How to Wash Cashmere Sweaters
Jun 03, 2023
We’re going to let you in on a secret: We’ve saved hundreds of dollars by hand-washing our cashmere sweaters.
Yes, we ignore the dry-clean-only labels, because the cashmere brand representatives and fashion designers we spoke with said the harsh chemicals used in dry cleaning can actually strip the fibers and ultimately shorten the lifespan of a cashmere sweater.
That doesn’t mean we don’t take extra care, though. Cashmere (and other natural-fiber) sweaters can’t simply go into the washer along with your jeans and sweatshirts. Here’s how to take care of your cashmere sweaters so that they stay in near-perfect condition.
Wool wash or baby shampoo: Soak, a no-rinse detergent, will save you time and effort when you’re hand-washing cashmere and other delicates. Baby shampoo is also gentle enough to use on cashmere.
A clean sink or other water basin: It needs to be large enough to soak your sweater.
A drying rack or a white bath towel: If you don’t have space for a rack, you can lay the sweater atop a large bath towel on a flat surface. But avoid colored towels because the dye could transfer onto your sweater.
A cashmere comb: This comb will help remove lint, fuzz, and dust from your sweater between wears and washes.
Steamer (optional): Hand-washed clothing often dries with some wrinkles or crunchiness, but a steamer can bring back its suppleness and luster.
You don’t need to wash a cashmere sweater after every wear. Derek Guy of the fashion site Put This On washes his sweaters “every seven to 10 wears, and at the end of each winter season.”
Plan for about 15 to 20 minutes to hand-wash your sweaters, plus drying time.
Try to treat any stains on a cashmere sweater right away. Set-in stains are much harder to lift off. Never use OxiClean or anything with bleach on cashmere; make sure to check the label of stain removers.
To remove a stain, put a small amount of Soak detergent or baby shampoo on a cotton swab and rub it into the stain. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes before rinsing out the stain with water or washing your cashmere.
Fill a clean sink or basin with lukewarm water (never hot water). Add no-rinse detergent or baby shampoo to the water. If you’re using Soak, you’ll need only about a capful per gallon of water.
Submerge your sweater in the water, and move it around to loosen up any dirt.
Let the sweater soak in the soapy water for about 15 minutes, giving it a few gentle swirls every now and then.
If you use baby shampoo, you’ll need to rinse out the soap: Empty the sink or tub, fill it up again with water, and re-submerge the sweater. Do not place your sweater under running water because doing so can damage the fabric. If you use Soak, there’s no need to rinse.
Gently squeeze out excess water from the sweater. You can compress it into a ball and squeeze the water, or use the towel-rolling method we shared in our guide to cleaning down jackets. Lay a white bath towel flat on a surface, place your sweater on top of the towel, and then roll both together, squeezing to get more water out.
Whatever you do, do not wring your cashmere.
Cashmere and other wet sweaters must be laid flat and blocked—that is, shaped so they dry correctly.
Dry your sweater on a flat drying rack. Do not hang it up to dry or the fabric will stretch. If you don’t have a rack, lay a white towel (not the one you used for wringing out excess water) on a table, and dry the sweater on top of it.
Remember that you shouldn’t wash your cashmere after every wear. A lint roller will help remove lint, fuzz, and dust between wears and washes. A sweater comb will also help remove stray pills, without damaging the knit.
Always wash a cashmere sweater before storing it away for the summer. Dirty cashmere is like catnip for moths.
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