November 6, 2011

How To: Care and Maintain Cashmere

Via Indigo

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. 

Dry Cleaning
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. 

Hand Washing 
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.


  1. I prefer to hand wash cashmere and merino, but sometimes I do send it to my dry cleaner if it gets stained.

    Such a useful post, I knew most of this already, but that running water tip is useful. I never thought of the water pressure! Thanks for posting.

  2. Thanks for this post! I am wondering about something, I always let my wool sweaters dry flat on the floor with the heating cable in the floor at a very warm temperature (40-60 C) so that the sweaters dry faster. I shouldn't do that, right? I think my cashmere-blend sweater shrank a bit last time I washed it. :S

  3. I am a knitter, so hand-washing woolens of any kind is old hat for me. Glad to see you giving props to The Laundress. I love their products, especially the Le Labo 31 delicates wash. I have the Cashmere wash, too, but prefer the Le Labo because of the gorgeous spicy rose scent that lingers.

    Very good post. I love knowing how to take care of nice things. It really makes a difference in your appearance. Tending to your garments can be likened to tending to your personal grooming. It just makes you look "effortlessly" polished.

  4. Ammu- I definitely rely on the dry cleaner for stains. Timing is key there.

    Glad you found this useful and that you've mastered taking good care of your cashmere and merino:)

    Megan- I love Chanel's nail colors:)

    Fleurette- I'm glad you enjoyed this post.

    You're exactly right, you shouldn't let your sweaters dry flat on the floor with the heating cable. The littlest heat really can make a sweater shrink a little. It's so tempting to turn the heat up to make items dry faster;) It's best if you can dry items on a rack with air circulating above and below.

    I'm sensitive to shrinkage because i have long arms. I need those extra inches:)

    LuxeBytes- I would love to hear more about your knitting. I'm fascinated by it.

    I love The Laundress. I've been using their products since they came out and they really are wonderful. Very interesting about the Le Labo 31 Delicates Wash. I've been hesitant to try it because rose makes me sneezy sometimes.

    I agree with you. I love knowing how to take care of nice things. It really does set you a part. It is very similar to personal grooming and so often overlooked.

  5. Thank you for sharing the tips. I often hand-wash my cashmere shawls with dishwashing detergent which seems to work. Unfortunately, the Laundress products aren't available outside of the US. I'm with you about owning a few good quality items instead of a large closet crammed with inferior ones.

  6. Chocolate, Cookies & Candies- Glad you enjoyed these tips. I like using cashmere washes because they are formulated with enzymes that protect the cashmere's natural properties.

    The Laundress products are available in numerous countries outside the US and online. It's quite the global company. You can search for stores here-

    I believe in buying quality items that I will wear and editing.

  7. I never knew that you could hand wash cashmere. Thanks for the tips.


  8. Jen S.- Yes. If a sweater is heavily embroidered or embellished it's best to have it cleaned professionally, but most cashmere can be safely hand washed.

  9. Thanks for this post! I have a wool cardigan by comme des garcons play and I haven't washed it yet because it's the perfect size/length etc and it won't look as good if it shrinks a bit. Would you recommend hand washing it or dry cleaning it?

  10. Anonymous- Glad to hear that you enjoyed this post.

    The Comme des Garcons sweaters are very charming.

    Over time dry cleaning can strip the natural oils from cashmere and reduce the softness. The harsh chemicals are responsible for this, but there are so many advances in the chemicals. Provided that you aren't washing anything with a lining or a bulkier sweater that's difficult to manage and dry properly, hand washing is a great option.

  11. A really good post - thanks
    PS Particulière is one of my favourite colours. I also like the new Péridot.

  12. miss b- Thank you!
    Particulière looks so pretty on. The Chanel colors are always so vibrant:)

  13. Those two posts about cashmere were so interesting! My gray cashmere sweater is like my teddy.. I love it! I bring it in all my trips, when I sleep at friends.. :)

  14. Camille S.- I'm glad you enjoyed these posts. I love that your cashmere sweater is like your teddy- such a versatile piece and easy layer to carry.

  15. The Chanel colors is just perfect !
    IRIS (and LUCIEN)

  16. Iris- I agree it is the perfect neutral gray. Thank you for stopping by.

  17. such a great post because i've ruined many cashmere sweaters by being lazy and negligent. xx

  18. cryskay- Thank you. I'm so sorry to hear that. It's always so annoying when you ruin a garment.

  19. I truly like reading your post. Thanks for giving such a nice informations.


    1. Jone Barry- Thanks Jone Barry! I think that's the most amazing compliment ever- thank you!

  20. I am wondering if it is good idea to hand washing cashmere labeled 'dry clean only'. I would like to hand wash all my cashmere sweaters but I am too afraid that I'll damage them. Have you ever hand wash sweaters labeled 'dry clean only'?

    1. escritora- Provided that the piece isn't embellished or embroidered it should be fine to wash cashmere by hand.