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How to Dry Sweaters

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Knowing how to care for and particularly how to dry sweaters can prolong the life of sweaters. Your sweaters can look new for years, when you know the proper way to care for them. That’s a win for your wardrobe, your budget and the landfill. These 36 tips will help you provide the best care for your sweaters.

stack of 3 folded sweaters on white modern chair with title text reading How to Dry Sweaters everything you need to know

I grew up in Hawai’i and had a steep learning curve in learning to care for sweaters when I went to college in Philadelphia. These are my top tips from my research and years of experience living in cold climates and caring for my favorite sweaters and my family’s sweaters.

How to Dry Sweaters

You will need to consider multiple factors in deciding the best way to dry your sweaters. There are several different ways to effectively dry them. The best guide is to follow the directions on the care label combined with these detailed tips.

Some care labels expressly recommend dry cleaning. You should carefully consider dry cleaning versus gentle handwashing depending upon your concerns about:

  • The fibers in your sweater and the specific cleaning instructions for that fabric
  • Whether handwashing is even an option for your sweater fibers
  • The chemicals used at a dry cleaner
  • The chemicals used in home dry cleaning products

Tips for drying sweaters

  • Remove washed sweaters from the wash tub or washing machine immediately to prevent wrinkles.
  • Always avoid direct sunlight and heat sources (such as a radiator) when drying a sweater. It can damage the fibers, cause discoloration and shrinkage.
  • Be careful in wringing water from a sweater. In particular, do not wring wool sweater to remove excess moisture.
  • Be careful in hanging sweaters to dry. Follow the steps in the tutorial, but never hang a woolen sweater to dry.
  • Always air dry wool sweaters. They shrink (a surprising amount) when placed in the dryer.
pile of sweaters

Drying Process for the Best Results

Following these simple instructions carefully provides the best results in maintaining the original shape and best condition of your sweater.

The first thing to do is to gently squeeze excess water from the sweater. Do not twist or wring out the water. That can cause stretching and wrinkling.

Next lay the wet sweater out on a clean towel. Take the time to straighten the sweater out into its natural shape and smooth out any wrinkles.

Carefully roll the sweater up in the towel, gently squeezing excess moisture out as you go. Don’t squeeze or wrap it, too tightly. Let the rolled up sweater remain for a few minutes to allow the towel to absorb the extra water.

If the sweater is holding too much water, you may want to place the towel and sweater on a sleeping bag to help absorb the excess water.

Gently unroll the sweater and place it on a new dry towel. You can do the roll up step again if the sweater is still too wet. When you feel that the excess water has been removed, place the sweater on:

  • A new dry towel on a flat surface to dry completely. Be sure to change the towel and turn the sweater over as it is drying for the best and freshest results.
  • A sweater drying rack.
  • A hanger in an area with good air circulation. Always be careful in hanging sweaters to dry so that they don’t stretch out.

When placing the sweater on a towel, rack or hanger, always smooth out wrinkles and straighten the sweater into its original shape.

Use a sweater drying rack

A sweater drying rack set up in the laundry room can be a great solution. It can be used after the sweater and towel rolling step above or directly after washing if the washed sweater is not excessively wet.

The horizontal style of drying rack is the best option for drying a sweater. There are several different styles depending on how much space you have and how many sweaters.

If you want to use a drying rack designed for all types of items, be sure to look for one that will allow you to lay your sweater flat for drying.

Remember to turn the sweater over during the drying process to prevent wrinkles and a musty smell.

I have a sweater dryer rack that can be placed in my dryer. This helps with sweaters that can handle the heat, even on the delicate cycle of a clothes dryer. It helps reduce stretching, damage, and pilling from tumbling around in the dryer.

The rack that came with my dryer fits into the lint trap and is suspended in the middle of the dryer drum. It allows the sweater to lay flat on the rack while the dryer spins around the dryer rack.

The racks are designed to fit specific brands of dryer machines, but here are two examples.

Can you put a sweater in the dryer?

Some sweaters can be dried in the dryer without any problems, but it all depends on the fibers. Carefully read the care label. Check for the sweater fibers and the recommended care for that specific sweater. While I do personally use machine drying for some of my sweaters, I recommend you do so with caution. When I do place them in a dryer, I always dry them in a mesh bag on air dry for just 15-20 minutes to remove excess water. I then lay sweaters out flat or hang them to dry completely.

woman taking laundry out of a clothes dryer

Sweater fabric concerns for placing in the dryer:

  • Wool garments – Can shrink, unravel and become felted. Wool sweaters are at great risk of extreme shrinking if placed in the dryer.
    • Merino wool – High heat will cause merino wool to shrink. It is best to lay it out flat to dry.
  • Natural fibers
    • Angora sweaters – Can shrink
    • Silk – Can unravel
    • Cashmere sweater – Heat will cause cashmere to shrink so only use air settings or better yet, lay it out flat to dry.
  • Cotton sweaters – Can shrink
  • Synthetic fibers – Can shrink, stretch or wrinkle, depending on the fabric
  • Chenille
    • Can be made from both natural fibers and synthetic fibers
    • Can become snagged and unravel
    • It’s recommended to lay chenille sweaters out flat to dry
  • Delicate fabrics – Can become stretched or snagged
  • Embellished sweaters – The embellishments can snag the fabric of a knit sweater while tumbling around in a dryer
stack of 3 folded sweaters

How to remove pills from dry sweaters

Pills are the little balls that are the result of fibers breaking down and tangling together. Knitted fabrics are notorious for pilling. It’s caused by friction on the fabric that occurs during wear and during washing and drying.

Care during washing and drying can help prevent pills from developing.

  • Turn the sweater inside out. This reduces the outside of the sweater fabric agitating against other fabrics or itself.
  • Wash sweaters in an extra large mesh washing bag. This also reduces the amount of rubbing and agitation on the surface of the fabric.
  • Wash by hand or on the delicate cycle.

If you do have pilling, you can remove them by:

  • A sweater comb – Works well on delicate knits and thin sweaters.
    • Lay the sweater out on a flat surface. Smooth out the sweater.
    • Use the sweater comb gently in one direction. The comb will pull the pills off the surface of the sweater and you can then remove them from the comb.
  • Sweater stone – Works on thick wools and other thick fibers.
    • Spread and smooth out the sweater on a flat surface.
    • Use the sweater stone in gentle strokes in one direction on the pilled area.
    • You will need to shake the debris from the stone out of the sweater when you’re done and remove the loose lint pills from the stone or surface of the sweater.
  • Fabric shaver – Read the appliance’s directions carefully and always test on a hidden area first.
woman holding basket of folded laundry with title text reading How to Dry Sweaters everything you need to know

More Sweater Ideas

  • How Many Clothes Do You Really Need? – The purpose of the How Many Clothes Do You Really Need checklist and this process is for you to rationally and purposefully decide how many clothes in each clothing category you need for your specific and unique lifestyle and situation.
  • Clothes Spending Freeze Tips & Challenge – How to decide if a clothes spending freeze is right for you. Includes tips, free checklists and a challenge if you’d like to join.
  • How to Fold Clothes ebook – Step-by-step images of how to fold 22 different articles of clothing.
  • Folding Clothes – Tips on how to decide how the best way to fold clothes for your unique situation. Tips on folding clothes for 8 different types of clothes styles.
  • How to Save on School Clothes – 20 Tips for families to save on school clothes for children of all ages. Your kids can have school clothes they love to wear and not break the bank.
  • Clothes Storage Ideas – Knowing these 5+ tips and options for clothes storage makes all the difference in a small space with limited closet and storage space.

Recycled sweaters are wonderful inspiration for craft projects. These 12+ upcycled sweater projects are easy to make, frugal and beautifully creative.

Be sure to pin for later when you need access to these tips or products on how to dry sweaters.

See my favorite clothes organizing tips, hacks, favorite products and more in the table below.

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