How to Wash Sweaters, Cardigans and Winter Essentials

How to Wash Sweaters, Cardigans and Winter Essentials

Regardless of how you feel about snow and cold temperatures, most of us can agree that winter fashion is something to look forward to. What's not to love about cozy sweaters, kneehigh boots and scarves with hats to match? Whether you spend the winter season on the slopes, building snowmen or curled up indoors with a mug of cocoa, your winter essentials will need to be washed sooner or later. With proper care, your favorite sweater, cardigan, coat or winter accessory will last you years to come.

Washing and Drying Winter Essentials

To figure out the best method for cleaning your winter wear, always consult and follow the label inside. As a general rule, you should never apply bleach or iron your winter garments unless the tag says it is safe to do so. You should also be wary of hang drying anything with long sleeves, as it may cause them to stretch and crease. Specific care of your garment depends on several factors, including how often you wear it and its fabric makeup. 

How Often Winter Clothing Needs to Be Washed

How often you should wash your winter clothing depends on a few factors:

  • What type of clothing is it? Some pieces do not need to be washed as frequently as others. You only need to wash heavy coats, parkas, fleece sweaters and accessories like scarves and hats about once or twice per season. Thin sweaters, long-sleeved shirts and gloves you wear and use regularly should be washed after every one or two uses.
  • How regularly do you wear it? If you wear something for an extended period nearly every day of the season, you will need to wash it more frequently than the down jacket or wool sweater you only throw on once or twice.
  • Do you wear it against your skin? If you wear a sweater or top directly against your skin, with no other layer of clothing in between, you should wash it more frequently than those you wear with layers underneath.
  • What do you do while wearing it? If you are trying to decide whether or not you should wash a sweater or coat, ask yourself what you did — or what you usually do — while wearing it. Is it a date night sweater you only wear to dinner and the movies? Or is it what you throw on when you need to do chores around the home or walk the dog? 


At the end of the season, do not store your winter clothing while dirty or wet. Take the time to give them each a final clean and allow them to dry thoroughly. By next winter, you will have fresh, clean clothes ready for the cold once more.

Sweaters and Cardigans

Check the label inside your garment and see what it is made of — this will determine how you should wash and dry it. Some of the most common fabrics for sweaters and cardigans and their recommended care are:

  • Cotton: To prevent cross-dyeing, always separate your cotton sweaters and cardigans by color before washing. Depending on label instructions, you will either hand-wash your garment or wash it in a machine for a short cycle with cold water. To dry your cotton sweater, put it in the dryer for a 10-minute cycle on low heat before promptly removing it and laying it flat on a rack or other surface to finish drying.
  • Wool: Although most washing machines have a "wool cycle," hand-washing is generally recommended to wash knit fabric. If you choose to use your machine, select the gentlest cycle available. Always wash inside out and use a mild, wool-friendly detergent. Do not wring your wool sweater. Instead, roll it in a towel to gently squeeze excess water out of it before reshaping the sweater and laying it flat to dry.
  • Acrylic: Unlike many fabrics, you should wash your acrylic garments in warm water, unless otherwise noted on the label. Wash it in a load with other garments, so it does not get misshapen. Use a garment bag to keep it from tangling around the agitator of your washing machine if necessary. Hand-washing also works for acrylic fabric. To dry, tumble on low heat and finish by laying flat. Never hang an acrylic sweater while wet, or it will stretch.
  • Cashmere: You might consider the idea of washing cashmere to be a little bit intimidating, due to its reputation of being luxurious and fragile, but don't worry. Hand-washing is ideal for cashmere. To hand-wash sweaters, place in a tub of cold water with gentle, cashmere-friendly detergent, and allow it to soak for about a half an hour. Then, drain the soapy water and rinse your sweater with cool, clean water. Do not wring it out when finished. Instead, gently ball it up and press it against the side of the tub to remove excess water before laying it on a drying rack to dry. If you must machine wash, do so in a mesh laundry bag on a cold, gentle cycle. Do not put cashmere in the dryer.
  • Polyester: Polyester can be washed in your machine in either cool or warm water and dried on the permanent press setting of your dryer unless otherwise labeled. Because polyester is synthetic, it is especially sensitive to warping if overheated. For this reason, only wash in cold water and do not dry on high heat. 
  • Rayon: Experts advise taking rayon to a dry cleaner, but you can try washing it at home if you are very careful. Hand-wash in a tub of room temperature water and use a gentle detergent that is marked safe for rayon. Swirl the water around until suds have formed, then add in the garment and gently move it around until it is thoroughly wet and submerged. Allow to soak for 30 minutes, then rinse with cool water. Never wring your rayon garment or put it in the dryer. Instead, gently squeeze the water out, reshape it and lay it flat to dry.
  • Mohair: To wash fuzzy sweaters, like those made of mohair, always avoid heat. Hand-wash in cool water with gentle detergent whenever possible. If machine washing, turn inside out and use a garment bag. Never put mohair in the dryer. Instead, gently squeeze out the water — without wringing the sweater — and lay it flat to dry so you can keep the soft exterior fluffy and vibrant.

Winter Coats

Winter coats are usually more durable than sweaters and cardigans, as they are intended for outerwear. These are some of the most common types of winter coat and jacket materials and how to care for them:

  • Tweed: If your tweed is unstructured and made of wool — which is the makeup of most tweed coats intended for casualwear — washing instructions are the same as for wool sweaters: hand-wash with a wool-friendly detergent and lay flat to dry. Structured tweed with lining and shoulder pads, usually found in men's formal wear, requires special care at the dry cleaners.
  • Faux fur: When it comes to washing your favorite faux fur winter coat, avoid any methods that agitate the fur too much, including heat and wringing. Hand-wash your coat in cold water and either lay flat or hang to dry. If necessary, gently comb out any tangles or matted spots once the fur is dry. If you choose to machine wash, allow the coat to soak in water and mild detergent for about fifteen minutes, then set your machine to rinse. Do let your coat spin. Repeat this process until all soap is rinsed away.
  • Fleece: Fleece coats are soft and warm, and are easier to care for then you might think. You can hand-wash or machine-wash your fleece in cold water. Always turn your fleece inside out to minimize pilling, and do not wash it with other fabrics to prevent lint transfer. Never place your fleece in the dryer — instead, allow it to drip dry.
  • Down: You might have heard that you cannot wash down because water will ruin the soft insulation. However, careful washing and drying are possible if you use the right products and methods. Wash your down coat on a gentle cycle in warm water. Use a down-safe soap or protectant. Once the first wash cycle completes, rewash your coat in a water-only cycle to get rid of all soap. Put it in the dryer on the lowest heat setting, and toss in some tennis balls or dryer balls before turning it on to keep clumps from forming. Every 15 to 30 minutes, take your coat out to fluff and evenly distribute the down, then toss it back in and repeat this cycle until it is completely dry.

Scarves, Hats and Gloves

Think about all the things your gloves come into contact with during the day — and unlike your bare hands, you can't simply wash the germs away in the restroom sink. Regular laundering of your winter gloves is essential for keeping them clean and odor-free. A few common types of winter gloves include:

  • Suede: Suede gloves are a classic winter style, but unfortunately, usually cannot be washed at home. To minimize your trips to the dry cleaner, spray a suede protectant spray onto your gloves before wearing them. If you just need to dry your gloves after exposure to snow or rain, lay them flat on a drying rack.
  • Leather or faux leather: Leather and faux-leather gloves require extra care. Never put leather or faux leather in the water. To disinfect and remove odors from the inside, sprinkle with cornstarch or baking soda, then shake loose. Lightly spray the interior with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. For the outside, use an oil-based soap and rub it on the gloves without added water. Afterward, polish your gloves clean with a microfiber cloth.
  • Waterproof: If you participate in winter sports or spend a lot of time outdoors in the snow, you might own a pair of waterproof gloves. To clean these, spray the outside with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide and allow it to sit for several minutes before wiping dry. Sprinkle cornstarch or baking soda inside the glove to absorb odors and shake loose. Apply a waterproofing spray if necessary.

Hats and scarves are typically made of the same fabrics and materials as your favorite sweaters, like cotton and wool. If so, follow the same guidelines you would use to wash a sweater of the same makeup. If machine washing, put your hat and scarf into separate garment bags to keep them from tangling around the washing machine or other garments. Never put hats or scarves in the dryer — instead, allow them to drip dry or lay flat on a drying rack. As with any garment, always check the label instructions before washing your winter accessories.

Frequently Asked Questions About Caring for Winter Essentials

Frequently Asked Questions

Taking care of your favorite winter clothing might sound complicated, but it doesn't have to be! Perfectly Priscilla is here to help. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about caring for winter essentials.

How Do I Prevent My Sweater From Shrinking or Stretching?

To keep sweaters from shrinking, always allow them to air dry, rather than putting them in a dryer. When machine washing, use a front-load or high-efficiency washer if possible, so there is no central mechanism to twist and agitate the fabric. Opt for sweaters that have been preshrunk by the manufacturer to minimize sweater shrinkage. To wash women's sweaters without causing any stretching, hand-wash them whenever possible, and use a soap formulated for the specific fabric. Never hang your sweaters to dry if you are worried about stretching. Instead, reshape and lay flat on a drying rack.

How Do I Fix a Sweater With Pilling?

When it comes to pilling no season is safe, and unfortunately, pilling is a common concern for even the highest quality sweaters. Pills form due to rubbing or abrasion during normal wear and use. The pills are usually found on the areas of clothing that receive the most abrasion in day-to-day use, such as under the arms, around the collar and cuffs, and even between the thighs and on the rear of pants; but it can happen anywhere on fabric due to the friction involved during wear and in the washing and drying process. 

If you notice pilling on your favorite piece, invest in a fabric comb or battery-operated fuzz remover to shave the pills away gently without causing any snags or loose threads.To keep sweaters from pilling in the future, always wash them inside out. If using a machine instead of hand-washing, wash on the gentlest cycle. Avoid putting any sweaters prone to pilling in the dryer. Do not wash too many garments at once, as this creates even more friction, which encourages fabric to pill and pull.

How Can I Resoften My Sweater or Cardigan?

Has your favorite cardigan become scratchy or stiff? To resoften and restore your winter clothing, follow these tips:

  • Do not overwash your garment, as the friction of washing is what causes fibers to tense. Wash only when recommended or necessary.
  • Look for fabric-specific conditioners and add it to a tub of water. Allow your cardigan or sweater to soak in this solution for however long the packaging suggests.
  • Go the do-it-yourself route and soak your sweater in a solution of water and vinegar before allowing to air dry.

Find High-Quality Winter Essentials at Perfectly Priscilla

Find High-Quality Winter Essentials at Perfectly Priscilla

Looking for a new favorite sweater or a stylish way to stay warm this winter? Perfectly Priscilla is a plus size clothing boutique carrying exclusive styles in sizes ranging from 10 to 26. We believe prices should be the same no matter what your size — that's why we offer top-quality at no extra cost. You also have access to the Perfectly Priscilla Rewards Program, making it easier than ever to stock up and save on the latest trends. To find your new winter look, browse our online inventory, where we carry thousands of tops, bottoms, outerwear, shoes and accessories. If you are located near Valdosta, Georgia, feel free to stop in and say hello at our retail store located at 116 N. Patterson Street.

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