How to care for knitwear so you can wear it for years to come

If you’re lucky enough to have some gorgeous knitwear pieces or looking to make an investment in a natural fibre knit like mohair, cashmere or cotton there are a few cleaning and care rules. Don’t just chuck it in the washing machine like a pair of jocks (although let’s face it, that seems easier most of the time…) but take care to understand what your knit is made from and what it needs from you. Yes, your knitwear is like that needy friend but in return for proper care it will reward you with longevity and admiring looks from passers-by. 

Knitwear Care Guide

So why is knitwear so specific when it comes to cleaning and care? Taking care of knitwear comes down to the nature of the fibre it’s constructed from. Cashmere, cotton, lyocell and merino wool are all natural fibres (lyocell is semi-synthetic) and like all things natural they have particularities. They are more sustainable, sometimes more expensive and if correctly cared for can last a long time. Moving towards a capsule wardrobe, natural fibres are a must, especially in classic shapes and colours like our Ana or Eva Sweaters.

Machine wash or hand wash?

Repeat after us. READ THE TAG! Don’t just rip the tags off your new knitwear even if you think you know what it is going to say. Some materials have very specific cleaning guidelines. Some cannot go in the washing machine, some can be professionally cleaned and many shouldn’t go in the dryer unless you plan on gifting your cashmere sweater to your kid’s doll.

Many cashmere and merino products will not be suitable for a machine wash regardless of how gentle it is. They will likely advise you to handwash in cool (not freezing) water with mild detergent (or you can even use mild shampoo!). Soak for a short while and rinse with cool clean water. Cotton and lyocell can sometimes be a little more carefree in its care guide and you might be able to machine wash gently (but check the tag, dear reader). Try not to mix colours when washing too.

One key piece of advice regardless of what the fibre is, is to minimise washing knits. Don’t wash after every wear unless necessary.

Roll knitwear to take moisture out
The Spruce - Knitwear​​

Wringing and Drying

Natural fibres are susceptible to stretching so it’s best not to hang your knits out to dry, rather, let them dry flat. If you’re hand washing your garment don’t wring every last drop out of it as it can cause damage. Gently screw it up into a ball shape and the pressure should release lots of the water. To dry further, place the garment on a clean towel and gently roll the towel up which should absorb excess moisture.

Pilling and Stains

If you find a stain on your knit- please don’t scrub at it aggressively hoping it will go away. It might, but you can also be left with damaged fibres. Be gentle and massage in a stain remover.

Why does knitwear pill? It’s a good but boring question that has a simple answer. It’s caused by friction and loose fibres and that’s why you often find them under the arm of a jumper, for example. It’s best if you try to manage it as you go with the appropriate tool such as a fabric shaver or comb.  

Storing and Moths

Once you have invested in knitwear and looked after it so well during the washing, drying and pilling departments you would be mad not to look after it while in storage too. Do not hang your knitwear unless you want your jumpers potentially stretching into dresses (could be useful?). Fold your knits and ensure before they are put away for storage, say, at the end of the cooler months that they are clean. Clean knits will help deter moths. If you want to be careful, a breathable knit bag (not plastic) will keep your knits in perfect condition for the next winter.

We have some lovely knits at House Warming and we want them to become part of your wardrobe staples. With some careful tag-checking and TLC, they will withstand many seasons of cool weather and continue to feel like a warm hug for years to come.

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