5 Tips That Will Save Your Favorite Sweaters

Keep your cozy sweaters looking fresh for years to come with these tricks to un-shrink, de-fuzz and more.

By: Ryan Reed
How to Un-Shrink a Sweater

How to Un-Shrink a Sweater

Using water and hair conditioner, a damaged sweater can be restored to its original size.

Photo by: ©iStockphoto.com/susandaniels

©iStockphoto.com/susandaniels

The days are getting shorter and the air a bit colder, which can only mean one thing — it's officially sweater season.

The cozy garment is synonymous with fall and winter, but it's also known for something else. From shrinking in the washing machine to unsightly hanger bumps, sweaters are notorious for being difficult to care for and maintain.

There may be hope though.

Below, I've highlighted the most common issues people encounter with sweaters and offer tips to either avoid or fix the problem.

Hanger Bumps

These protrusions from the shoulder stem from hanging a sweater on a wire hanger for an extended period of time. It doesn't damage the sweater, per se, but it's quite unsightly.

The good news? There's an easy way to avoid looking like you're wearing lumpy shoulder pads. Either fold your sweaters (see the next tip) or use a felt hanger and wrap the garment around instead of hanging like you typically would a T-shirt. Not only does this keep the bumps from forming on your garment, but you won't stretch out the neck either.

Folding Chunky Sweaters

Folding your sweaters is a great way to avoid hanger bumps, but it can be a challenge to keep a stack from toppling over. The most efficient way to fold your sweater comes from lifestyle expert Elizabeth Mayhew. She recommends laying the sweater flat, then folding the arms into the center. From there, fold the sweater in half horizontally. The end result will be a little wider than you're typically used to, but it reduces bulk and you'll be able to stack more sweaters on top of one another.

Pilling Problems

No matter if you're wearing cashmere or cotton, if you own a sweater you'll have to deal with pilling (or "fuzz"). Pilling is the result of the garment's fibers becoming damaged through repeated wear and/or improper care. The best way to avoid pills is to follow the wash instructions and use a lint or garment brush regularly.

Sweater Pilling

Sweater Pilling

Use a disposable razor to get rid of fuzzballs on your sweater.

Photo by: ©iStockphoto.com/russaquarius

©iStockphoto.com/russaquarius

If your sweater becomes overrun with fuzz, you can purchase a dedicated pill remover, or you can simply use a disposable razor and carefully shave off the fuzzballs one-by-one. A pumice stone and even the textured side of a sponge will work, too.

How to Wash

Washing by hand is the best way to clean your sweaters. Chemicals used in the dry-cleaning process can damage your garments and it's expensive to have your clothes professionally cleaned.

To wash by hand, fill a sink or bucket with cold water and add sweaters of similar color along with a gentle detergent. Handle the garments delicately and after 15-20 minutes, rinse with cold water and lay them flat on a towel. Use another towel to press the sweater until it's damp and not dripping wet. Always let your sweaters air-dry flat (not draped over anything) and shape it so it looks like how it would if you were wearing it.

You can put your sweaters in the washing machine, but again, always use cold water and select the shortest, gentlest cycle available. It should go without saying, but your sweaters should never see the inside of a dryer.

Decorate With Old Sweaters

See All Photos

Shop This Look

Honey, I Shrunk the Sweater

It happens to everyone. Somehow, a really expensive sweater gets accidently thrown into the washer and dryer and it comes out six sizes too small. Most people assume that all is lost and either donate it or toss it. Next time this happens to you or someone you know, try this tip from Howcast before parting ways with your favorite sweater.

First, fill a sink with warm water and add about 1/3 cup of hair conditioner. (The conditioner loosens the fibers of the garment so that it can be stretched back to its normal size.) Place the shrunken sweater in the water and let it soak for about 10 minutes. Let the water drain while leaving the sweater in the sink. At this point, don't rinse the sweater with water, but instead, press on it to remove the excess water. Next, lay the sweater flat on a towel and use another towel to press on it to absorb as much water as possible. Finally, stretch the fabric in sections until you're happy with the size, then lay the sweater on a rack to air dry. Hopefully, after the sweater has completely dried it will be restored to its original size.

Keep Reading

Next Up

3 Tips for Maintaining Your Cast-Iron Skillet + Perfect Summer Cobbler

Keep your cookware looking supreme, plus get our recipe for cast-iron peach cobbler.

The Secret to Un-Shrinking a Wool Sweater

Rescuing your favorite winter garment couldn't be easier.

3 Easy + Practical Uses for Essential Oils

Freshen up your home in a snap.

How to Make a Red, White and Blue Naked Cake

Learn how to bake the perfect layered naked cake just in time for Fourth of July with this simple tutorial from Marabou Design.

6 Things You're Definitely Forgetting to Clean

It's time to talk about the dirty truth.

10 Baking Soda Kitchen Hacks

This natural solution is perfect for many daily kitchen chores.

5 NYFW Trends to Try at Home

These styles seamlessly transition from the runway to home decor.

5 Tips for Fighting Household Odors

Get to the root of the problem with a little routine maintenance.

5 Pantry Basics You Can Actually Clean With

We tested the top ways to clean with food, with surprising results. 

Easy-to-Make Paint-Dipped Wooden Ornaments

Craving a more modern holiday look this year? These dipped wooden ornaments are stunning and simple to make.

Meet the Team

Get to know the talented writers and editors of HGTV's show and design blog. 

Go Behind the Blog

From the Archives

Take a look back at our past posts, from entertaining and design trends to up-and-coming HGTV shows.  

Read All Our Past Posts