It's only appropriate that we follow up the How To: Shop For Cashmere post with a post on care and maintenance. I really enjoy taking care of my garments. The other day my friend questioned if the dress I was wearing was new. The dress is several years old, which made my friend exclaim that "my clothes always look new because I take care of them so well." I only buy items that I love, so I feel inclined to take care of my wardrobe properly. If cashmere is cared for properly it can last a lifetime. These tips apply to wools in general.
My dry cleaner is invaluable to me. A good dry cleaner is aware of stains, loose buttons, and stray threads before you point it out. I dry clean a lot of my cashmere, but I'm aware that hand washing is best. Dry cleaners use all types of chemicals that break down fabrics over time and release pollutants into the environment.
It's important to me that my dry cleaning is done on site and not sent out to a large facility that exposes workers to high levels of chemicals. I'm lucky to live in a place with so many environmentally friendly dry cleaners. Purchasing high quality cashmere and working with a talented dry cleaner has meant that I've seen no pilling. I've never had to use a sweater comb.
Maintaining Cashmere On Your Own
Sure, there are consequences to caring for cashmere on your own. If you wash cashmere incorrectly you could end up shrinking your sweater into something a small child could wear. As long as you keep the following in mind you can't go wrong:
*Always wash cashmere in tepid water (30 degrees). Cashmere should never be exposed to direct heat. Heat = shrinking.
* Wools are extremely elastic. You shouldn't wring or stretch cashmere. Wringing or stretching cashmere when wet can permanently pull your garment out of shape. I would also recommend waiting a day between wearing your cashmere, to give the fabric a chance to return to its' original shape.
* Dry cashmere flat.
Cashmere will last longest if gently hand washed. Wool fibers are covered with microscopic scales that fuse together when sweaters tumble in a washing machine. Prior to hand washing, de-pill with a sweater comb if necessary. Examine your garment for stains and pre-treat with a stain treatment if necessary. Make sure your sweater is buttoned or zipped if applicable. Buttoning or zipping will help the sweater retain it's shape. Turn your sweater inside out.
Fill a basin of cool tepid water with two capfuls of The Laundress New York Cashmere Wash. I highly recommend The Laundress New York specialty detergents. They are eco-friendly, non-toxic, biodegradable, dye and allergen free. The Laundress cashmere products use extracts of lavender, which naturally repel moths.
Immerse the sweater in the water and press gently with your hands. Let the sweater soak for 15 to 30 minutes. Make sure that you don't stretch your garment.
Rinse the sweater thoroughly. Press out excess water taking care not to wring or squeeze. Avoid putting your garment directly beneath running water, the pressure can cause stretching.
Once you've squeezed out all the water, lay the sweater on a towel (a white towel will prevent dye from being transferred to your sweater). Carefully roll the towel and sweater together to press out any remaining water.
Let your garment dry flat on a drying rack. Never hang cashmere- it will stretch out the shape. Make sure that your sweater is not in direct sunlight or heat.
Once your sweater is dry, steam it to remove any wrinkles. Steaming is a great way to freshen up garments between washings. Ironing cashmere on the wool or steam setting works just as well.
Cashmere should always be folded. I like a tight board fold with the heaviest sweaters stacked at the bottom.
Store sweaters carefully during the off season. Any pulls in the fabric should be taken care of immediately before they grow. Always clean items before storing. Perfumes, deodorants, body oils and lotions are food for bugs. Ideally sweaters should be stored in cotton storage bags that zip. Cotton allows garments to breathe and bugs can't eat through it. The Laundress Cashmere Spray is a natural bug repellent and a nice way to keep things fresh.
I make my own lavender sachets to tuck into sweaters when I'm not wearing them. I'll do a post on how to make my lavender sachets. They're also charming for tucking into a lingerie dresser.
A cedar chest is also a great place to store cashmere during the off season.
These are just a few tips that I hope are useful. Please feel free to share your cashmere care and maintenance tips.