Ask the Editor: Sweater Hygiene, Part II

Oct 24, 2022

Of course, good hygiene is important year round, but it’s especially important in the winter-time.  In 2012, I wrote a post about my winter hygiene routine.  But recently, a reader asked for an update.

Washing sweaters is the worst part of winter fashion.  Sure, some are machine washable, but many still recommend hand washing.  And I just don’t have the time to wash sweaters after or every single wear.  So keeping my sweaters smelling fresher, longer starts with a winter hygiene routine.  Because it’s terrible when a hot restaurant, a brisk walk, or unexpectedly stressful meeting brings on that sweaty-sweater smell.

The Deodorant // Winter hygiene starts with the right deodorant. Lume makes the best deodorant that I have ever used for controlling sweat.  It stops stress sweat, hot meeting room sweat, and workout sweat like no other product I have ever used.  And it lasts for as long as 72-hours.  Lume also sells a whole body deodorant.

Another option is spray deodorant.  Degree sells an aerosol deodorant that is completely clear, and promises that it won’t leave yellow stains on white items or white stains or black items.

The Base Layer // I never wear a sweater without a base layer underneath it.  It’s easier to wash sweat and odor out of a t-shirt, than it is to wash it out of a sweater.  Your base layer needs sleeves (short or long, dealer’s choice) and it should be fitted to prevent bunching.

Cotton is my preferred fabric for a base layer, but that is becoming harder to find. J.Crew Factory makes both a cotton crewneck and v-neck tee.  The slub cotton is a light option for layering, and there are several colors to choose from.

Another option is fitted shape wear in a color similar to your own skin tone.  The benefit of the flesh-toned base layer is that it won’t show under lighter-colored sweaters like a white t-shirt might.  Skims makes their Fits Everybody fitted tee in several flesh-toned colors, and with inclusive sizing.  You can also try their short sleeved bodysuit or give this Alix NYC long-sleeved bodysuit a try.

The Wipes // The Honey Pot makes my favorite cleansing wipes.  They’re strong enough to use under your arms or on intimate parts, but gentle enough to use on your face.  I keep a pack in my desk at work to freshen up after stressful meetings and calls.

The Sweater Wash // Washing sweaters is a pain. So stop washing them, and start soaking them.  A friend who is a prolific knitter turned me on to Soak, and it is game changer.  You mix Soak Liquid with water and give your sweaters a bath, then lay them flat to dry.  No rinsing.  No agitating.  Just soaking.

If you travel in the winter, you can carry their travel packs of scentless product to refresh on trips.  And you can also use their Flatter spray to smooth out wrinkles in your sweaters and freshen them up a bit.

The Fabric Refresher // Febreeze works well on many materials, but it’s not the best thing for sweaters.  If you want to refresh your sweaters, you have two options.  Chinti & Parker’s garment refresher was developed for your delicate sweaters. The Laundress’s wool and cashmere spray is another great option, but the cedar scent isn’t my favorite.

Do you have any tips and tricks for keeping your sweaters clean and smelling fresh?  Leave them in the comments.

The Shaver // (A reader asked for my thoughts on sweater shavers, so I added this section to the post.)  Pilling is a constant battle when you own sweaters you love.  I actually own two sweater shaving tools, both of which I recommend.

The Laundress’s sweater stone removes tough pills with ease.  It’s great when you need to de-pill the whole sweater.  I saw the Pilo shaver from the Steamery in a gift guide and bought it without another thought.  The engine is more powerful and the blades sharper than many of the shavers I’ve tried.  It’s perfect for quick jobs.

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  1. TheLOOP says:

    Can you link to your favorite sweater shaver?

  2. EMM says:

    This is the best post I’ve ever read (and I LOVE your posts, so that’s saying a lot). I have a beautiful stack of wool and cashmere sweaters, but talk myself out of wearing them most days, because I dread the upkeep & laundering process. As someone who walks to work, walks on her lunch breaks, and generally sweats a moderate amount throughout the day via fluctuating outdoor/indoor temperatures, it’s often more work than it’s worth, on a day to day basis. I opened tabs with every single item you mentioned here… THANK YOU.

    The Lume deoderant actually works? I’ve heard it mentioned a few different places, but wasn’t sure how effective it is. Willing to try!

  3. tess says:

    My tip: When drying sweaters, lay it out on a beach towel, roll it up, and then gently squeeze to get more water out before putting the sweater on the drying rack.

  4. Delia says:

    Three tips:

    First, take off your sweater as soon as you get home and lay it somewhere to air it out. Don’t store worn sweaters with clean ones.

    A steamer is a game changer. Odor is caused by bacteria on the fabric. Sometimes I steam my sweaters, let dry and see if I need to do it again. Be sure to let them dry and air out afterwards.

    Last but not least, wool sweaters, merino and I assume cashmere ( I have no experience with cashmere) have an amazing ability to make odor disappear after a few hours! I have some wool sweaters that are like magic in this regard. It’s worth seeking out natural wool sweaters for this attribute alone.

    For desperate times you can also tuck a dryer sheet in the underarm of the sweater overnight. Or try old-fashioned dress shields. The fabric pin-in kind are much more comfortable than the disposable ones.

  5. Roons says:

    Agree with other comments about airing sweaters out. I will also use dryel in between trips to the drycleaner or handwashing.
    .

  6. Chris says:

    I’m retired and I don’t sweat a lot. In the Summer I use the Crystal Magnesium Enriched deodorant which I think keeps the mosquitoes away too. In the winter i use the regular roll-on Crystal. In the winter when a sweater needs a breather after all-day wear, I hang it inside out and spray the armpits with vodka. I read about doing this and it works for me.

  7. BN says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I appreciate the honesty about something no one wants to admit.

  8. Meg says:

    Do you use the Lume solid stick or the cream?

  9. Stephanie says:

    I keep a spray bottle filled with cheap vodka in my bedroom, and I give my sweaters a spritz after wearing them. I find it works great at neutralizing odors.

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