Has your favourite knit seen better days? Kick off sweater season with a rescue operation. An expert shares her top tips on how to wash, unshrink, depill and store your sweaters to make them look brand new and last longer.
1. Master wash day
Laundering knitwear by hand in cold water is always a good idea, but some pieces can be washed in a garment bag on a delicate cold cycle, says Erin Gravelle, inventory and studio manager at Fabcycle, a Vancouver organization that upcycles textile waste. To keep the yarn soft, she recommends using a tiny amount of regular detergent or a tablespoon of vinegar. Once your sweaters are dry, don’t hang them up in your closet—instead, keep them folded so they retain their shape.
2. Hold a stretch
Heat causes shrinkage, so always skip the dryer. If your sweater comes out of the wash child-sized, here’s how to restore it: Start by soaking it in cold water for 30 minutes. “The water makes the yarn thicken, which allows you to stretch it out,” says Gravelle. Lay the sweater out flat and pull the fibres in all directions. This technique works well for synthetic yarns, but not usually for wool.
3. Fight the fuzz
Fibres are most likely to break and form pills in areas that experience friction—the underarms, elbows and stomach area are all hot spots. The key is to catch them as early as possible. Pulling on pills will create more over time and weaken the fabric, so Gravelle recommends clipping them with small scissors or, for larger areas, using a fabric shaver (as seen above).