How to Machine Wash Cotton Sweaters

by Amy Davidson

Cotton sweaters are a versatile clothing piece that can be worn in both warm and cold temperatures. The cotton material breathes but also soaks up sweat and stains quickly, which is why it's essential to keep your sweater clean. Knowing how to properly wash a cotton sweater will extend its life and keep it stain free. If your sweater is a bright, rich color such as red, pink or blue, wash it alone the first time to ensure any dyes that may come out don’t tarnish other clothing.

Put the sweater into the washing machine with other cotton pieces of similar color. For example, wash a dark navy sweater with other dark pieces or a white sweater with only other cotton whites.

Use cold water and mild, bleach-free detergent. Never wash cotton with hot water. Cotton is susceptible to shrinkage, and heat is a quick way to destroy a sweater’s size and shape.

Pour in a cup of distilled white vinegar during the machine’s rinse cycle to help brighten cotton, fight stains and further remove any smells the sweater may have soaked up.

Lay the sweater flat on a clean towel once the wash cycle is done, and place another towel on top of it. (Hanging it to dry can cause the sweater to droop and sag.)

Roll the sweater up between the towels and gently press down to squeeze out excess moisture. Unroll and smooth the sweater flat out on another dry towel, removing wrinkles.

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Items you will need

  • Washing machine
  • Gentle, bleach-free detergent
  • 1 cup of distilled white vinegar
  • 3 clean, dry towels


  • Don't hang the sweater or jam it tightly in a drawer for storage. Instead, keep it in neatly folded in an area with other cotton sweaters to maintain its look, shape and fibers.


  • Never put a cotton sweater in a hot dryer as this can shrink it. If you must speed up the drying process, use the dryer on no heat and toss in a few dry towels.

About the Author

Amy Davidson is a graduate from the University of Florida in Gainesville, with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She also writes for local papers around Gainesville doing articles on local events and news.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images