A treasured piece of knitwear can be a sustainable staple in your capsule wardrobe. However, it takes a little bit of care and attention to preserve a knitted garment so that you can cherish it season after season.

In this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about washing and caring for your knitwear, including the right temperature to wash it at, machine vs hand washing and how to dry it. Say goodbye to fuzzy fabrics, stretched out knits and pesky pills.


Knitwear composition

First things first, before you wash your favourite item of knitwear, you need to know the composition of the yarn it’s knitted from. Are we talking wool, cashmere, or a synthetic, vegan yarn like we use here at Cara & The Sky?

Knitwear made from animal-based fibres, like sheep’s wool, is tricky to wash and is easily damaged in the process. Having said that, all knitted garments should be washed and dried with care, to avoid stretching, shrinking or damaging the knit in any way.


Check the care label

If you’ve purchased a piece of knitwear, there should be some guidance on the label about how to wash and care for it. If it’s a homemade knit, the yarn you purchased should have similar style care instructions.


Hand washing vs. machine washing

Once you’ve established what your knitwear is made from and what the recommended care instructions are, you can decide whether you need to hand or machine wash your garment.

It can be confusing to know whether you can machine wash knitwear or not — no one wants to end up shrinking their favourite cosy jumper!

You should avoid machine washing anything made from animal’s wool. It’s not great at getting wet and can become lumpy, bumpy and pulled out of shape. If the temperature in your machine is too high, it may come out looking like a craft project instead of an item of clothing.

Items made from vegan yarn are a bit more robust. So long as the actual knit of the garment isn’t too delicate, you’re safe to wash it in the machine.



How to care for your knitwear when machine washing

Even if your knitwear is made from a yarn that can handle a machine wash, there’s still a couple of steps you can take to keep it looking tip top.


Choose a delicate setting

Using a ‘gentle’ or ‘delicate’ setting on your machine will help preserve the yarn and knit of your garment and keep it looking its best.


Wash with similar fabrics

Even though knitwear can be thick and heavy, all types of wool can be damaged during the washing process. Other garments made from tough or heavy fabrics may be too abrasive to wash with knitted items. The same goes for chunky zips and bulky hardware. Anything that can snag, pull or ‘rough up’ your knitwear shouldn’t be washed with it.


Wash knitwear inside out

If you can turn your knitwear inside out when washing it, you’ll help protect the outside a little more. Doing up any fastenings like buttons or zips can also help it to keep its shape and stop it from getting tangled and stretched.


Washing temperature

Hot washes and wool do not mix! Washing animal wool at too high a temperature can cause the yarn to shrink or felt. I recommend hand washing in lukewarm or cold water to prevent this.

Synthetic wools can handle slightly warmer washes, but you still need to avoid those high temperatures. For vegan yarn, washing at 30 degrees or below is best. This will prevent your knitwear from shrinking, pilling and becoming fuzzy and misshapen.


Laundry products

A soft and snuggly material deserves a detergent to match. Use mild products to gently clean your knitwear. Avoid using powdered detergent on your knits as it can be too abrasive (dissolve it in water first and use as a liquid if it’s all you’ve got to hand).

Fabric conditioner can help keep yarn fibres smooth and help prevent pilling (although don’t overdo it as this can make pilling worse).


Wool wash

Animal wools often need a specific wool wash rather than a regular detergent. This is because the fibres can easily be damaged by enzymes, bleaching agents or the wrong pH level.


How to dry knitwear after washing

No matter what your knits are made from, when they get wet, they get heavy. Hanging wet knitwear up to dry is going to pull it out of shape and risk damaging its intricate design. Laying it flat to airdry is best, especially if it’s animal wool.


Can you put knitwear in the dryer

It’s a firm no when it comes to animal wool and dryers. Hot air can be as damaging as hot water and your knitwear is likely to shrink. Some dryers may have specific settings for delicate fabrics like wool, but you’re still taking a risk when using them.

The same goes for synthetic wool, heat is not it’s friend. You may be able to get away with using low or no heat settings, but air drying is still the best option (plus it’s good for the environment and free!).

If you’re passionate about making conscious clothing purchases that you can style over and over again, you’ll love my guide to slow fashion.