How To Stretch A Sweater Out--Without Damaging It!--If You Shrunk It In the Wash

September 20, 2016 by Justine Schwartz
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Wool is the worst. You get all excited about having a new sweater, then you wear it a couple times and realize there ain’t nothing you can do about the body odor smell (…or pit stain or soup stain) than to hand wash the thing. So rude! Who has time to hand wash? Everything you put on your body should be machine washable (don’t worry, Rachel Zoe is working on that!). For now, you’ll have to remember not to wash your wool sweaters, and if you do, follow these steps for un-shrinking them if, and inevitably when, they shrink.

The first step if you’ve shrunken a wool sweater in the wash (sorry, this trick only applies to wool!) is to determine whether the sweater is just shrunken, or if the wool has actually started to felt. If the wool has felted–which you have to observe for yourself, the fibers will be sort of melded together and much tighter and unable to be pulled apart–you’re out of luck. Here’s more info on what felting looks like, courtesy of this thorough blog post on the topic.

READ MORE: How To Get The Pills Off Of Your Sweaters

If you can still see the individual fibers it probably means the sweater hasn’t felted and might be salvageable! This is good news. You can proceed…

The next step is to prepare your work station. You’ll need a basin, sink or tub filled with warm water and a capful of wool detergent (see instructions).

You’re going to want to soak the sweater in the water, but not wash it (don’t stir it or squeeze it or do anything that even remotely resembles washing it). Just let the sweater drop to the bottom of the basin (give it a little tap to help it along if need be). Let soak for 20 minutes.

Drain the basin (pull the plug or dump the water), leaving the sweater laying flat on the bottom.

Using your hands, gently press the water out of the sweater–don’t wring it or twist or squeeze it. Pick the sweater up and lay it flat on a towel. Roll the towel up to dry the sweater. This blogger says you can also remove excess water by putting the sweater in a salad spinner, but I’ve never tried this method personally and can’t vow for whether it works!

READ MORE: How Often Should You Wash Cashmere Sweaters?

After you’ve removed the excess water, start to gently stretch the sweater from the arms, sides and bottom. Be careful not to pull on the seems too much. Avoid overstretching the arm holes, too, or making the sweater look otherwise misshapen.

After you stretched it out as much as you can, keep the sweater laying flat to dry completely. Voila!

[Photo: Peace Love Shea]


Editorial Director

Justine Schwartz is a veteran women's lifestyle editor; she's written extensively about style & beauty tips, health advice and wedding planning for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in New York Magazine, Huffington Post and New York Weddings. Justine has been with SheFinds since 2010; you can reach her via email at [email protected]

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