Santa was good this year and brought you a bunch of new, fuzzy, warm sweaters.
By now, they've been worn a few times and need a date with the washing machine. But you hold back, not wanting to lose that new look and feel.
A caveat: just because dry cleaning is expensive does not mean that it's the best care for all sweaters.
The dry cleaning chemicals can build up on some fibers and leave them stiff.
Probably not the look you're going for. Not to worry - you can machine wash sweaters safely with these guidelines.
Your first act: Read the sweater care label. Then follow the instructions very, very carefully.
If it says, "Dry Clean Only," dry clean it. (However, if it says "Dry Clean," you may be able to wash it.)
Sweaters are a little harder to care for than most garments.
They can shrink, they can stretch, they can pill. And the softer the sweater, the more delicate.
Here are some general laundering guidelines for sweater success.
Washing: Always turn sweaters inside out to reduce pilling. Wash in extra-large mesh bags. If handwashing, remove excess moisture by rolling the sweater in a towel.
Machine drying: If you do put your sweater in the dryer, dry on low heat and remove it when it's almost dry and let it finish drying flat on a rack.
Flat drying: Place the sweater on a rack and reshape as much as possible. Do not dry near heat or in direct sunlight.
Check it occasionally to make sure it's not shrinking as it dries. If it does, pull it back out to its original size. (Mark the outline on your rack with a tape.) Then follow these guidelines for unshrinking a sweater.
Storage: Never put away a sweater dirty as this makes it more attractive to pests. Also, some stains may set. Fold to store; do not hang.
Sweater pills are the result of small fibers shed in the wash process that ball up and cling to the sweater's surface.
To prevent pilling, wash sweaters inside out to limit abrasion on the "good" side of the sweater fabric. If hand-washing, remove excess moisture by rolling the sweater in a towel.
Finally, to make your sweaters last longer, air them out at least 24 hours after you wear them (and before you wear them again). Then wash, fold, and store out of direct sunlight.