Your first act before undertaking a sweater wash: Read the label. Then follow the instructions very, very carefully.
If the label 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 to ensure your at home sweater wash is a successful one. And in case your sweater's fabric care label is no longer legible.
Sweater Wash Guidelines by Fabric
Acrylic sweaters: Acrylics are manmade fibers that can stretch when subjected to heat. Wash as directed on the label (usually in warm water). Then either lay the sweater flat to dry or tumble dry on low if the label says that's OK. If you have to iron it, iron it inside out on low heat and be careful not to stretch it.
Angora sweaters: Angora sweaters are a blend of rabbit hair and synthetic fibers. It's very prone to shrinking so this is one you should consider dry cleaning. If the label says it can be washed, don't put it in the machine. Instead, hand wash it in a gentle laundry detergent and lay flat to dry.
How to wash cashmere sweaters: Cashmere is usually goat hair blended
with wool or synthetic fibers. Usually, you can wash cashmere on the delicate cycle in cold water. Roll in a towel to squeeze out excess water, reshape and flat dry away from sunlight or direct heat.
Chenille sweaters: 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, wash inside out by hand, and lay flat to dry.
Cotton sweaters: Usually, you can hand or machine wash cotton sweaters in cool water. Lay flat to dry. It may need ironing.
Silk sweaters: Some silk sweaters can be washed in the delicate cycle in cold water and flat dried. But they may need ironing afterward.
Wool sweaters: Some wool sweaters can be washed; others cannot. Check the label. If you do put it in the washing machine, use the gentlest cycle and wash in cool water. Don't twist. Lay flat to dry. Also, not all wools are alike. Shetland and Merino wools often can be washed in cold water on the most delicate cycle. Agitation can cause them to shrink.
Sweater Wash and Drying Tips for Success
Always turn sweaters inside out to reduce pilling. (Those little fuzzy balls or bits of fluff that show up on the surface are called "pills", and are the result of fiber agitation in the washing machine, which can cause them to break).
Wash sweaters 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. Let it finish drying flat on a rack.
Flat drying: Place the sweater on a rack and reshape it 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 tape.)
Storage: Never put away a sweater dirty. This makes it more attractive to
pests. Also, some stains may set. Once a sweater is clean, fold to store it - don't hang. Hanging causes most sweaters to stretch out of shape.
sweaters last longer, air them out at least 24 hours after wearing. Fold and store out of direct light.