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A Guide To Caring for Your Beloved Christmas Sweater

Keep your most holly jolly clothing item intact for years to come.


Ugly Christmas sweaters are a staple for office parties and family gatherings alike; these silly clothing pieces simultaneously break the ice and spread holiday cheer. But sweaters can be tricky to care for — and you no doubt want to keep yours in tip-top shape for many years to come. To help, we spoke to a clothing expert about how to properly wash and clean your Christmas sweater — plus, how to prevent pesky moths from laying eggs and creating holes. These tips will surely come in handy once this year’s festivities wind down and it’s time to store your favorite fashion item once again.

Why Christmas Sweaters Are A Holiday Staple

In the US, Christmas sweaters first hit the market in the 1950’s — adorably called “jingle bell sweaters,” they featured modest and colorful Christmas designs. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Christmas sweaters became more whimsical and amusingly tacky. Popular fictional characters, like Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show and Clark “Sparky” Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, donned such sweaters to match their quirky personalities. The clothing item saw a resurgence in the 2010s, thanks to the rise of the “ugly Christmas sweater” party. (Watch the video below to learn more about the pop culture significance of ugly Christmas sweaters.) Today, holiday-themed sweaters both classic and unconventional continue to be embraced by those who want to get into the festive spirit.

How To Wash and Care for a Christmas Sweater

Cleaning your sweater before storing it will maintain the quality — from removing small stains to refreshing the fabric, it’s important that you know how to care for a Christmas sweater. Here are five tips from Rosann Fleischauer, knitwear designer at First Byte Designs

  • Follow the label’s instructions for washing and drying. First, read your sweater’s label to see what the clothing manufacturer recommends when it comes to washing. Most “dry clean only” materials can be washed by hand or in the washing machine on the delicate cycle. Top-loading machines are the worst abusers of knit material — so, if you are using a top loader, make sure the sweater is in a laundry bag for delicate clothes. Use a mild detergent that’s compatible with your type of machine; don’t use a non-high-efficiency (HE) soap in an HE washer because it leaves too much residual soap on the fabric.
  • Spot wash by hand if the sweater has lights attached. Have a Christmas sweater with a bunch of bells and whistles? Tread carefully. The wires and plastic or glass material in the lights cannot be subjected to the washing machine. Some sweaters do have removable lights, in which case you should remove them, then follow the instructions for care. 
  • Roll sweaters instead of hanging or folding them. You might think hanging your sweater the way you do with other clothes seems easiest — but sweaters are malleable in a way that doesn’t jive with hangers. Hanging your sweater will cause it to take on the shape of the hanger and droop on the person who wears it. So, rolling is better than folding, because there’s less wear on the sweater fabric.
  • Avoid storing sweaters in the attic or other unregulated places like the garage or cellar. No one wants to pull out their favorite Christmas sweater come December to find moths have chewed holes straight through it! Moths love the dark damp places in your home for breeding; so, the best place for storing your sweaters is in your closet with air circulating around them year-round. However, your closet needs to be cleaned regularly to keep the area clean and free of lint and dust. 
  • Use the power of scent to drive moths away. Luckily, there are certain smells that can repel these clothes-ruining insects. For best results, place a dryer sheet inside your sweater to deter moths. For fine yarns, put the sweater in a muslin bag; then, put a dryer sheet on top of the bag before storing it. Cedar oil is also helpful, but you never want liquid to touch the knit fabric directly because it could cause staining. So, pour some cedar oil into a diffuser to place inside your closet or room.

Cozy Up in Your Christmas Sweater

From now until the end of the holiday season, it’s the perfect time to curl up in your Christmas sweater on the couch or wear it out to brave the cold. And if you use these tips, you’ll be able to keep your most holly jolly clothing item in great condition for years to come.

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