I still remember my first cashmere jumper years ago, when cashmere was not as easy to get as it is now and cost an arm and a leg. It seemed like such a luxury and I felt amazing every time I wore it. I dedicated a fancy padded silk hanger for it and loved even looking at it, never mind wearing it. I was minding it like you’d mind a baby and it served me for 6 wonderful years until it got so tired looking that I had to downgrade it to home wear and our relationship stopped being quite so precious. However, what it did teach me is the fact that a little bit of TLC for your clothes goes a very long way.
All of my clients know that I stand for quality over quantity on a big scale of things. However, quality will not last you long if you are not looking after your clothes properly.
I have seen hundreds of wardrobes and regularly observe how clients’ lifestyle, level of care and routine wardrobe management skills affect their clothes. I often hear people giving out about the quality of clothing these days. While some brands produce nothing more than fast fashion that is not intended to last, in most cases we are the ones doing all the damage to our wardrobes.
To make sure that anything you spend your money on serves you for longer, I want to share some useful tips on how to take care of your clothes so they last longer and bring better return on investment. In this post I’ll tell you how to look after your knitwear.
Number one question that clients usually ask is the level of care required for cashmere and wool, usually meaning ‘Does it have to be dry cleaned?’
I’ll tell you what works for me and my clients when it comes to washing delicate knitwear. That’s right – washing. I don’t dry clean knitwear. Even if the care label says otherwise.
Let me explain why. The reason behind most dry clean tags is not the fabric that is intolerant to water, but manufacturer’s concern about customer’s level of care (and often adequacy!). I’ve seen so many items ruined by hot washes, thrown in with different coloured items, put through too high of a spin, etc. Manual damage like that will destroy even superb quality clothing made out of good fabrics, so this is what manufacturers are mostly protecting themselves from.
If you wash delicate knitwear with the right detergent and the right way, I can assure you nothing will happen to it.
So what is the right detergent and the right way to wash your knitwear?
If you never looked properly through the detergents shelf in your supermarket, do it the next time you are there. You’ll see that there is a variety of different types of detergents intended for different purposes. It is not a marketing gimmick, there is actually significant difference between them.
To wash knitwear, you’ll need a specialized detergent. Most of the brands you can buy in the supermarket for wools and silks are perfectly safe, but if you still have reservations, here is what you need to look out for. Besides the physical damage that can come from twisting, rubbing too much, wringing or agitating fabric, wool can be damaged if you wash it with alkaline substances. Any solutions that have a pH level of more than 8 are acidic and can damage wool. So if you want to go completely OCD on this, look for detergents that have a neutral pH which is 7. Otherwise, just go and get a bottle of pink Woolite. I’ve been using it for years and never had any issues. I also use it on silk.
How to wash knitwear
I either hand wash my knits or put them in the washing machine (depending on how precious it is and how lazy I am). 9 out of 10 times everything goes in the machine.
I will be honest – I am yet to ruin something. How much of my stuff was ruined in the dry cleaners over the years? I don’t even care to remember at this stage.
I don’t believe for a split second that I could possibly do more damage to a garment by gently rinsing it than harsh dry clean chemicals do.
It is entirely up to you what you decide to do with your stuff, my only point is – don’t be dry cleaning just because you think you have no choice. Pretty much all of knitwear can be washed.
- Now, when you are washing wool by hand, put it in barely warm water in a basin with a specialist detergent dissolved in it. Gently work the garment and push it around to make sure it absorbs the water. Handle it with care and don’t go pulling it or squeezing too much. When you think the jumper or whatever you are washing had enough, drain the water and keep adding clean water to rinse out the detergent. When the water stops bubbling and runs clear, press the garment against the basin to squeeze out the extra water but whatever you do, don’t go twisting and wringing.
- You are probably thinking now – what on earth am I supposed to be doing with this dripping rag if I can’t wring it? And here is what you do – put it on a flat surface with a clean towel underneath. I prefer doing it on a clothes airer. Lay it as flat as possible, fix the garment so no seams are deformed or twisted and then gently start rolling the towel. Once you roll it, let it sit for a while. Jumpers tend to take some time to release the water so leave it sitting for about 10 minutes. Once you unroll the towel, you will have a garment that is still damp but not dripping.
- If the jumper is particularly chunky, I put it on another dry towel and leave it there for a good few hours or so. If it is a fine jumper, I just leave it lying flat on the airer.
This whole process might seem like a lot of work but it actually isn’t. The towels work a treat and really eliminate any mess.
- If you are putting your knitwear in a wash, it is best to place it in a mesh laundry bag. This will eliminate the movement of the jumper which in return will help to keep the shape and prevent extra pilling.
- Whether you are hand or machine washing, always turn the garment inside out to prevent it from bobbling.
- I usually put my knitwear on a cold quick cycle. It only takes around 30 minutes (with most knitwear you’re just freshening it up, so there is no need for a longer cycle). It usually doesn’t come out dripping but if it feels too wet, do the towel trick. And voila, 5 minutes of your time and you have a clean knit!
- Don’t ever put knitwear on hangers while it is still wet. Doing this will severely deform the shape.
- When washing cashmere and wool, don’t panic when you take the garment out of the basin or washing machine and it smells like a wet dog. As soon as it dries, the smell is gone and your jumper will be smelling nice and fresh.
- To prolong the time between the washes, wear a short/long sleeved top under your knitwear to eliminate contact with the bare skin.
I hope it goes without saying that you never put your knitwear into a tumble dryer. Unless you want your knits to fit your pooch. Same goes for placing your clothes airer near the radiator. Keep it away from direct sources of heat.
Washing your woolens sensibly doesn’t guarantee their durability per se. The way you store them has a big impact on their longevity as well.
In general I recommend folding your knitwear as opposed to hanging it but it depends on the type of knitwear.
- Heavy jumpers are better off folded because if you hang them, their weight alone can distort the shape of the garment.
- Fine knitwear is fine on hangers but make sure you use felt covered hangers, silicone or padded ones. A lot of damage I see to knitwear is inflicted by the wrong hangers. If the hanger is poking through the shoulders, it will eventually create a bubble of stretched out fabric which is practically impossible to remove. This happens very quickly with plastic and wire hangers so make sure you keep your knitwear away from those.
- Do not store any of your knitwear on wire hangers from dry cleaners – under no circumstances! It’s like signing the death sentence to your knitwear! (ok, it might sound a bit dramatic, but I can’t tell you the amount of damage I’ve seen in my clients’ wardrobe from these bad boys!)
Wear and tear obviously make a substantial contribution towards shortening the life of your knitwear so here are a few tips on how to combat the potential damage.
- Bags are responsible for a lot of pilling so be careful with how you wear them. Anything that is constantly rubbing against the fibers will agitate them and create balls of fluff.
- Be mindful of what jewellery you are putting with your knitwear. A lot of necklaces make the surface bobble.
- Do not pull on fuzz balls in an attempt to remove them. Those balls are a result of loose yarns – when you pull on them, you are even further loosening the yarn.
- There are a few things that can be done to remove pilling but I find electric de-fuzzers most efficient. When I’m stuck without one, I often use a razor (very carefully!!). Both the elective defuzzer and the razor cut the leg of the fuzz ball without pulling out any more yarns.
Pilling is something that instantly kills the overall look of knitwear so make sure you deal with it on a regular basis. It’s easier to give the garment a quick ‘shave’ where needed instead of trying to tackle fuzz balls all over.
If you are wondering what makes for good quality jumpers, check out my post on Instagram with this image. By the way, if you are not following me there, make sure you start or read the posts through the Instagram carousel on the blog as I post lots of practical tips and advice there.
Hope this helps guys! It might seem like a lot of work but it’s not – it’s just a bit of awareness and care for your precious pieces!
Shop some of my favorite knits below to stay warm this season and I’ll see you in the next post!