How To Properly Wash Your Woolen Knits

"The biggest misconception is that you need to dry clean all of them."
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You've got to wash your knits, man. No seriously. You've got to wash them.

On Black Friday I bought a turtleneck from COS that I really hit it off with. (In fact, I bought two and went back to get more although sadly, they've been sold out ever since.) But I was soon reminded that the thing about excessively wearing a cashmere turtleneck is that it starts to smell. Much as you'd like to believe your aroma is "masculine" or "musky," your clothes tell another story, and cashmere in particular starts to smell pretty foul after a bit.

French brand Saint James opened a new store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in January. Photo: George Elder

French brand Saint James opened a new store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in January. Photo: George Elder

"Wool [and cashmere] are just hair," said Donald Coar, a sales associate at knit company Saint James, at the brand's New York store opening. "Those products have to be hand washed." This news was one part surprising — people always say you dry clean your nicer knits — and one part frustrating — exactly how do I do this right?

To figure out the precise way to do it correctly, we asked Soar exactly how to care for our woolen (and cashmere) knits.

A design from Saint James. Photo: Saint James

A design from Saint James. Photo: Saint James

1.) Dunk It

"The key thing is really that it's a quick process," Coar explained. Fill up a sink (or tub depending on how large your garment is) with cold water. Pour in a cap full of your cleaner of choice. Woolite for Delicates is a nice one, but I honestly just use dish soap.

After sudsing up the water just dunk the knit in. "Depending on how tightly woven it is, wool can be quite resistant to water," Coar said. "So you really want to submerge it in the water and pull the soap through." Let it sit for about 2 to 3 minutes but make sure not to stretch it when pulling it through the water.

High-Neck Wool Jumper from COS

High-Neck Wool Jumper from COS

2.) Do Not Wring It

"Whatever you do, don't wring your knits," Coar cautioned. Wringing your pieces, particularly when wet, will leave them misshapen and warped when they dry. Your best bet to get out large amounts of water is to fold the piece onto itself and gently squish the water out. Try pressing your wet glob of fabric against the sides of your sink or tub and watch the excess flood out.

Don't worry about getting all of the water out, that comes in the next step — and it will take quite a bit of time.

3.) Lay To Dry

Wool Turtleneck Sweater from Vilebrequin

Wool Turtleneck Sweater from Vilebrequin

Good things take time and sadly that's what it comes down to with drying your knits. Your best bet is if you have a drying rack to just lay your knit out flat on the rack and let it sit. "It's going to take about 48 hours to dry."

If you don't have a drying rack, make a drying apparatus of your own by laying out a towel, laying your knit flat on top of the towel and putting another towel on top of that. Pro tip: Before you do the towel sandwich, lay your knit flat on a towel and roll the towel and the knit as tight as you can, press it to squeeze the water out, and unroll it.

And there you have it. Admittedly more time than you might otherwise spend just dropping off your stuff at the dry cleaner, but anything worth doing is worth doing right.