How To Wash A Christmas Sweater With Lights (Explained)

According to a 2019 Gallup Poll, 92% of Americans celebrate Christmas. And a good majority do this while wearing Ugly Christmas sweaters at their family get togethers, friends gatherings, and office parties! So it may not seem unusual at all to find yourself wondering, how to wash a Christmas sweater with lights?

Knowing how to wash a Christmas sweater with lights may come in handy if you are one of the 92% of Americans celebrating Christmas each year. Considered garish by just about everyone, the Ugly Christmas Sweater has surprisingly become a modern custom since its Jingle Bell Sweater days in the 1950s.

As a teacher with decades of service, I commonly wore ‘Ugly Christmas Sweaters’ both on purpose and as a fashion-choice. Nowadays everyone is more aware of the ‘ugly’ statement of sweaters, often hosting ‘Ugly Christmas Sweater’ parties.

Read on to learn more about this new Christmas tradition, as well as some suggestions about how to take care of your Christmas sweaters, especially those with lights!


Can You Wash Light-Up Christmas Sweaters?

Watching a tutorial on YouTube can be a helpful way to learn how to connect Christmas lights to your holiday sweater.

Ugly Christmas sweaters have been a modern trend for the past decades, growing stronger in popularity with each year. There are many varieties, some even coming with lights! Whether you buy your lighted Christmas sweater from Amazon or choose to make your own, you’ll want to know how to keep it in top shape for many Christmases to come! So can you wash light up Christmas sweaters?

Most manufacturers state not to wash Christmas sweaters with lights. Some are specific about not using washing machines for delicate Christmas sweaters. This implies it’s possible to hand-wash with care. Whether you choose to hand wash or use a machine, you risk damaging the sweater beyond repair.

That said, it is entirely possible to wash light-up Christmas sweaters, with care and preparation. Most are made today with washable materials like acrylic and cotton. Even wool is washable but will have some specialized directions to guide you. Most usually advise using cold water, delicate cycle, or possibly hand washing to be safe.

Wool sweaters can also be washed in a washing machine nowadays, and many machines have cycles specifically for ‘wool’ material.

This doesn’t mean it’s advisable to use the electric or gas dryer, however. Sweaters might shrink in a dryer so many labels say it’s best to lay the sweater flat to dry. Laying flat will prevent the sweater from stretching and help it keep its shape. Although I admit to stretching mine out on purpose a time or two!

As for embellished Christmas sweaters like those with lights, it’s best to be extra cautious when cleaning.

Even though it’s not recommended to wash light-up Christmas sweaters (and Christmas sweaters with embellishments like glitter, sequins, and garland) it can be done if taken with care and preparation. But it must be said, there is risk!

Depending on your particular sweater and procedure- your sweater could get damaged and become unusable, so keep this in mind as you consider washing it!

It seems that most lights in Christmas sweaters are waterproof, some are not. Typically the light-up Christmas sweaters are charged by batteries sewn inside fabrics. It shouldn’t be harmful to you health-wise if they get wet, but getting the battery pack wet may cause the feature to not work. We’ll address the pack itself in a later section.

Also keep in mind that you won’t need to wash your sweater that often (if at all). It really depends on how many times you wear it during the Christmas season, and if you get overly ‘sweaty’ or happen to spill something on it.

Other Embellishments Common to Light-Up Christmas Sweaters:

  • Colorful Pom Poms
  • Beads in Holiday Colors
  • Sparkley Glitter, Sequins, and Rhinestones
  • Snowy felt
  • Candy Canes and Peppermints
  • Garland, both natural and artificial
  • Holiday characters like Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty
My family proudly wear Ugly Christmas Sweaters at our Christmas gatherings each year.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Overview-

Ugly Christmas Sweaters is a common custom to today’s holiday celebrations. But how did that ever come to be?

Some say the 1950s was the birth of the Ugly Christmas Sweaters, called then Jingle Bell Sweaters. Others say it became mainstream when Cliff Huxtable donned colorful sweaters in the 80s. But maybe true credit should go to Mr. Christmas himself, Clark Griswold of Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!

But what makes an ugly Christmas sweater? Well, as I mentioned before, I wore Christmas sweaters for decades while teaching. It was a way to be festive and celebratory in school, and kids seemed to enjoy them. However, I didn’t think of it as ‘ugly’ at the time, and this was certainly in the days before ‘Ugly Christmas Parties,’ though now looking back at old pictures, I’m sure I’d win several contests!

Ugly Christmas sweaters are overly colorful and bright. They commonly have glitter, sequins, or other material for sparkle. They often feature Christmas icons, too like Frosty or Rudolph and many-like this article addresses-have ‘extras’ like lights, music, and even candy.

As well, if your sweater sings, dances, lights up, or is ‘seen before your face is’, then it’s likely an Ugly Christmas Sweater. Some may say if you ask yourself ‘is it an ugly Christmas sweater,’ then the answer is ‘yes.’

I also suggest these articles Hopeful Holidays:

How Do You Wash Clothes With Lights in a Washing Machine?

For some, adding Christmas lights to your Ugly Christmas Sweater takes festivities to the next level!

Washing light-up Christmas sweaters and clothes is possible, but risky. By following certain steps like turning it inside out and putting into a pillow case, using the delicate cycle along with mild detergent, and avoiding the dryer, sometimes washing clothes with lights works out without damage.

Details like beading, sequins, and feathers make it challenging to clean the conventional way. Professional cleaning is always recommended as they have cleaners and equipment made especially for delicate items. But dry cleaning can be expensive and inconvenient, so it’s understandable that people would like to try something at home.

Before doing anything, definitely read the label on the garment! You never know; you might be lucky and have a Christmas sweater with lights that’s marked ‘machine washable.’ If so, then by all means, use that machine. If not, it could be that the manufacturer provided other cleaning suggested methods to do.

Unfortunately, as stated earlier, often is the case that the label for light-up clothes will say ‘do not wash!’ And that’s just not very practical!

Here are some suggestions for caring for your light-up Christmas sweaters or any clothes with light-up features and reducing the potential for damage when using the washing machine.

As a teacher, I wore the same Ugly Christmas Sweater year after holiday year, changing it up with Dollar Store holiday finds like light-up necklaces and candy canes.
  1. The first step is to always turn your sweater or clothing item inside out before washing to protect any embellishments, including the neatly-placed strings and battery packs.
  2. I also recommend covering any battery packs with saran wrap or something similar to minimize water damage…that is if you can’t remove it completely, which is preferable.
  3. If you risk putting it in a washing machine, place the whole sweater or clothing piece inside a garment bag made for washing machines or into a simple pillow case and tie it with string. a band, or hair elastic.
  4. Use the delicate cycle and mild detergent.
  5. Don’t use a dryer! Nor should you hang the garment vertically from a hanger or line to dry. Instead, lay flat to dry after washing to prevent stretching.
  6. Make sure the sweater is completely dry before trying the light-up feature afterwards. Fingers crossed- it will still light up properly!

And consider other options for cleaning your Christmas sweater or light-up clothes such as hand washing! (I address this more in another section)

How Do You Wash a Christmas Sweater with a Battery Pack?

If a battery pack charges your light-up Christmas sweater, you have a lot to do to get it cleaned! You might know that cable circuits usually don’t get along with water. However, the great news is that you can wash these types of sweaters with peace of mind, as long as you prep ahead of time!

You can wash Ugly Christmas sweaters with light-up features but it comes with risk of damage. Follow any manufacturer recommendations for washing, but often it says not to wash due to the battery pack. Try to remove the battery pack or cover it carefully. Then wash the sweater according to the material.

To reiterate, if possible, disconnect and remove the battery from the zipper pocket or battery pack. The best case scenario will have a battery pack that’s easily detached from the sweater. This is one of the most important steps when it comes to making sure that your light-up Christmas sweater stays safe and functional.

Next, make sure you put the connector cable back and close the zipper pocket. You want to keep the power cable safe, so once you’ve removed the battery from your Christmas sweater, you must put back the connector cable and close the zipper. This will protect it during the washing cycle. Again, if it’s all detachable including the string lights that would be best!

After this, go ahead and hand clean or machine-wash the clothing. In most cases, handwashign will work better for keeping your sweater or clothing item like new. Most other common suggestions are to use mild detergent, no bleach, and cold or warm water (hot water causes most material to shrink).

After laying flat to dry, you can put the batteries back in the battery pack or reattach the battery/lights if you were able to remove them. Make sure it’s completely dry before turning on.

Suggestion: Hand embellish your Ugly Christmas Sweater with lights and other adornment rather than buy one. Not only will this make your Ugly Christmas Sweater unique and personable, it gives you the ability to attach the decorations so that washing is easier and more functional with the ability to safely remove the lights, batteries and other ‘customizables’ prior to washing.

More Tips for Cleaning Your Ugly Christmas Sweater With Lights:

  • ‘Air Clean It’ by hanging it up to air out either outdoors on a line or balcony or steam it by hanging in the bathroom while you take a hot shower.
  • Use a dry wash spray light this one from Amazon, avoiding the lights and battery pack.
  • Spot clean with a damp cloth using mild detergent, white vinegar mix, or just plain warm water that’s mild and won’t fade coloring.
  • Check with your local dry cleaners.

Wrapping Up Washing Lighted Christmas Sweaters

To wrap it up, it is not recommended by manufacturer’s to wash Ugly Christmas sweaters with lights (or other delicate embellishments). However, with care and preparation, it’s often possible to wash them successfully. Though, it’s not without risk!

I hope you are able to enjoy your Ugly Christmas Sweaters for many holidays to come, keeping them freshly clean with these suggestions that have helped me over the years!

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