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How to Wash Knit Sweaters and Blankets

by Pam Silvia

Depending on the U.S. state you live in, you’re either dredging through some heat or sensing a slight chill in the air. If you’re eager for sweater weather like us, you’ve likely already taken your knits out of storage. The next step is washing them to get rid of any accumulated dust mites.

Sure, the safest method is to handwash your knits, but with the proper care and consideration, you can still ensure your favorite chunky-knit cardigan looks its best after a machine wash.

So, don’t be afraid to put your trusty washing machine to work! For the best results, this is how to wash knit sweaters and blankets.

Detergent Type

We’d go with a specialized liquid detergent for delicates.

That being said, if you prefer to keep your laundering products as streamlined as possible, you can still pour in the liquid or pod detergent you use for most loads—but we wouldn’t skimp on the quality thereof, either. The difference in price-per-load between good detergents and “gets-the-job-done” detergents is pennies, so we think it’s well worth the splurge!

We also recommend pouring a teaspoon-sized amount on every individual knitted item you throw in the wash. Here, we caution against dousing your sweaters and blankets in detergent—this won’t bode well for the longevity of the Christmas gift Grandma knitted for you.

Load Management

In terms of what other clothing items may safely accompany your load of knits, your other delicates, like lingerie, are given the green light.

That means you should avoid washing bulky items, like jeans, towels, and hoodies, alongside your knits. Friction with heavier garments may cause chunkier yarn to fray or promote snags and pilling in tighter knits, which translates to sweaters and blankets that aren’t as soft and smooth—and that’s just not a world we want to live in.

To better protect your knits, you may choose to seal them in a mesh laundry bag before running the cycle.

Water Temperature

Cold water is best for knit sweaters and blankets.

It may seem intuitive to use warm water since higher water temperatures are best at eradicating germs and allergens, but not all stains and fabrics respond well to warmer water. Delicate materials, including knits, are more subject to shrinkage and color fade under warmer water.

Washing sweaters and blankets in cold water curbs these potential side effects—plus, cooler water enhances detergent performance and reduces wrinkles.

In fact, your selection of water temperature is arguably more critical than the type of cycle you end up choosing, so you must ensure that you set it to a “cold wash only” setting instead of a cycle your appliance may have programmed to run through varying temperatures.

Cycle Type

To preserve your knits for years to come, choose a cycle labeled “delicate,” “handwash,” or “slow/slow.”

For the most part, the difference between cycle types rests on the speed at which your washer’s impeller or agitator moves. Again, we invoke friction to say, “the less there is, the better” to ensure your washer delivers a hard-hitting clean that is still gentle on your favorite sweater.

Cycle Duration

Depending on the washing machine you have, you may have the option to dictate the length of your cycle. If you’re able, set the dial to 15 minutes, or select the shortest available option. Or if your appliance displays verbiage like “light,” “normal,” “heavy,” or “super heavy,” go for “light.”

In the spirit of not overhandling your knit sweaters and blankets, a shorter wash will cut down on friction.

How to Dry

A tumble in a dryer is no way to prevent fraying of sweater fibers or a shriveled-up handknitted blanket. For the best results, air drying is the way to go!

Whether you hang your damp knits out to dry on a clothesline or a drying rack, we recommend dodging direct sunlight to avoid any color fading.

If you must use your dryer, be sure to set it to a “no heat” option.

And remember: When in doubt, always check the clothing label. But when you need to spruce up your laundry room, be sure to check out our digital catalog of washers, dryers, and laundry accessories. Call our experts or visit our store today!