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


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


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

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Yarn Pinecones

Add a different spin to your holiday decor with these simple, colorful pinecones. All you need to do to create this look is wrap bright strands of yarn around pinecones — no glue required. They make perfect embellishments for gifts or placed in a bowl as a centerpiece. Design by Camilla

White Napkin Ring

This napkin ring is so simple to make and will add that extra touch to your tablescape. Elizabeth Anne cut a small section of an old sweater and sewed the ends. Wrap the rings around silver napkins for a sophisticated winter look, or use colorful sweater remnants for a brighter tablescape.

Wintry Lampshade

You can easily transform your home's decor from fall to winter by incorporating sweater elements. Alicia brought a wintry feel to her living room by covering a vase and lampshade with sweater material. The look instantly warms up the space during colder months.

Scrap Sweater Trees

You can make these festive trees by using your sweater scraps from other projects. Take the scraps and hot-glue the pieces to tree-shaped cardboard pieces. Apply larger pieces to the bottom, and use smaller pieces as you work your way up the tree. Make a simpler design by starting at the top and winding sweater material around the cone, gluing along the way. Design by Camilla

Wine Bag

You can repurpose an old sweater to make the perfect holiday gift. Camilla felted her sweater and sewed the bottom to create a wine bag. Complete the look with metallic ribbon and a sparkly pin.

Serving Tray

Serve warm apple cider to guests by covering an old cutting board with a sweater. To get this look, wash your sweater in hot water and put in the dryer to felt it. Cut a rectangular shape from the sweater big enough to cover the board. Sew the sides and bottom to create a pocket, and slip over the board. Design by Camilla

Rustic Decor

Winterize your home's decor by covering spring vases and candleholders with sleeves from an old sweater. For a rustic look, Alicia chose a neutral-colored material and embellished it with twine.

Sweater Stockings

These stylish stockings require little sewing and put your old sweaters to great use. The custom look will impress guests, and can be done in just one afternoon. Design by Marian Parsons of Mustard Seed Interiors

Colorful Pot Cover

Brighten up your terra-cotta pots with a colorful old sweater. Camilla Fabbri washed her old sweater in hot water and put it in the dryer to felt it. She cut off the sleeve and fit it over her pots. Stitch a card to the top to give as a holiday gift.

Cozy Candles

If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind hostess gift — or a way to bring texture to your space — wrap basic candleholders with sweater remnants. Add leaf accents or pinecones for an easy way to add a winter look. Design by Camilla

Photo By: Camilla Fabbri Designs

Wool Sofa Pillows

Sweater pillows add interest and texture to a space. Alicia transitioned the look of her living room by accenting her sofa with pillows covered with wool material. The soft-gray palette stands out against the neutral sofa and accessories.

Neutral Vases

For a classic look, Camilla covered vases with a monochromatic color scheme. The different sweater knits add visual interest while keeping a sophisticated holiday look.

Entryway Rug

Placing a sweater rug in your entryway is one way to welcome your guests during the holidays. The neutral color doesn't take away from the design of the space, while the texture brings just the right amount of interest. Photo courtesy of FLOR

Sweater Wreath

Grab your old wool socks and scarves to make this colorful, unexpected wreath. Cut the socks along the seams, and wrap them around a wreath form. Secure socks with floral pins. Design by Brian Patrick Flynn

Striped Rug

A cozy rug can instantly warm up your home. This striped cable-knit warms your toes and adds an inviting feel to this open space. The hints of red, green and blue are the only source of color in the room, making it an unexpected focal point. Photo courtesy of FLOR

Knit Slipcover

Etsy shop owner Lynn Garrett covered her ottoman with an oversized, hand-knit sweater slipcover. The chocolate-brown slipcover also works as extra seating.

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Lynn Garrett

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.

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