Caring for your cashmere sweaters

Caring for your Cashmere

Cashmere is one of my favorite natural fabrics. Although it costs more than other natural fibers, it is well worth the investment. Over the years, I have added luxurious, timeless sweaters and blazers to my wardrobe that are versatile, meaning they are both casual and elegant, depending on how I have styled them. You may associate cashmere with a winter wardrobe, but a neutral long cardigan is a good option to keep you comfortable on breezy and cool summer nights.

If you take loving care of your cashmere, it will last for years to come. Whether you own high-quality cashmere, a mid-range wool, or a second-hand sweater, there are steps you can take to make sure it holds its value. Yes, it is true! I have thrifted pieces that needed a little bit of attention, and now they are a beloved, sustainable addition to my wardrobe. Here is how I clean, protect, and store cashmere that I wear year-round and  pieces I store in warmer weather.

First, read the care tag instructions. It is important to be as gentle as possible with cashmere and to air it out. The less you wash and dry it, the better. It is okay to wear it a time or two before washing. Some say to wear it several times before washing. That, I believe, is a personal preference. Too much dry cleaning can be bad for cashmere too. It uses harsh chemicals and can cause it to lose its softness over time. Again, it depends on how much time you have to invest in caring for your cashmere.

1. Gather and Inspect

Carefully look over your cashmere garment for stains, snags, odors, or other blemishes to fix before washing and storing.

2. Repair Damage

Major damage may be something better left to a tailor, but if you are handy with a needle or crochet hook, you can mend little holes or snags with cashmere thread or by pulling a loose string through the back of the garment and tying it off. Otherwise, use a battery-operated fabric shaver to carefully remove fuzz balls called pilling. It might be tempting to pull a sweater pill, but you may risk damaging it.

3. Remove Stains

A good rule of thumb is to treat stains as soon as they happen. Never use bleach or harsh cleansers on cashmere. You can spot-treat stains with cool water, a wool-safe detergent or baby shampoo, and gentle blotting. I have used a clean toothbrush to gently scrub stains. You may need to repeat this step.

4. Clean Cashmere

Set aside 15-30 minutes for hand washing your delicate cashmere. Check the tag. If you see a dry clean only, you can wash them at home so long as you perform a blot test on the garment first to ensure there is no color bleeding, shrinking or disfiguration. The best way to avoid color bleeding is to wash each piece separately.

Heavily worn pieces may require a good soak. It may be helpful to close the closures and turn the garment inside out unless it will cause snagging. Submerge it for 10-30 minutes in lukewarm to cold water with a teaspoon of mild detergent specifically made for delicate fabric.

Gently manipulate the garment until it is clean. You may choose to put cashmere garments in the washing machine on ‘handwash’ or ‘gentle’ cycle. (If there are jewels or zippers, anything that could cause a snag, or appliques that could come loose – I would caution against machine wash). If you use a washing machine, I suggest putting your garment in a lingerie bag to help protect it.

If your garment shrinks, try soaking it again with a small amount of fabric softener. When drying flat on a towel, gently re-shape it.

5. Dry Flat

Never hang cashmere on a line, door, or hanger to dry as this will cause lines, stretching and disfiguration. Instead, lay the garment on a clean towel, smoothing your cashmere gently back into its original shape. Roll up the towel and garment together, squeezing out the excess water. Lay it flat on a dry towel to air dry.

To get the wrinkles out, avoid tumble drying unless you are sure your garment will tolerate it and avoid high heat. Iron on a low setting inside out or use a clothes steamer.

It is best to fold cashmere sweaters and other garments rather than hang them because natural fibers are vulnerable to damage and disfiguration, however cashmere blazers may hang on hangers.

6. Pest Protection

A clothing moth infestation can be difficult to exterminate. That is why taking precautions early on is so important. Use a cedar chest or canvas storage options.

Acid-free tissue paper can help keep layers of cashmere separate from each other. This also prevents moths from burrowing deeper into a garment, keeping the natural fibers free from damage.

For additional protection, natural deterrents are a great option. Remember, products like cedar wood blocks and lavender sachets only work when their oils are fresh, so be sure to replace or renew any that have lost their potency. Natural clothing moth pheromone traps give off a powerful pheromone that only the flying adult moth can smell, and they are effective for three months.

7. Storage Suggestions

Clean cashmere is long-lasting cashmere. Avoid growing bacteria and fungus by storing items that are free from natural body oils, perspiration, and stains by cleaning your cashmere thoroughly. Snap, button, or zip any fasteners to minimize the chances of snags.

For short-term storage, less than three months, a plastic bag is fine. Longer than that, and your cashmere may be vulnerable to changes in temperature causing mildew or yellowing of light colors.

For long-term seasonal storage, avoid storing cashmere in hot attics or cool, damp basements. If you do not have a cedar chest to store your cashmere in, use breathable garment bags for blazers and canvas containers that zip for closet for sweaters, shawls, blankets, and more. They come in a variety of sizes and can be shelved.