Sweaters, and the washing and drying thereof

So, it’s winter, which means that I’m wearing more sweaters than usual.

Sweaters are nice and cozy - but I usually try to avoid them, because they’re such a pain in the butt on laundry day. Okay, wash on gentle, cold water, no biggie - but then they all say “Dry Flat”. Which means every flat or flat-ish surface of the house is festooned with drying sweaters for a day or two. Grrr.

So what happens if I don’t dry them flat, if I just toss 'em in the dryer? Will they be wrinkled? Shrink? Get lumpy? Stretch out? Assume that I’m working with mostly cotton or acrylic fibers, here - sweaters like this orthis - I don’t really do wool. (Both of those are sweaters I own, and they’re cute as hell, but ugh. Dry. Flat.)

Shrink up in my experience. Cotton ones, anyway.

Not like “Haha, this is dollhouse sized now!” shrink but rather “Didn’t the bottom of this used to sit below my belt?” shrink.

I hang “Dry flat” clothes to dry all the time. No problems.

When I was a young lad in college, my then-girlfriend had a lovely long, white sweater coat that came to mid-calf.

One day, to help her out since she was busy writing a paper, I did the laundry.

The result was a sweater that would have been small on a child in kindergarten.

For some inexplicable reason, she married me anyway, and still lets me do the laundry. But, she’s given up wearing sweaters. Wonder why?

I think wool is more prone to dramatic shrinkage than cotton but I’m not a textiles expert.

Sweaters just aren’t that great in the dryer. Wool will shrink, cotton will shrink somewhat, wool and cotton and acrylic fibers will get damaged and make your sweater look pilly and/or lumpy. Even sweaters that you can dry in the dryer will start to look worn out faster than air dried.

I don’t think you have to dry them completely flat, especially if you have limited space. The point of drying them flat is so that the sweater’s own weight doesn’t pull it out of shape while it is drying, and so that the sweater doesn’t dry into the shape of whatever you are hanging it on. But you can also avoid this by rearranging the sweater a bit while it is drying, if it is on an actual rack or on something in your house you are using as a rack. I feel that the more natural content in the sweater makes them more likely to dry into a shape, and that the more acrylic sweaters are more forgiving.

Perhaps counterintuitively, you can also put nearly dry sweaters in the dryer on low heat for a few minutes (let’s say between five and ten) for fluffing.

  1. Wear an undershirt.

  2. Take them to the cleaners once per year.

I use stackable sweater drying racks. I have four, and even in my tiny one bedroom apartment, they work well stacked as a unit and have a very small footprint. If I have more than four sweaters to dry, I can double the capacity by putting a sweater, a towel, and a second sweater on each rack, since each will be open to the air on one side.

I would not risk ruining a dry flat sweater by putting it in the dryer. Even if it doesn’t instantly shrink, it will last a lot longer if you avoid subjecting it to dryer heat.

It is a pain to lay them flat to dry, but I do it anyway to avoid all the problems discussed above.

I bought three of these stackable sweater drying racks, and that way multiple drying sweaters don’t take up so much space. They stack neatly one on top of the other, and I place the stack in some corner somewhere.

My washing machine is a front-loader that has a “hand-wash/wool” setting. Do those actually work? Can I put in a wool sweater, with cold water and Woolite, and not have it ruined?

I used to wash them on cold/gentle with Woolite and used a sweater rack to dry them. Now, I just look for coupons from local dry cleaners and take them there for cleaning. Much less hassle and I’ve got someone to blame if they do shrink, unless it’s me putting on winter weight!

Your dryer should have a “no heat” or “tumble” setting. Chunk them in there and let the regular-temp air get them 80-90% dry, then pull them out and manhandle them back into the correct shape and let them flat dry (i usually use the top of the washer or dryer, or on the bed between a set of towels) for the last bit of drying.

Laying flat w/o a sweater dryer rack doesn’t have to take days to dry them; if you have the option on your washer, run an extra spin cycle, then lay the sweater on a bath towel, roll it up and squeeze (NOT TWIST) the whole thing for a few minutes till you feel a lot of water has been absorbed into the towel. Lay it flat on another towel, obviously. And if you have the time, do this early in the day so you can lay the sweater to dry over a layer of non-wood hangers on your bed for air to circulate underneath.

You can also hang them to dry by draping them (after towel-drying) over your shower rod, placing them in the middle either across the sweater torso or length-wise.

You probably married her because of how she looked in that sweater afterward.

How do you wear these sweaters? I mean under or over what? And how often do you wash them?

When I lived in cold country I had medium weight poly-cotton knitted pullover shirt/sweaters I wore with an undershirt always. Or maybe with lightweight longjohns for the worst of winter. Think long sleeve polo shirt with some extra heft & windproofness.

Which each got machine washed and dried on medium with everything else. They last for years looking just fine.

The heavier outerwear-type sweaters I wore over those clothes got washed once per season. Unless I spilled food on them. I had I think 6 I wore regularly. When winter lasts 3 months = 90 days and you split that split 6 ways you’re only wearing each one 15 times per season. Spill food on each just once a season and you’re down to averaging 7 wearings between washings. That’s way more than enough for an outer layer.

How often do you wash your overcoat?

When I was a kid, a local shop had a deal by which they’d charge by the pound for dry cleaning. So my parents would take anything that might need cleaning, sweaters especially, there.

Yeah, I treat my cotton/acrylic sweaters like LSLGuy. I almost always wear them over another layer and therefore only wash them a few times a year unless I specifically dirty them. When I do wash them, I throw them in the washer and dryer with the rest of the laundry and they turn out fine (i.e. no pilling or shrinking) if they’re of decent quality. Any shrinking is just the same as any other piece of clothing, like jeans - put it on for 10 minutes and its already back to its original shape. Even if I air dried them (which I only did when my dryer was broken) I simply hung them on a hanger off a chair or something. No big deal, no misshapen mess.

I do make a point to turn them inside out in the wash though, so the majority of rubbing and pilling happens on the inside.

Just to clarify since it appears I may have misled Macca26:

Outerwear sweaters that are cotton or cotton poly wash normally like any other laundry. Most of mine are/were wool and either got done by hand in Woolite and dried flat on a towel on the dining table, or got dry cleaned. Woolite works better on the lighter ones; dry cleaning works better on the really thick ones.

But I was only doing one every couple weeks so it was no big deal.