There’s really nothing comfier than a luxurious cashmere sweater when there’s a chill in the air. That’s because cashmere wool isn’t just incredibly soft, it’s also insulating, lightweight and breathable. In other words, cashmere keeps you warm without making you sweat. Another beautiful benefit of cashmere is its durability. Its natural fibers can outlast many of the other sweaters in your drawer with a little TLC.
Cashmere is often thought of as hard to care for since it’s sensitive to water temperature and agitation, but don’t let that deter you from having it in your wardrobe. Once you’re familiar with the dos and don’ts, washing cashmere at home is a simple task that can save you loads of time and money. But according to Carolyn Forte, executive director of Good Housekeeping’s Home Care and Cleaning Lab, it’s always best to start by checking the garment’s care label. Some cashmere garments, like jackets, have structure, linings or other reasons why it’s best to take them to a dry cleaner. Keep in mind that if you choose not to follow the care instructions and something goes wrong, like if the color fades or the garment shrinks, you won’t have any recourse. Many care labels on cashmere garments recommend washing by hand or dry cleaning. In those cases, you’re safe choosing either method.
If you have basic cashmere items like plain sweaters, scarves or unstructured pants that you’d like to wash at home, follow these simple tips to launder them by hand or by machine.
How often should you wash cashmere?
Unlike your other winter gear, cashmere should be washed just once or twice during the season, especially if you’re only wearing the sweater on special occasions. Excessive washing can lead to damage, such as shrinkage and pilling.
How to handwash cashmere
- Pretreat any stains. Apply a small dab or two of a cashmere-safe detergent or stain remover, like The Laundress New York Wool and Cashmere Shampoo, a 2022 Good Housekeeping Best Cleaning & Organizing Award winner, to spots of food or dirt – even sweat stains under the armpits or around the neckline — and work it into the stain with your fingertips. Avoid scrubbing, which can damage the delicate fibers.
- Fill a basin or sink with cool water. (For larger items, like blankets, you may need to use the bathtub.) As the water is running, mix in the recommended amount of detergent, then gently immerse the cashmere item.
- Gently agitate with your hands. Keeping your fingers loose, move the cashmere back and forth, up and down until the soapy water has penetrated the fibers. For the best results, let the cashmere soak for up to 30 minutes.
- Drain and rinse thoroughly. Drain the sink and if you have a sprayer on your faucet, use it to carefully rinse small items clean. Otherwise, refill the sink with cool water. If you’re using a basin, empty it and replace the soapy water with fresh, cool water. Immerse the item in the clear water and gently agitate it with clean hands to rinse. Repeat this step as necessary until all the soap suds are gone.
- Gently press and squeeze out excess water. Do this with your hands while the cashmere item is in the sink or basin. Lifting cashmere up when it’s saturated can cause it to stretch and lose its shape and wringing cashmere can damage and flatten the delicate fibers. Then, roll the item in a white towel and carefully press or squeeze out any remaining moisture.
What You’ll Need to Care for Cashmere
SAMMART 2 Gallon Collapsible Washing Basin
The Laundress New York Wool & Cashmere Shampoo
Credit: The Laundress New York
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How to wash cashmere in the washing machine
Some cashmere can be washed in the washing machine on a delicate cycle, or you may just wish to take this shortcut with well-worn items. In either case, check the item’s care label first and follow its recommendations or these steps.
- Select the most delicate cycle. Choose your machine’s gentlest cycle, cold water and the lowest spin speed possible.
- Turn the item inside out. Place it in a mesh delicate fabrics bag to protect it from unnecessary abrasion which can cause pilling.
How to dry cashmere
For both handwashing and in the machine, lay the garment flat to dry. Place it on a dry, absorbent white towel and position it in its original shape to air dry. Once the top is dry, flip it over and allow the opposite side to dry completely.
How to remove wrinkles and pills from cashmere
Despite careful handling, cashmere can get wrinkled or creased. To remove them, use a garment steamer instead of an iron. Direct heat and pressure from an iron flattens cashmere’s natural loft resulting in a less fluffy look and soft feel. And all cashmere – even the highest quality – is prone to pilling. When the fibers break from friction they form unsightly bobbles. To remove them, carefully and lightly run a fabric shaver over the dry, unwrinkled surface of the cashmere to remove any pills. Hold the fabric taut with one hand while you shave pills with the other to prevent any nicks or cuts to the fabric.
How to store cashmere
Always avoid hanging wet cashmere or leaving it in direct sunlight or near heat, which can cause stretching, yellowing, and shrinkage. The drawer is where to keep all of your cashmere once it’s dry as hanging it can make it can lose its shape.
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