Washing your clothes seems easy. Whack it in the machine, add the little blue space-age blob, and press go. Or not. While you can usually chuck your jeans and T-shirts in without any dire consequences (bar that time you left your iPhone in the pocket), when it comes to washing knitwear, things get a lot more complicated.
Unless you only buy expensive, dry clean only knitwear, chances are you end up wearing a mix of viscose, nylon or polyester (top tip: wash these synthetic fibres inside out to prevent bobbling). But for those other special pieces, here's our top tips for making sure your jumpers last longer and look as good as new.
How To Really Wash Your Jumpers
ALWAYS wash it by hand. Always. The easiest way is in the bath (or sink). If you don't have any handwash solution in the house, use a bit of washing up liquid - it's much gentler on the fabric than harsh washing powders.
While wool will generally keep you warmer than synthetics, it does need a bit of TLC. Always wash wool at 30 degrees (it will shrink on a high temperature resulting in dolly-sized clothes) and use non-biological washing tablets because biological formulas can eat into the fabric and leave you with holes. Wash wool inside out, and if you're cleaning an expensive or much loved jumper, invest in The Lab Co Cashmere & Wool Wash - a gentle cleaning agents designed especially for wool.
Cotton is your washing friend. It's a toughie, doesn't need to be washed inside out and can cope with higher temperatures of 40 degrees, but don't go higher than 60, as it can still shrink. It's worth knowing that you should do a monthly maintenance wash at a high temperature, putting your empty machine on 90 degrees, with just a tiny bit of washing powder, to avoid the build up of odour that comes from washing regularly on low temperatures with slimy fabric conditioner. Gross.
Chances are you don't have a wardrobe packed full of fluffy cashmere, unless you're Miss Moneybags. But if you do have one or two bits you've never been bothered to take to the dry cleaner, you might not have to. Most cashmere will say on the label that it must be dry cleaned, although some modern cashmere can be machine washed. If, however, you really can't afford the dry cleaning bill, wash at a low temp (30 degrees) and use Cashmere Shampoo. We can't promise it will be OK 100% of the time, but for mid-weight and heavy knits, you will probably get away with it. With any delicate fabrics, protect them from too much rough and tumble in a net washing bag, or if you're improvising, a loosely tied pillowcase.
Wherever you can, air dry your knitwear. It won't just save on your electricity bill, it's the safest way to avoid your jumper coming out doll-sized. Use your washing machine's spin cycle to drain excess water, and peg jumpers upside down onto on your airer, so that you don't get any lines across the middle, or peg marks near the neck. Never hang up soaking wet knitwear - the weight of the water will drag it out of shape.
Much like when you spill red wine all over your carpet, speed is key. Blot stains immediately, then use a stain remover bar. Apply, leave for a few minutes, and then put on a quick wash cycle.