September 4, 2011

Reader Question: Sweater Care

Hey JJ

I have this sweater that I bought at a thrift store and I’m not sure how to clean it. I am pretty sure it is cotton because it doesn’t feel like wool, but since it doesn’t have a tag inside I’m not sure. How should I wash it?



Hey Chris,

Great question! This has happened to me quite a bit (I love thrift and vintage shopping). It is tough to tell from the picture you sent, but my guess is that you are right and it is cotton. Either way, your best option would be to hand wash it.

Fill your bathtub with cold water and place the sweater flat at the bottom. You are going to want to use dish detergent rather than normal laundry detergent because it helps absorb oil in the natural fibers.  Then you are going to want to agitate it gently in the water, without stretching or twisting the fibers. If you stretch out the knit in the sweater it will misshape and overstretch and you certainly would not want that.

After agitating the water for about 5 minutes, let it sit for about 10-15 minutes, after which you’ll wash it out (also delicately) until no soap remains. I would then suggest draining the tub, placing a clean towel down (you’ll want a towel that is a light color or a close color match to the sweater you are washing so that you don’t get any bleed-through between the two), and setting the sweater on it. You do not want to hang the sweater to dry or the weight of the wet fibers will cause the weave to stretch out. Reshape the sweater as you lay it down, to make sure that it dries in the correct shape, and wait. You’ll have a nice clean sweater when it dries.

Thanks for reading and keep the questions coming!

Stay stylish,
- JJ

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