How to Hand Wash a Wool or Cashmere Sweater

Sweater Red by Terri Oda-Edit-2

Once I shrunk a favorite sweater in the washer, and I’ve been careful to hand wash sweaters ever since.

It takes less time than driving to the dry cleaners. Here’s how:

Time required: 10 active minutes, 10 soaking minutes, and a day or two to dry flat


  • sink/basin
  • cool water
  • dish soap
  • white vinegar
  • 2 white or neutral bath towels (so the color won’t bleed onto the sweater)

Step 1: de-pill (pilling is the little balls that gather on sweaters). I’ve always used an electric sweater shaver like this one, but I recently learned about the d-fuzz-it comb, which looks faster and simpler. If using the electric version, be careful not to catch snags, which can cause a hole. Use the snag fixing tool to pull a snag through to the underside, so it doesn’t show or make a hole.


Step 2: measure the sweater so you’ll know how big to shape it when you lay it out to dry


Step 3: fill a sink or basin with cool water and add a few drops of liquid dish soap and ¾ cup white vinegar (to neutralize body odors)

Step 4: gently swish the sweater around in the water and soak 10 minutes


Step 5: rinse in a basin of cool water, again, swishing gently. Squeeze out what water you can, being careful not to wring it (which can twist it out of shape)


Step 6: fold a towel in half and lay out the sweater on it. Roll and squeeze as you go.


Step 7: transfer it to a dry towel and block it (which means to lay it out in the dimensions you originally measured). Leave flat to dry. If you have a mesh sweater net, it will be able to breathe on both sides and potentially dry faster. Without a net, I just leave it on the towel. Tip: change (or dry) the towel after the first night to speed it up a bit.

Hooray for fresh smelling sweaters!

[Picture credit: Terri Oda]

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LauriHow to Hand Wash a Wool or Cashmere Sweater

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