It’s far too easy to get the wrong idea that in order to keep clothes in pristine condition, they must be of the highest end fabrics from the most expensive brands. Contrary to popular belief, this is not the case. The most important thing about sweaters is not necessarily what material it is– but how you take care of the material.
Granted, most higher-end, natural-fiber sweaters are the most sustainable route, but so are thrifted and secondhand materials. Many of these secondhand materials are likely to be polyester, nylon, or another synthetic weave.
By nature, materials like polyester aren’t sustainable, and shouldn’t be purchased new if avoidable. However, considering the rise of thrift and consignment stores, many polyester-like items are found dangling off the never-ending clothing racks. Even if you do choose to newly purchase a polymer weave garment, there are ways to promote the longevity of the piece.
All-natural fibers will always be the winners in our book, and the most sustainable option long-term, but if you take the time and energy to give your synthetic fibers the proper care, they just might last you nearly as long.
What is proper care?
First and foremost, you should always treat your garments with care! It doesn’t matter what material the piece is composed of; you should treat each clothing item as if it were of the highest-end material and design. Sweaters are the most difficult pieces to take care of, generally, because of the delicacy of the materials and the side effects of improper care. Sweaters are prone to shrinkage, pilling, and other natural sweater disasters if not cared for properly (and even sometimes when cared for properly!).
Proper care consists of the most beneficial washing and drying cycle, coupled with responsible storage methods.
Washing and Drying
The most effective way to promote healthy sweater care, even amongst synthetic fibers, is to use the right washing and drying methods.
First, use the right washing cycle! We recommend ALWAYS machine-washing on cold, since warm temperatures induce risk of material shrinkage or color bleeding. A cold cycle also reduces the risk of color fading and keeps your garment in pristine condition.
Second, you should never, and I mean NEVER, machine-dry your sweaters. This will only damage the fibers, leading to either shrinkage, shedding, or extreme pilling. The more you machine-dry a garment, the more worn-down it becomes over time. As a rule of thumb, the only garments you should consistently machine-dry are socks, undergarments, t-shirts or any underclothing that isn’t worn as an outer layer. Hang-drying is the best option for any clothing item not aforementioned, such as pants, sweaters, blouses, and the like.
If you’re unsure exactly which cycle to choose for your sweater washing, sometimes the delicate cycle is the best way to go, since the cycle is preset on cold wash and will give your garments a gentler wash than a regular cycle.
Whether you’re freshening up your sweaters from storage, storing them away, or simply holding them in your closet, proper sweater storage is just as important for sweater care as your washing and drying methods. When simply storing your sweaters for immediate use, the best method is to fold your sweaters into drawers or some place where they can lay flat. Never hang your sweaters if you want to avoid shoulder bulges from hangers! For more storage tips, read our all-encompassing post here.