01/22/2013 02:36 pm ET Updated Mar 24, 2013

The Right Way to Care for Sweaters

by Kerri Winick, Beauty Editor

Each winter, there always seems to be one sweater that's sacrificed to the fashion gods. It's been shrunk to doll-size proportions because you swore you could wash it yourself, or it ends up warped and faded in the back of your closet.

It can be downright maddening -- especially when you saved up forever for that amazing Marc Jacobs sweater you had to have, like, yesterday. (Can you tell I'm just a little bitter?)

Here at GalTime, we're working hard to minimize sweater-catastrophes, so we chatted with Mary Marlowe Leverette of's "Guide to Laundry" for tips on keeping your garments in fighting shape.

It's a CashMiracle: Contrary to popular belief, cashmere sweaters don't always need to be dry-cleaned. Save some dough by learning when to drop them off and when to drop them in the washing machine.

  • If cashmere is used to make a structured sweater or coat, the garment should be dry-cleaned.
  • For soft, unstructured, cashmere sweaters, hand wash in cool water using a mild detergent. Cashmere is, after all, the hair of a goat and is used to being wet!
  • When hand washing, rinse well and never wring.
  • Dry your sweater flat and reshape during drying.
  • Got wrinkles? Iron the garment inside out and while it's still damp.
  • Be sure to place a press cloth between the iron and the cashmere. What's a press cloth, you ask? Basically, it serves as a protective barrier between the iron and the sweater. You can buy one, but clean, household items work just as well. Think cotton towels or dish cloths.
  • Almost all fabrics can be washed gently, but sometimes it's the inner linings and construction that can't get wet. So if the care label says "dry clean only," believe it!

Related: 5 Must-Have Trends for 2013

Clean Machine: We know, we know. While it would be amazing to have a sweater stash that's purely cashmere, most of us don't have the luxury. When debating how to wash the other fabrics in your wardrobe, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there spots or stains that you don't know how to treat?
  • Is the garment made from acetate or rayon? Both can shrink or become misshapen in water.
  • Is there a special finish on the garment? Stiff fabrics have a stabilizing finish to help them hold their shape that water can ruin.
  • Is the garment difficult to iron? Structured garments, such as suits, can be difficult to iron and often lose their shape when washed.
  • Is the garment leather or suede?
  • Is the garment made of a fiber that you're not familiar with and have never successfully washed at home?
  • Is the garment special to you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, take your prized fashion possession to a professional dry cleaner.

Stain solutions: Always remember to treat a stain as quickly as possible after it happens.

  • Begin by removing any solid matter (like that leftover onion dip -- yuck!) using the dull edge of a kitchen knife.
  • Never rub the stain because you will push it deeper into the fabric.
  • Blot the area with clear water and a clean white cloth.

Related: Laundry 101: How To Wash Lace, Sequins and Velvet

Paging Dr. Pill: Sometimes it seems like you practically need to be a surgeon to remove pills without leaving a gaping hole in your sweater. Here's how to do it right (sans scalpel, I might add):

  • Weigh the value of the garment before you attempt to slice. Is it really worth it? Will anyone really notice the pills, or are they simply bothering you?
  • If they're an eye sore, pull the fabric taught on a curved surface and carefully cut or shave the pill from the fabric.
  • For a more high-tech solution, try D-Fuzz-It. It costs about $3.00 and won't harm the fabric.

Storage Secrets: Always fold sweaters and knits. Placing them on any type of hanger will eventually allow their weight to warp and stretch them.

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