Cashmere sweaters are luxurious wardrobe staples that can last for years when properly cared for. However, the "dry clean only" labels on most cashmere garments can be misleading. With the right techniques, you can safely hand wash cashmere sweaters at home without damaging the delicate fibers. Follow these simple steps for keeping your cashmere looking like new.
What You Need
To hand wash cashmere sweaters at home, you'll need just a few supplies:
- Wool wash or baby shampoo - Gentle cleansers like Soak wool wash or baby shampoo effectively clean cashmere without stripping natural oils from the fibers. Harsh detergents can damage the fibers over time.
- A clean sink or basin - You'll need a sink, bathtub, or other container large enough to soak your sweater fully.
- A drying rack or towel - Lay your washed cashmere flat to dry on a rack or clean, white towel. Avoid colored towels to prevent dye transfer.
- Cashmere comb - Use a special comb to remove lint and re-fluff the nap between wears.
- Steamer (optional) - While not required, a garment steamer can smooth out wrinkles and restore the sweater's drape after air drying.
How Often to Wash Cashmere
Only wash cashmere sweaters when needed, about every 7-10 wears. Washing too frequently can strip the fibers of the lanolin oils that help repel dirt. It's also a good idea to hand wash at the end of winter storage to remove any dust or odors.
Plan for about 15-20 minutes of active washing time per sweater, not counting soak and dry time.
Spot Treating Stains
Treat spills and stains on cashmere as soon as possible. Set-in stains are much harder to remove.
To spot treat, gently dab a bit of wool wash or baby shampoo on the stain with a cotton swab or sponge. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes before washing as usual. Avoid using bleach-based stain removers, which can damage cashmere fibers.
Follow these steps to hand wash cashmere sweaters safely at home:
Fill With Lukewarm Water
Fill a clean sink or basin with lukewarm water - never hot. Hot water can cause cashmere to shrink or felt. Add a small amount of wool wash or baby shampoo - about 1 capful per gallon of water is sufficient.
Soak the Sweater
Submerge the cashmere sweater fully in the soapy water. Gently move it around to loosen dirt. Let soak for 15 minutes, giving the sweater a few gentle squeezes periodically to circulate the detergent.
Drain the dirty wash water and refill the basin with clean, lukewarm water. For wool wash, no rinsing is needed. With baby shampoo, submerge the sweater again and let soak for a few minutes to rinse away any residual soap. Do not rinse cashmere under running water, which can damage the fibers.
Gently Squeeze Out Water
Lift the sweater from the rinse water and gently squeeze to remove excess moisture. Roll it in a clean towel and compress to absorb more water. Never wring or twist cashmere to force out water. This can stretch the knit permanently out of shape.
Lay Flat to Dry
Spread the sweater flat on a towel or drying rack, gently smoothing it back into shape. Let cashmere air dry completely before wearing or storing. Avoid hanging sweaters to dry, which can stretch the shoulders. Cashmere dries slowly, often with wrinkles or stiffness. Use a garment steamer to soften the fibers and relax the knit after drying.
Caring for Cashmere Between Wears
- Allow cashmere to air out between wears to prevent odors from developing.
- Use a cashmere comb to gently remove lint, pet hair, and pills that develop with wear. Work carefully to avoid snagging or damaging the knit.
- Fold and store cashmere loosely year-round. Never pack tightly in plastic bags.
- During winter storage, clean first to prevent attracting moths or carpet beetles. Use cedar blocks in storage containers as a natural deterrent.
With the proper care, cashmere sweaters can provide years of cozy warmth and soft luxury. By hand washing with gentle cleansers and reshaping while drying flat, you can safely clean cashmere at home between professional dry cleanings. Follow these tips, and your favorite cashmere sweaters will maintain their beauty and keep you comfortable in style for seasons to come.