Knitwear is a winter essential for men, not only for staying warm but also for layering and creating the perfect, thought-out outfit. Although most guys own some knitwear, very few know how to care for it properly – by ‘care for’ we pretty much mean how to wash it. An easy option is to wear the thing to death, not deal with the bother of the awkward washing process and shove it at the back of your cupboard never to be thought of again. It doesn’t have to be this way; it isn’t as awkward to wash as you might think.
It’s a case of working out what type of wool your garment is made from and then it’s easy to see how it can be washed. That’s why we’ve broken it down into categories below so you can see at a glance the care guide for the most popular types of wool. The good thing about knitwear is that it is no longer simply available to the luxury elite – there’s options available in virtually every price bracket. No matter how much you’ve spent, it would be a crying shame to ruin it after the first wash because you failed to check the label. Carelessly put a simple tee in a 40-50 degree cycle once and it’s still fine. Do it to your lambswool jumper and it’s gone forever.
Washing knitwear properly is not just about saving your money, it’s also a case of not ruining your look by sporting shoddy apparel. Washing your knitwear incorrectly can cause it to lose shape, shrink or bobble – all of which is going to result in an all-round bad look.
Knitwear shouldn’t be washed too frequently because it will lose shape, but that doesn’t mean you should let your jumpers smell like an armpit.
Sheep’s wool is the most popular type of wool that has amazing properties for winter wear – with a low rate of heat release. Wool can also be wrinkled, twisted or stretched while still recovering its natural shape due to its elasticity.
There are many types of sheep’s wool but in this guide we will focus on the most popular forms for clothing today: Lambswool and Merino.
This is the highest quality sheep’s wool on the market. It is taken from sheep at their first shearing, meaning the wool is supremely soft, smooth and elastic.
- NEVER put your lambswool in a washing machine, even on a wool cycle programme.
- NEVER put into a dryer.
Wash by hand
- Choose a mild detergent with a pH level below 7 (it’ll tell you on the bottle)
- Mix the detergent with cool water. In case you need hot water to dissolve the solid soap, wait until it cools to actually submerge the garment in it.
- Swirl the garment delicately in the water. Remember to not twist or wring out a sweater, as it will lose the shape quickly.
- Lay the garment on a towel and stretch it gently to the correct size and shape before letting it air-dry.
Merino is commonly used in more affordable knits, not because it’s a lesser quality wool – but because it is naturally resistant to odours as well as being soft with a great breathability.
Wash by hand
- Use warm water and mix it with some mild liquid soap. You can use special wool washing fluids that utilise cold water but remember to read the label first.
- Submerge the garment in the water, let it soak for 5 minutes.
- Carefully rinse the garment in warm water.
- When you’re done with rinsing, squeeze as much water as you can from the garment. Remember to not twist or wring the garment.
- Wrap the garment in a towel. Gently squeeze or wring the towel. Unwrap, lay it out flat on the towel to let it air-dry.
Sometimes you can use a washing machine for merino items (ALWAYS check the label first).
In general it’s recommended you only wash hats, scarves and gloves by this method, just in case something goes wrong – easier to replace a ruined scarf than a sweater. The thing you gotta remember is that “machine washable” basically means you can use the machine but there is always a risk (especially if done frequently).
Remember to use a gentle cycle or cycle for knits because a regular one can cause the garment to shrink. Choosing the right temperature will also help, usually 30 degrees. (In some machines, ’30 degrees’ has a yarn ball symbol right next to it).
If you don’t have the time or energy to wash it yourself, you can take your merino to the dry cleaner. However, you should be cautious because frequent use of harsh chemicals can negatively affect the fabric. This is also the least cost effective option.