How to wash cardigans

A woman wearing a white knit cardigan smiles while sitting on the sofa.

Ever wondered whether your laundry methods are helping or harming your efforts to keep your clothes in the very best condition? In this blog, we’ll explain the importance of taking care when laundering your cardigans, outline how best to wash them by hand and by machine, and finally we’ll address how to dry your knitwear.

How to wash a cardigan

Although it can be more convenient to ignore the care instructions on the label of your clothes and throw everything in the washing machine together, this isn’t always the best strategy if you’re looking to preserve and maintain your favourite cardigan. Some materials are more vulnerable than others, and so it pays to take notice of the garment care label to get the best results.

For example, one thing you shouldn’t do with cardigans is wash them in hot water. This can cause the fibres that make up the garment to lengthen, which can lead to it stretching and looking baggy or misshapen when you next come to wear it.

So how should you wash your cardigans?

How to wash cardigans in the washing machine

The first step to washing any garment, whether you’re using a machine or doing it by hand, is to check the care label. Take any advice provided on this label, as it’s specific to the actual garment you’re washing and not just cardigans. Depending on what fabric you’re working with, machine washing might not be advisable.

If machine washing is appropriate, opt for a delicate wash with the shortest possible cycle. This will help to reduce the risk of damage to your knitwear while it’s in the machine. If you have one, a delicate garments bag can help to add a layer of protection to your cardigan. To boost that, make sure to turn the cardigan inside out and fasten any buttons, zippers or ties before washing. Wherever possible, try to wash like with like. Putting cardigans in the wash with heavier materials such as denim can increase the risk of damage to the fibres.

When you put the wash on, stick to a gentle detergent for the best results. And when it comes to temperature, 30°C is your best bet as a rule of thumb. This is especially important for woollen cardigans, which tend to shrink in warmer temperatures.

How to hand wash a cardigan

In the age of machine washing, there’s a common misconception that hand washing garments is more trouble than it’s worth – whereas in reality, it’s simple! Here are the steps:

  1. Fill a clean sink or washing up bowl with cool water and add a mild detergent.
  2. Put your inside out cardigan into the water and give it a gentle swish to distribute the water and detergent
  3. Leave it to soak for 10 to 15 minutes
  4. Rinse the cardigan with clean water
  5. Empty your bowl and refill it with cool, clean water – no detergent this time.
  6. Give your cardigan another gentle swish to remove any last traces of the detergent from the fabric.

Once you’ve completed those six simple steps, you’re ready to move onto the drying process.

How to dry a cardigan

It would be a shame to take the time to carefully wash your cardigan and then waste all your efforts by drying it in a less than optimal fashion. Drying might seem like the easiest part of the process, but things can still go wrong. All you need to do, however, is follow a few simple rules to keep your knitwear in the best condition.

When it comes to drying cardigans, steering clear of the tumble dryer is not only less expensive, but also better for maintaining the quality of your clothes. The clues in the name – a tumble dryer will toss your clothes around, which may cause damage to the fibres. In addition, the heat that dries the material can have the same damaging effect as the heat from a 60°C wash.

With that in mind, air drying is best for your knitwear. Your next move might be to drape your cardigan over a radiator, but this can also have a negative impact. The fabric directly above the top of the radiator tends to dry quicker than the rest, and if you’re not careful, this could affect the shape and colour of the garment.

It’s also not the greatest idea to hang your cardigan on the line with all the rest of your washing or drape it over an airer. Unfortunately, the weight of the moisture can pull down on the fibres within your cardigan and cause it to stretch out of shape.

Instead, the most effective and least damaging way to dry a cardigan is to lay it flat so that the weight of the moisture doesn’t stretch the fibres. To speed up the drying process, lay the cardigan on an absorbent towel to soak up the moisture – but try to keep it out of direct sunlight or discolouration might occur.

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