Skip Dry Cleaning and Wash Your Favorite Sweaters Yourself 
11.18.19

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I never wash my sweaters. Is that fully peanuts? Well, hold on, I actually dry-cleaned one once after wearing it with a tank top in the summertime and sweating through the underarms, but that was obviously a dire and highly mandatory scenario. In general, I tend to wear sweaters with t-shirts or turtlenecks or other tops that soak up the sweat/BO output before it reaches the sweater, therefore precluding me from having to wash them (science!). That’s one reason why I don’t wash my sweaters. The other reason is that I can’t throw them in a washing machine and I’m daunted by the fear of messing them up in a hand-washing situation.

I’ve lived my adult life comfortably inside this potentially delusional bubble until recently, when I found myself in possession of the best airplane sweater of all time. It’s a navy cashmere cardigan from COS, with a straight fit and ribbed trim. I didn’t realize it was the best airplane sweater of all time until I wore it on a flight to California in September and felt like I was being hugged by my mom for the entire duration. It was soooooo cozy and soft and–incidentally–made my joggers look less schleppy than they might have otherwise.

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I wore the best airplane sweater of all time on two subsequent flights after that, which was fine and dandy until the germaphobic angel on my shoulder lost her chill: WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING PUTTING A SWEATER COVERED IN AIRPLANE GERMS x THREE BACK INTO YOUR CLOSET WITH ALL YOUR OTHER CLOTHES LIKE IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL!?

She had a point, and that point became the catalyst that prompted me to learn the proper way to hand-wash a sweater at home. I reached out to my Instagram followers, masters of how to do anything, with a plea for sweater-washing tips, and boy did they deliver. I pooled their answers and devised a protocol based on the most frequently cited advice, with which I successfully washed the best airplane sweater of all time. Was I nervous I would ruin my favorite sweater? Absolutely. Was the method ultimately super easy and relatively foolproof? Yes!!!!! Am I wearing the aforementioned sweater, now perfectly clean, as I type these very words? You betcha. Keep scrolling for the only five-step sweater washing method you’ll ever need.

Step #1: Tub Time

Fill a small tub (or bucket, or basin, or sink, or treasure chest) with enough *cold* water to cover the sweater in question and let it soak. Don’t be shy!! Really get that sucker nice and water-logged.

Step #2: Scrub a Dub Dub

Pour some gentle laundry detergent into the tub and suds up your sweater like it’s a jam-fingered Kindergartener and tomorrow is school picture day.

Step #3: Add Some Salad Dressing (JK)

Just add vinegar–only a little bit, like two tablespoons, and skip the olive oil. Vinegar is basically an all-purpose wunderkind when it comes to at-home laundering, helping with everything from removing stubborn smells to killing germs (airplane and otherwise) to dissolving detergent residue. After your sweater is thoroughly dressed, dump the dirty water out and refill it with clean water as many times as you need to until all the detergent is thoroughly rinsed out.

Step #4: Make Like a Fruit Roll-Up and Squeeze, Baby, Squeeze

After you’re done washing the sweater, lay it flat inside a towel, roll the whole thing up, and squeeeeeeeeeeze as much excess water out as you can.

Step #5: Dry!

Lay your semi-wet sweater out flat on a dry towel and leave it to dry.

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And there you have it! Any other at-home sweater washing tips I’m missing? Tell me in the comments. Ditto for anything and everything you want to learn how to do–I’m all ears, as is this column.

Photos by Cody GuilfoyleProp styling by Sara Schipani.

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