Can You Put ‘Hand Wash Only’ Sweaters In the Washing Machine?

While you can put ‘hand wash only’ sweaters in the washing machine, doing so comes with the risk of shrinking, stretching, or otherwise damaging the fabric. 

The ‘hand-wash only’ label indicates that the item is crafted from delicate materials that are sensitive to the heat and cycles of a washing machine. Understanding this label is crucial for the proper care of your garments.

Thinking about risking the washing machine for your ‘hand wash only’ sweaters? Before you do, there’s more to learn about garment care. 

This article will guide you through the nuances of hand washing, introduce you to safe machine washing practices, provide expert advice on stain removal, and help you decide when dry cleaning is necessary.

Can Machine Washing Be Safe for ‘Hand Wash Only’ Sweaters?

Always check the wash care labels

Some materials labelled ‘hand wash only,’ such as cashmere, silk, lace, wool, or garments with intricate embellishments, can still be damaged even when washed on a delicate cycle. This highlights the importance of understanding the limitations of machine washing delicate items.

If you opt to machine wash your ‘hand wash only’ sweaters, despite being aware of the risks, you can attempt to minimise the potential damage by turning the sweater inside out. This action helps protect the outer layer from the machine’s agitation.

It’s also advisable to place your sweater in a mesh laundry bag for added protection against snagging or tearing during the wash cycle and work with small batches. 

Choosing the delicate or ‘hand wash’ cycle on your machine, if available, alongside a gentle detergent, can further reduce the risk of harm. If these settings are unavailable, choosing the lowest spin and temperature setting is crucial. 

Immediately remove the sweater from the wash upon completion of the cycle to prevent any wrinkles from setting in.

When it comes to drying, laying your sweater flat is important as hanging can cause the fabric to stretch and alter the sweater’s shape. Avoid using a tumble dryer to dry your sweater, as the intense heat and agitation can lead to shrinkage or damage to the fabric.

How Should You Hand Wash Your “Hand Wash Only” Sweaters?

To prevent damage to your hand-wash only sweaters, it’s advisable to avoid the washing machine and instead opt for hand washing with a mild detergent. 

Here’s the safest method to clean them:

  • Add a mild detergent to a sink full of lukewarm water.
  • Before submerging any sweater, ensure it is turned inside out. Swirl the sweater in the water and let it soak for 15 minutes.
  • Rinse the sweater with clean water by gently swirling it. Repeat until all the detergent has been rinsed out.
  • Once done, gently pat the sweater to remove excess water. 
  • Do not wring your sweater, as this can stretch or alter its shape. Lay the sweater flat on a towel and allow it to dry.

How Can You Remove Stains From “Hand Wash Only” Sweaters?

woman holding knitted wool sweaters

Remove stains from your sweater before machine washing to prevent them from becoming permanent. 

For fresh stains, gently rub the affected area with a mixture of warm water and mild detergent, unless the fabric is wool.

How To Deal With Wool Sweaters

If it’s a wool sweater, gently dab the stain with a solution of mild Woolmark-approved detergent (such as Ecover’s Wool & Silk Delicate Laundry Detergent) and lukewarm water. Avoid harsh rubbing, which can damage wool fibres. This should be enough to remove the stain.

If the stain hasn’t been removed, try a mixture of water and white vinegar, applying it carefully to the stained area. After treating the stain, soak the sweater in lukewarm water with a bit of mild Woolmark-approved detergent. Rinse thoroughly with clean water, then press out excess moisture without wringing. 

Lay the sweater flat on a towel to dry, reshaping it as needed to retain its original form.

When Should You Consider Dry Cleaning?

Taking your ‘hand wash only’ sweaters to the dry cleaners can be beneficial, especially if the wash care label instructions are unclear. 

Dry cleaners can examine the care label for specific directions and offer guidance on the best cleaning methods to avoid damaging the fabric.

SEE ALSO: Is Hand Wash The Same As A Delicate Cycle? (what’s the difference)

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I machine wash sweaters that say hand wash?

Yes, you can machine wash sweaters that state ‘hand wash only’, but this comes with risks such as shrinking, stretching, or damaging the fabric. It’s crucial to take precautions like utilising a mesh laundry bag and selecting the delicate cycle to minimise potential damage.

What happens if I machine wash hand wash only?

If you machine wash ‘hand wash only’ items, they may shrink, stretch, or become otherwise damaged due to the heat and agitation of the washing machine. Delicate materials are particularly prone to these risks.

Can I use hand wash in the washing machine?

You can use the hand wash cycle in the washing machine for items labelled ‘hand wash only’ if you take precautions to protect them, such as using a gentle detergent and a mesh laundry bag. This cycle is designed to mimic the gentleness of hand washing.

How do you wash a sweater without a washing machine?

To wash a sweater without a washing machine, hand wash it by turning it inside out and soaking it in a sink filled with lukewarm water and mild detergent. Gently swirl, soak, and rinse the sweater until the detergent is fully removed. Pat it gently to remove excess water and lay it flat on a towel to dry.

What is the difference between machine wash and hand wash?

The difference between machine wash and hand wash lies in the method of cleaning; machine washing uses mechanical agitation and is suitable for durable fabrics, while hand washing is gentler, relying on soaking and gentle swirling, ideal for delicate materials sensitive to heat and agitation.

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