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A Guide to Washing Fall Apparel [Fleece, Flannel, Wool, and More!]

by Bill Welles

The fall weather is here and so is your fall fashion. A new season always brings a new wardrobe, but with outerwear and other fall apparel, do these items still need to be washed regularly? We're all guilty of wearing our favorite garments a few extra times before cleaning, and unless there are obvious “wash me now” signs like noticeable stains or odors, you can usually get away with it.

However, just because there aren’t noticeable signs of wear, doesn’t mean you don’t still need to run a good rinse cycle. Fall apparel can be tricky to wash because the fabrics and materials are much more delicate. There are obvious washing tactics to avoid, but it can be the not-so-obvious factors that can ruin your clothes for good.

If you don’t have the time to hand wash items or don’t want the expense of dry cleaning, lucky for you, there are resources (and your mother’s wisdom) to help you protect your favorite fall clothing for the long haul. Here is our helpful guide to washing fall apparel the right way.

wool coat on a coat hanger

Down Parkas and Vests

For any clothing item with down feathers, you only need to wash once or twice per season. Over-washing these items causes the feathers to break down and potentially tear. Machine wash all puffy outerwear in cold water with a mild detergent to prevent the feathers from flattening.

After washing (or if your puffy vest looks squashed), let it tumble dry on low with three clean tennis balls to redistribute the feathers and prevent clumping. Even if it takes a few cycles, make sure the coat is fully dry.

Fleece Jackets and Sweatshirts

Fleece jackets and sweatshirts are typically worn more routinely during the fall season, so try to wash these items after six or seven wears. To keep your clothing items soft and not stiff or full of static, turn your garments inside out and wash with like colors. Try to avoid washing with items like towels because the buildup of lint can stick to fleece. Be sure to wash on a longer cycle so there is no leftover detergent residue, and set out to dry.

If your fleece jacket has a water-resistant finish, fabric softeners and dryer sheets can diminish the effectiveness of the fabric. And if your clothing is full of pet hair but doesn’t need a full wash, you can remove stubborn pet hair with a wet rubber glove.

Hats, Gloves, and Scarves

These items are often ignored in our laundry pile, but pay extra close attention to these forgotten items—washing three to five times per season. Think about the buildup of makeup, cologne, facial oil, moisturizer, and the germs you pick up with gloves. Any knit items should be hand-washed and genuine leather gloves are best saved for the cleaners.

Additional pro-tip: Never store gloves in your coat pockets. It's easy to put gloves in your pocket, hang up the coat in the closet, and forget all about them, but the glove lining can become damp from the perspiration that comes off your hands and needs to properly air out. If tucked away in your jacket, they could be left with a smell of mildew.

pile of knit hat, gloves, and scarf

Leather and Suede Jackets

Leather and suede are two of the more delicate materials that only need to be washed once per season. These items are very durable and can withstand daily wear better than other fabrics. You can spot clean leather to remove any spills and brush suede to keep it in tip-top shape, but more intensive cleaning of these materials is best left to an expert.

Try to avoid makeup or perfume from staining the collar as it can permanently absorb into the material. And be careful not to overstuff the pockets, as this can cause tears or a misshapen garment. A lot of fall apparel is stored in plastic bags or storage bins during the offseason, but this storage method can cause leather clothing to dry out and crack.

row of leather jackets

Sweaters and Flannel

There are many different sweater materials, so depending on your go-to sweater, wash after one to three wears. Cotton, flannel, and cashmere should be washed every two to three wears because the fabrics can be more delicate. Wool and other durable man-made blends such as polyester or acrylic can go a little longer, withstanding up to five wears. Wool naturally repels dirt, dust, and liquids easier than other materials, which is why it doesn’t need to be cleaned as frequently.

If you’re still concerned about ruining your favorite sweaters, handwashing can be the gentlest method, but be sure to fold sweaters and store them properly to avoid moths. If they are hanging in your closet, you’re asking for a feeding zone.

Wool Coats

Speaking of wool sweaters, we might as well wash the wool coats while we’re at it. Again, if it’s your everyday coat, once or twice a season will suffice to keep this durable material from looking dingy. A special-occasion coat might need to be taken to the cleaners once before storing to deter moths only because it will most likely sit for longer without wear. Additionally, use a stiff brush to remove any surface debris and spot-treat any stains with a damp cloth and mild soap.

When storing wool or any other fall material, keep odors away by storing clothing where air can circulate and try not to overcrowd your coatrack or closet.

close up of womans wool jacket and scarf

Cleaning Tips

For additional washing recommendations, follow these simple washing cleaning tips below:

1. Use Vinegar

White vinegar is an alternative cleaner and natural deodorizer to preserve color brightness in your laundry and prevent fuzzy balled-up fibers from forming.

2. Wash Flannel in Warm (not hot) Water

Warm water ensures minimal color fading, reduces shrinkage, and keeps your fabrics soft so you can rock the lumberjack look all season long.

3. Wash Knits in Cold Water

Handwashing yields the best results when washing knits, but cold water saves time and saves your sweater from frays and snags.

4. Limit Fabric Softener

Fabric softener can sometimes stiffen fabric fibers and reduce softness if used in excess.

5. Air Dry

Delicate materials are prone to shrinking, so set up a makeshift drying rack and let your fabrics air dry.

pile of fall sweaters

It's as simple as that—follow this fall apparel guide and you can enjoy soft and comfortable jackets, sweaters, and flannels all autumn long. And if you’re looking for quality laundry appliances to help treat your favorite clothing, stop by our store to shop our selection of washers and dryers.