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How Often You Should Actually Wash Sweaters, According To A Germ Expert

Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer
By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
Image by Jenni Kayne / Contributor
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December 28, 2021

Most of us would probably agree that it's not necessary to wash a sweater each and every time you wear it. But...how many wears is too many? And how can we keep our sweaters in tiptop shape through this winter and beyond? To find out, we asked a germ expert—here's what she had to say.

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So, how often do sweaters actually need to be washed?

According to environmental toxin expert and the founder of Slightly Greener Tonya Harris, two to five wearings before washing is average, "but it also depends on factors such as how the sweater is worn and what the material is made out of."

If you wore something under your sweater, for example, that will extend the life of your sweater by reducing the number of times it needs to be washed, she says.

Material-wise, things like cotton, cashmere, and silk should be washed after two to three wears, while more durable materials like wool or hardy synthetic blends can be worn up to five times.

In short, you definitely don't need to wash your sweaters every time you wear them, and if you want to spread out the time between washes, your best bet is to wear an undershirt.

How to maintain the life of your sweaters through each wash.

Along with washing your sweaters enough (but not too much), there are a few other helpful tips Harris recommends for extending the life of your favorite sweaters:

  1. For one thing, always check the care instructions on the label, no matter what the material is. "If they are machine washable, be sure to only wash them on the delicate or hand wash settings in cold water," she explains, adding that heat can easily shrink sweaters fast.
  2. If you want to go the extra protective mile, you can opt to hand-wash your sweaters in a tub or sink with a gentle detergent, Harris notes. "After washing, pat-dry the sweater—don't wring it out," she adds.
  3. And whether you hand-wash or use a machine, lay your sweaters flat to air dry rather than putting them in a dryer, she says.
  4. Last but not least, "be sure to wash sweaters before storing them for the warmer months to ensure any odors or stains don't sink in," Harris tells mbg.
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The bottom line.

A good sweater can last for years and years—with proper care. By limiting washes, you'll extend their life, but they still need a cleaning every few wears. Follow the care label, avoid heat as much as possible, and your sweaters will last you for many winters to come.

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Sarah Regan
Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer

Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.