It's time again to store most of my sweaters until next fall and winter. That means it's also time to stop the denial I have about adequately caring for my sweaters. Below is a confession of how my laundry techniques devolve over the the life of a sweater: The five phases of caring for sweaters.
Phase 1: Hand wash (once)
In recent years I've been skipping this phase completely, but there was a time when I made the effort to wash new sweaters by hand. Usually, however, this only happened once or twice until after a prolonged period of a dirty sweater sitting off to the side waiting to be hand washed I eventually resorted to phase 2.
Phase 2: Machine wash, gentle cycle, separate (1-2 times)
When I first resort to employing technology to clean a favorite sweater I try to emulate hand washing as much as possible. The sweater is washed separately on the gentle setting, often using special gentle soap. The sweater is then dried flat on a rack.
Phase 3: Machine wash, gentle cycle, mixed load (2-3 times)
After 1 or 2 times washing the sweater separately the inefficiency gets to me. I wait until I have a few sweaters and other more delicate items to wash, and I wash them all together. I still use the gentle cycle, but I use the regular soap probably because I ran out of the other stuff.
Phase 4: Machine wash, regular cycle, dry flat (2-3 times)
At some point I have a variety of clothes that need to be washed. Ideally they still get separated into lights and darks, but that once precious sweater ends up being washed in a regular cycle with everything else. I still pull it out to dry though.
Phase 5: F*ck it (for the remainder of my possession of the sweater)
The first time it usually happens by accident. I forget to pull the sweater out when I move the load to the dryer, but if the sweater did not shrink this technique becomes fair game for all subsequent washes. Unfortunately, the result is that the sweater gets covered in those little pills of yarn and gradually just looks less nice. It gets relegated to casual weekend wear and then ends up in a ball in the back of the drawer until I get around to cleaning out clothes I don't wear any more.
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