Choosing natural fibers over synthetics. Prioritizing quality, slow fashion over quantity, fast fashion. These are great ways to have a more sustainable closet, but I get it. At the end of the day, your budget is your budget. And these factors aside, making our clothes last is a way we can all be more sustainable in 2019. To help keep your knits in tip-top shape and extend their life, here’s an overview of Knitwear Care:
HANDWASH WITH COOL WATER
This is a much more gentle way to clean your knits compared to machine washing. It creates minimal agitation on the fabric and puts less wear on your clothes. If you’re new to hand-washing or just want a refresh, here are the step-by-step deets:
Fill up a sink or basin with cool water.
As it's filling up, add a tablespoon or so of fabric detergent (you don’t need much), preferably one that works on delicates and is free of optical brighteners, chlorine, phosphates and fragrance.
Once the sink is filled, add your garment and thoroughly swish it around. Depending on how dirty it is, you can leave it in the sink for up to 30 minutes, swishing it occasionally.
Drain the sink, and refill it with cool/cold water. If you’re washing a delicate garment, make sure you aren't shooting water directly on it.
Swish the garment around, and drain the sink again. You can do another rinse if your item is extra dirty or if you added too much soap, but it shouldn't be necessary.
Note: if you are handwashing a bunch of items at once, be sure to wash lights first and darks last OR switch out the water between batches of like-colors to prevent bleeding.
TIME SAVOR: Since we’re busy people, handwashing your all of knitwear isn’t exactly practical. To save some time, put your more durable knits in a mesh delicates bag(s) and machine wash them in cool water using the delicates function.
Woolens and silk. Woolens (such as wools, cashmere, mohair and the like) might start to felt, especially if the yarn doesn’t have much of a twist, and silks can potentially bleed. Play it safe and just don’t go there.
Thin or delicate knits. Even in a garment bag, the washing machine’s tumbling and spinning can cause these pieces to stretch out.
Anything you love and want to last. No jk. Running knits (and clothes in general) through the washing machine puts them through a lot more wear and tear than is necessary to clean them. If you want something to last and stay in good shape for as long as possible, handwash it.
WHY WE DON’T LOVE DRY CLEANING: It’s more expensive for you, and it’s not very eco-friendly. The majority of dry cleaners use a chemical known as perchloroethylene (aka perc) that’s an air pollutant and likely carcinogen. Ew.
REMOVE ACCESS WATER… THE BURRITO WAY
Once you're done washing your garment, you want to remove any excess water. Why? Because the more water in the fabric, the more weight and the better chances of stretching our your knits. Here’s how to do it:
While still in the sink, gently squeeze your garment. You want to remove as much water as you can without wringing or twisting. The item should still be dripping wet, but not waterlogged.
Lay your garment flat on a towel
Roll up the towel and garment together like a burrito, gently squeezing as you go.
Unroll the towel and proceed to drying your garment.
LAY FLAT TO DRY
Unlike wovens, knits are a less stable fabric and more susceptible to stretching out or becoming misshaped under their own weight. That’s why I recommend laying them flat to dry over a foldable clothes-drying rack, rather than hanging them from a clothing line or hanger. Here’s how:
Once you're done squeezing out the extra water from of your garment, lay it across the drying rack, block it into shape (meaning lay it out in it’s proper shape) and the air will do the rest. To speed up the drying process, place the drying rack in a sunny or well-lit spot.
Note: arrange the drying rack with like-colors to prevent bleeding, placing the lighter colors on the top of the rack and darks on the bottom. For example, if you’r drying a red sweater: do not overlap it with or place it above a white garment so it doesn’t accidentally drip pink onto it.
For thin or delicate knits, place the garment on top of a towel on the drying rack to give it extra support.
Once the top is dry, turn the garment over to give the bottom side some air.
Garments you can line dry or hang up: scarves, as well as leggings, pants and skirts that have an elastic waist band, which will support the weight of the garment so it won’t become misshapen.
TIME SAVOR: For durable cotton knitwear, you can safely run them through the machine dryer on the lowest heat setting available. This is a lot like hair, the higher the heat you use and the more frequent, the worse of a beating you're giving your clothes. So low/no heat is preferable.
MUST AIR DRY:
Woolens and silk. Woolens will felt and shrink when it wet, agitated (friction is being applied) and heated. Silks will also shrink. So for these fibers, the dyer is a life ruiner… it ruins people's lives by destroying their knitwear.
Thin or delicate knits. Tumbling with the other garments can easily cause these garments to stretch out in the dryer. Also, the dryer’s heat quickly wears down thin fabric, eventually leading to holes.
Anything you love and want to last.
WHY WE DON’T LOVE THE DRYER: Using the dryer is super convenient, but between the heat and the tumbling around, it puts a lot of wear and tear on your clothes.
To remove wrinkles, steam is your bff. You can steam your knits either with a steamer or an iron with a good steam function. If using an iron, be sure to pick the appropriate heat setting for your garment's fiber content (you can check its label to confirm). If you're unsure of the fiber content or what heat setting is appropriate, use low or medium-low. Too much heat can burn woolens and melt synthetics, so it’s better to play it safe.
TIME SAVOR: Steam baby! She will get the job done quickly and with little fuss.
WHEN TO NOT CUT CORNERS: More heat doesn’t mean speeding things up. An iron’s heat settings exist to keep your fabric safe from burning or melting depending on its fiber content. For example, cotton and linen can be ironed on a high heat. However, high heat will melt an acrylic fabric. So don’t bump up the heat to get the job done faster because it might destroy your garment instead.
LIFE HACK: You can hang up your knits in the bathroom while you shower, and the steam can start to work out some of those lighter wrinkles.
I recommend either rolling or folding your knits to prevent them from stretching out on the hanger. For woolen and silk garments, store with cedar to protect them from hungry moth larvae.
SPACE SAVOR: If your closet has limited room to accommodate a lot of folding, here’s an alternative for your thicker knits. You can hang them up by first folding the garment in half and then folding it over the bar of the hanger. This gives your garment some more support on the hanger.
MUST ROLL OR FOLD: Thin or delicate knits. These can easily stretch out on the hanger, even by folding them in half and over the bar as described previously.
LIFE HACK: Ideally you’d store your woolens and silk in a cedar box (or in the freezer… no joke. This is a bulletproof method that exists out there) and they’d be perfectly safe, but it isn’t always practical. As an alternative, you can use cedar hanger rings or store cedar blocks with your folded woolen/silk knits. Note: this method doesn’t offer 100% protection because cedar is most effective in high concentration and these blocks and rings lose their effectiveness overtime. However, they do offer good protection so long as you occasionally replace them out for fresh ones.
And there you have it - a deeper dive on knitwear care to help make your pieces last in 2019! Have any questions or knitwear care tips you want to share? Hit me up over email or in the comments below.
xKristine of DECLARATIVE