5 tips for cozy sweater care

I love sweater weather. Wearing cozy knits on chilly winter days makes me feel like Claire Fraser or one of the March sisters. I’ve never knit my own scarves in front of the fire or mended socks in the Scottish Highlands, but I can still have my literary heroine moment, right? However, this winter I’ve noticed that too many of my favorite wool sweaters—some old, but some quite new—have little holes in them—and I suspect it’s due to moths. 

Why are moths eating my sweaters? The short answer is this: sweater-eating moths prefer the dark, so naturally they’re drawn to closets. They lay eggs in clothing because the keratin from hair, skin, and animal fibers helps them grow—this is why they gravitate towards wool and cashmere instead of cotton and synthetic fabrics.

When I was a kid, my mom put all our woolens in hard-core, super-stinky mothballs over the winter, but I don’t recall the scent fondly. Plus, mothballs are toxic to children and pets, and the last thing I need is a trip to the vet with our ever-precocious pup Daisy. According to my research, there are safer (and way less smelly) sweater care options these days. 

Today I’m sharing a few simple sweater care solutions and products that I intend to use as winter slowly-but-surely turns to spring—because I can’t possibly be the only one with a favorite sweater to care for.  

5 tips for cozy sweater care | Modern Mrs Darcy

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. More details here.

1. Clean out the closet

My first task is to clean out my closet, removing all clothes before vacuuming and wiping everything down. This is perfect motivation to start culling my winter wardrobe and assess what I might need for book tour this spring, but mostly I just need to get those pesky moths out

2. Hand-washing is best

I thought that dry cleaning (my machine-washable sweaters) would be my best plan of action, but based on what I’ve read, the harsh detergents at the dry cleaner just create more wear and tear on delicate fabrics like cashmere and wool. Instead, swishing and soaking my wool sweaters, inside out, in tepid water with a gentle laundry soap for about 10 minutes should do the trick. After rinsing them twice, I’ll gently press the water out and lay them flat to dry. I found this article and its step-by-step washing instructions especially helpful.

(I almost always hand wash my “dry clean only” cashmere, cautiously following advice I’ve read. Your mileage may vary. I don’t hand wash “dry clean only” synthetics.)

3. Procure proper storage

Instead of storing my sweaters in cedar chests with old-fashioned mothballs, I’m deciding between these plastic bins or cotton sweater bags. In addition to the proper containers, adding lavender sachets deters moths and keeps clothes smelling fresh. Another option is to dip cotton balls in lavender essential oil and drop them in the storage containers. Clove, thyme, rosemary, and mint also work well as insect repellants, and I wouldn’t mind smelling those natural botanicals when I take a sweater out of storage. 

5 tips for cozy sweater care | Modern Mrs Darcy

4. De-pill with care

Aside from tiny moth-eaten holes, my biggest issue with wool sweaters is pilling. I regularly use this sweater shaver on most of my sweaters. For my heavy woolens, I might try this sweater stone, which is recommended for tough, thick fabrics. 

5. Sweater-Gazing

While we’re on the topic of sweaters, here are a few I have my eye on. When all else fails, a brand-new sweater may be what your closet is longing for.

Cable Sleeve Boatneck. This color reminds me of Jo March, and the sleeves are so fun.

Chunky Crew Neck Pullover. I can’t resist a sweater that can easily be pulled over yoga leggings to create a complete look. 

Everett Rib Play Pullover. I love the knit details on this sweater, and the color options! I tend to shy away from bold colors, but I’ll take one in red, please.

The Cashmere Crew. This simple cashmere sweater is a wardrobe staple worth investing in, and they just added the prettiest spring colors.

V-Neck Cardigan. How many cardigans is too many cardigans? Asking for a friend…

Crew Neck Pointelle Sweater. I’m drawn to the delicate detail of this one—paired with jeans now or with white pants this spring.

Teddy Crewneck Sweater. This might be sitting in my shopping cart right now…SO cozy!

Cozy Bouclé V-Neck Sweater. Such a flattering neckline, and I love those spring colors! Spring weather is fickle where I live, so I appreciate winter-to-spring transition pieces like these. 

I’m sure I missed a few helpful tips, so I’m eager to hear your best sweater care recommendations in the comments. Please share, and help us make our sweaters last another winter!

P.S. I took my damaged sweaters to the tailor and they stitched up the holes so I can wear them again. Maybe they could fix your beloved hole-y sweaters as well?

P.P.S. 8 investment pieces actually worth my investment, and the rule of three for looking put-together.

5 tips for cozy sweater care | Modern Mrs Darcy

more posts you might enjoy


Leave A Comment
  1. Lynn says:

    If in doubt, ask a knitter! The MS article you linked is good, but I’d go a step further and recommend either Eucalan or Soak for washing woolies. Use warm water and a capful or either, and let sit for at least 20 min to be sure all the fibers are completely saturated. No need to rinse with either of those. Then carefully lift out, let drip while squishing gently, and lay out in a towel. I never bother to use white ones, I put our summer beach towels to work in the winter. Then lay flat in shape, trying not to pull on the sweater. I put a fan or ceiling fan on the sweater to help it dry faster. Try searching for ‘How to block a handknit sweater’ for more detailed instructions. And you can buy Eucalan or Soak at many Local Yarn Shops (LYSs) or online. Hope this helps!

  2. Tracy Varga says:

    As a closet organizer, I run into holey sweaters all too often. I love all of your tips and would add Laundress Wool and Cashmere spray (available on Amazon). This is an all natural moth repellent and refresher. It smells wonderful. There are also cedar sachets that you can put on your selves or hang on hangers.

  3. I have found the Gleaner on the GO from the Container Store to be the gentlest and easiest way to defuzz sweaters. It comes with three different defuzzing “blades” and is available in regular or travel size. I have the travel size and find it perfect for travel and home use.

  4. Kathy b says:

    Oh, I was kind of disappointed, through NO FAULT of yours. I thought your links were to knitted sweater patterns. I knit my own sweaters and my blog pals do as well. We dread the moth but in truth, here is some information I shared on my blog last summer:

    I’m so glad I read that moths are incredible night pollinators. I shall not scorn you again. I , also, read that very few moths eat wool. Actually, I read that the caterpillars eat the wool, not the maKoths. This could incite a wool riot, if I am wrong. My knit pals will know. As for now, you are safe around here ……but you better read the comments later!

    Isn’t that interesting?

  5. Lisa F. says:

    I use lavender and cedar sachets by the handfuls and they’ve worked well to keep pests away from both my sweaters and better throw blankets. There is a shop on Etsy called Nancy’s Lavender Farm that has lovely lavender ones, if you like French designs like toile (which I love).
    I’ve purchased quite a few sweaters from WoolOvers (England-based but with a U.S. website) and they have their own Wool Wash for sweaters and other delicate items, as well as a pilling comb that works well.
    To preserve sweaters longer, I always layer a thin t-shirt under them without fail so I don’t need to clean as often. It’s a lot easier and cheaper to replace t-shirts than sweaters!

  6. Aquagirl809 says:

    I have solved the moth problem by eliminating wool from my closets and drawers. The last straw was when I found my beautiful camel wool coat, stored in a cedar closet, full of tiny holes! And the cashmere wrap in the same cedar closet had been eaten by those pesky creatures! I have decided that cotton sweaters never disappoint me, and now I don’t itch or become overly warm, especially in overheated rooms during the winter months. Adios, wool! 👋

  7. Tami G. says:

    I loved your links to sweaters…I ended up ordering one from Target, the cardigan and another one from MadeWell. I really liked their selections and awesome sale! Perfect timing for our ski trip.

  8. Nancy says:

    Interestingly, I don’t have this problem with sweaters, but I’ve been finding little holes on the bottom of many of my cotton shirts that hang in the closet. I will try the sachet idea.

  9. Lisa says:

    One thing I’ve always done with my cashmere sweater is to wear a t-shirt under it. That way, as long as I don’t spill anything on it, I can wear it several times before it needs to be washed.

  10. AB says:

    Anyone know of a good source for wool sweater repair? I used to be able to find someone who would truly repair with the re-knitting (I can’t remember the proper name for this) instead of just sewing it up. Alas, in this southwest city I live in there is not a lot of need for this kind of repair so I cannot find anyone local anymore. I have several very nice sweaters that have holes too large for sewing up. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

  11. I own a knitting store in Michigan (The Wool and the Floss) and carry so many of the items discussed here. Greener is a great tool for depilling as it has different blades depending on the weight of sweater you are freshening up. We also carry Soak an Eucalan. No rinse is great! To improve drying time if you have a spin only cycle on your washer, use it. Then lay it flat to dry. It helps to know the general measurements of your sweater before you get it wet so you can lay it out in that exact shape again. We also sell small cedar blocks that you can put on your shelves that don’t smell as awful as the old. Just remember to scratch them with sandpaper every year or so to reactivate the cedar. Lastly, please order these things from a Local Yarn Shop. So many small businesses are having a hard time competing with Amazon. Even supporting them (or me!) can help!

  12. Jennifer H says:

    During the fall/winter, I wear a cardigan as part of my outfit on most days. I think I may have 10 or so, 4 of them are black, but different weights and styles 🙂

  13. Zoe Campos says:

    Thanks for reminding me that I should avoid getting dry cleaning services for the sweater. I’m thinking of getting a navy wool half-zip sweater for my brother but I’m not sure if he’ll be able to take care of it. Maybe I should wrap the gift with a note that says never to use harsh detergents on this piece of clothing as you advised.

  14. Jo Yates says:

    I recently splurged on a cashmere cardigan from Lands End,in Navy (my dark neutral). I love it because it is warm without being heavy, and I wear it every day around the house. I bought sweater bags and cedar blocks to protect it during the warm season. Haven’t washed it yet because I’m always wearing it!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.