inside of the sweater and tack it down or sew it in (easier with thinner fabrics).
- Lightly tacking together a hole with sewing thread (better for very small holes where the fabric that remains is already enough to basically fill the hole).
- Darning a hole – either visibly or invisibly (best for large holes).
- Patching a hole (best for large holes that you want to make into a design element).
You may even see if your local tailor or dry cleaner does sweater fixes – some do and some don’t. Either they aren’t difficult repairs to do on your own and can go a long way to taking care of your sweaters so they last for years to come.
5. Removing Pills
I wrote a whole post about this, but removing pills (those tiny little fuzz balls that accumulate on sweaters) regularly helps ensure they don’t snag. This helps elongate the lifespan of any knit.
Plus taking care of sweater fuzz balls as they happen helps keep your sweater looking good. Here are the ins and outs of sweater fuzz balls.
6. (BONUS) End of Season Care
And finally, when spring comes around and it’s time for your sweaters to go back into storage or the back of the closet, make sure you put them away clean, dry and mended.
Your next-year-self will thank you.
There we have it! 5 suggestions (plus one) for taking care of your sweaters throughout this pumpkin-spice-sweater-season.
Don’t forget you can get your free copy of Personal Style Fundamentals right here. It includes a whole section on maintaining your clothes so they last you as long as you want them. Plus some more details on washing, including when to hang something to dry and when to lay it flat to dry.
And you can submit your own personal style questions right here.