Knitwear can be difficult to care for properly, as the material’s construction is far more delicate than woven fabric.
A light snag, if left untreated, can lead to the garment unravelling, which is obviously the last thing you want for your knitted sweater!
So, what’s the best option for washing knit sweaters? Can a washing machine do a good enough job? Find out below.
Can You Put Knit Sweaters in the Washing Machine?
You absolutely can put knit sweaters in the washing machine, regardless of the material used.
Bear in mind, though, that wool and wool-blend fabrics require different washing processes than cotton and synthetic materials. Even so, a washing machine should be able to handle washing your favourite sweater.
If your washing machine has a wool setting, use that for all knitwear. It reduces the machine’s agitation and (unless you set it manually) uses a lower spin speed.
If you don’t have a wool setting, just use the delicates setting instead. They both do roughly the same thing.
Some tips for washing your knit sweaters include:
- Wash at 30 degrees Celsius. Wool prefers colder temperatures, as it can shrink if it gets too warm.
- Dry knitwear (especially wool) on a flat surface rather than hanging. Reshape it when it comes out of the washing machine and then lie on a towel.
- If your knitwear uses a delicate or chunky knit, wash it in a mesh laundry bag. This reduces the chance of it snagging on something.
- Don’t wash wool very often – once or twice a season for wool is enough, depending on how often you wear it. Other knitted fabrics can be washed more regularly, but still don’t wash them as often as woven garments.
How Do You Wash a Knitted Sweater?
Check your sweater’s care instructions, as some can’t be machine washed. This is usually the case for delicate materials (such as mohair) or certain knits. If so, wash by hand.
The basic instructions are as follows:
- Pre-treat any stains or marks with stain remover or a small amount of detergent. Be sure to dab stains rather than rub them.
- Fill a washing up bowl with cold water – don’t bother running the hot tap at all.
- Add a small amount of detergent. For a 10-litre washing up bowl, a teaspoon is plenty.
- Add your sweater and agitate by hand. This simply involves swishing it around in the water. You should then let it soak for 5-10 minutes.
- Tip away the water and refill the bowl to wash the sweater. Repeat until you remove all the suds.
- Roll your sweater up in a towel, pressing gently as you do so.
- Put the sweater on a dry towel and reshape. Leave to dry lying down.
Knitted sweaters require more care than woven garments, but most washing machines can handle the job.
However, if you’ve got a very delicate or expensive knitted item, washing by hand is always the better method. Whatever method you choose, always use cold water!
Jacob is a freelance writer based in Wales, where he lives with his partner and two dogs. All his work is fuelled by extensive research and buckets of coffee.