Washing Knitwear: Tips for caring for knits

washing knitwear

Tutorial Info

"Some of the techniques need special tools but generally anyone will be able to do this! It's really important to care for your knitwear to make it last a long time."

Suitable for: beginners

One of the most difficult things about handknits is understanding washing knitwear. It can be rather terrifying, knowing that the washing machine can easily eat up your gorgeous hand-knitted piece. But washing knitwear needn’t be scary. Whether you are washing wool, washing alpaca or washing other fibres it is possible to wash wool in a washing machine in many cases. But first, review these alternatives.

Top tips for washing knitwear

  • Don’t wash unless it’s necessary
  • Wash as little as possible
  • Wash just the soiled area
  • Do not rub or agitate
  • Double check your washing machine manual
  • Use a speciality wool wash or soak
  • Wash on a cold setting
  • Dry woollens flat so they don’t stretch

Washing Knitwear – is it necessary?

The first thing about knitwear is deciding whether it is necessary to wash. It might seem silly, but washing knitwear as regularly as your other clothing might not be required. Our modern day sensibilities suggest that clothes should be wash after wear, or at least after a few. But if your jumper isn’t worn close to the skin then it may not be necessary to wash it at all, at least not in full.

Pure wool is naturally anti-microbial – that means it doesn’t allow bacteria to grow easily. The reason for this is scientific – bacteria doesn’t stick so easily to scaly surfaces like natural woollen or animal fibres. Also, wool is naturally water-wicking which means that it allows the wetness to rise to the surface and dry quickly meaning that bacteria do not grow in warm, wet environments like they can do on synthetic fibres.

Surface wash only

Another option is to surface wash your piece. Another fantastic idea for washing knitwear is to simply only target those areas that need washing. Wool and natural fibres do not naturally collect body odour, this is because bacteria does not grow in wool so smells do not stick around. If a smell does develop, it may be easy to gently clean only certain areas, such as the armpits, cuffs and collars of jumpers or anywhere where a quick clean is actually needed. Do this by gently cleaning the affected area with warm water in the sink, but try not to rub the fibres as this may cause felting and bobbling.

Handwash the garment

One of the easiest ways to ensure your woollens stay nice is to handwash them yourself. This doesn’t take anywhere near as long as you’d expect and makes washing knitwear less scary. You can wash your garments by fully immersing them in a sink of warm to hot water. Use a wool soak such as the aptly named Soak which is designed especially for delicate fabrics. No need to rub or rinse, you canĀ soak your special items in the wool soak for a few minutes, or longer. It will leave a delicate scent on your knitwear and help to alleviate any problems.

Washing knitwear in the machine

If you absolutely must wash your woollens in the machine, and none of the above options are working out for you, then there are a number of steps you must take to protect your knitwear. Start by checking out the settings on your machine. Generally European style front loading machines are better for washing knitwear than top loading North American style machines. One of the best ways to wash knitwear is to use a cold setting, and choose a gentle cycle that will not spin fast, which could stretch the garments. Instead of using standard detergent, use a speciality wool wash. Eucalan is a great all-purpose wool wash that helps to protect knitwear.


Francesca Haselden

Francesca is the owner of EatSleepKnitUK, she also works for Toyota Home Sewing and is a web developer 9-5!

Visit Francesca's site

Tell us what you think!

Get involved with the discussion