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.
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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.
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.
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?