It's easier than you might think to machine wash sweaters at home, and keep them looking like new and feeling soft in the process.
The key to washing sweaters at home is simply this: Choose the right temperature for your sweater's fabric to keep it from losing color or its shape (but a temperature that can also get it clean), and knowing whether or not your sweater is safe to put in the dryer.
This guide to machine washing acrylic, angora, cashmere, chenille, cotton, silk and wool sweaters will help keep these cold-weather wardrobe staples clean and looking like new.
Wash acrylic sweaters as directed on the label (usually warm water). Then either lay the sweater flat to dry or tumble dry on low if the label says that's OK.
Angora sweaters are a blend of rabbit hair and synthetic fibers. Angora is prone to shrinking, so this is one sweater you may want to consider dry cleaning.
However, even if the label says it can be washed, don't put your angora sweater in the washing machine. Instead, wash it by hand with a gentle laundry detergent and lay flat to dry.
Cashmere is usually goat hair blended with wool or synthetic fibers. Go by the label instructions here, if you can read them. Usually, you can wash a cashmere sweater on the delicate cycle in cold water.
Roll in a towel to squeeze out excess water, reshape, and dry flat on a surface away from sunlight or direct heat.
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If you want chenille sweaters to stay soft, don't put them in the washing machine - even if the label says it's OK. The rubbing caused by the machine agitation can damage the fibers and make them snag or feel rough. Instead, hand wash chenille sweaters inside out, and lay flat to dry.
Usually, you can hand or machine wash cotton sweaters in cool water. Lay flat to dry. It may need ironing, however.
Some silk sweaters can be washed in the delicate cycle in cold water and flat dried. But they made need ironing afterward. Check the label to be sure it can safely be washed first.
Some wool sweaters can be washed; others cannot. Check the label.
In general, Shetland and Merino wools often can be washed in cold water on the most delicate cycle. Agitation can cause them to shrink. If you do put it in the washing machine, use the gentlest cycle and wash in cool water. Lay flat to dry.
To make your sweaters last longer, air them out at least 24 hours after you wear them (and before you wear them again). Then fold and store out of direct sunlight.
Visit the Clean Organized Home Store for the stain removal products and laundry supplies you need to keep your clothes looking their best.