Who doesn’t adore cashmere? I certainly do! The soft, luxurious warmth is like a welcome snuggle during the long, cold, Canadian winter months… and it is your best friend until you reach the cleaning process. You know how the tags go: “Dry clean only” or “Hand wash with care”. Now, I don’t really have the money for drycleaning bills, and lately, with two jobs and school on the go, I don’t have time to wash my cashmere items by hand anymore. So being the crazy girl on the hunt for an adventure (that could possibly have been destructive…) I decided to throw caution into the wind, and my sweaters into the washing machine!
I am so excited and proud to report that my cashmere sweaters survived their ordeal in the washing machine!
Here are the steps:
1. Put each cashmere sweater inside a pillowcase individually. Make a knot at the top to keep it shut.
2. Use a gentle detergent with no bleach in it. I also prefer to use one without liquid softener in it, as softener can make your clothes flammable, and I like to keep it as natural as possible for delicate knits like these.
3. Throw it all into the wash, and if you don’t have a lot of cashmere to clean, put some other items (with no zippers, hooks or buttons.. anything that can snag or pull) to pad the sides of the washing machine.
4. Use cold water! And the Knits & Delicates mode, too…
5. You can lay it flat on a counter to dry, but I like to throw it in the dryer using the Air Fluff mode (aka no heat) first to fluff up the knits a bit.6. Pull them out, lay them flat if they are still damp… and breathe a sigh of relief and a squeak of joy that they didn’t shrink or felt! 🙂
One last tip: Keep in mind that you do not want to throw your cashmere items too frequently in the wash as they are delicate, so do this if you are truly pressed for time, otherwise I do recommend washing them by hand! Also, since I have no choice, I throw my cashmere into a washing machine with an agitator. It’s far better if you have one that doesn’t.
Mission Impossible, accomplished!
I will never again listen to a label that proclaims the only way to clean my cashmere is by taking it to a dry cleaner. 🙂
For those of you who aren’t too keen on entrusting your cashmere to the whims of the washer, I looked up an old book of mine: The Handbook of Style: Expert Fashion & Beauty Advice. It has plenty of good advice on how to both buy and care for cashmere; read on for some valuable tips!
How to Buy and Care for Cashmere
By Christopher Fischer of C3 Concepts.
(Excerpts taken from book mentioned above, and I have slightly modified the text to make things shorter.)
Let your fingers, not the price tag, tell you about the quality. Although cashmere is expensive, don’t be misled into thinking a sweater is high quality because of a high price. It is certainly not always true that a higher cost is indicative of better quality. Touch the sweater – it should feel soft and luxe, not scratchy and ‘brittle’ like a wool. Generally, the sweater should have a soft and slightly spongy ‘top’ surface, not too fuzzy or matted, with defined stitch clarity.
Look at the seams. Top quality sweaters are usually fully fashioned, meaning the panels of the garment are all knit exactly to shape and size, giving it the cleanest and neatest finish possible on all the seams. No seams are cut and then sewn together- the knitted panels are linked together by hand with cashmere yarn, stitch by stitch. All visible seams are then finished by hand for a ‘seamless’ look. If there are buttons, each should also be sewn on with cashmere yarn, not cotton thread.
Examine the yarn itself. All cashmere knitting yarn is first spun into a single-ply yarn. Then two ends of the single plies are twisted together into a 2-ply yarn, which makes the yarn more stable. Knitting a single-ply yarn would cause the garment to twist and torque. For quality garments, the yarn is always 2-ply. Using multiple plies of 2-ply yarns to get a 6, 8, or 10-ply does not improve the quality of the garment, it just makes it heavier and more expensive.
Always take care when putting on, or taking off, your sweater. Cashmere is very soft, avoid overstretching the neck opening or any delicate seam, which could cause the yarn to break.
All cashmere sweaters will pill, even those made from the very best quality fiber. Pilling is caused by loose and shorter cashmere hairs coming out of the surface through natural friction during wear and abrading together to form little hairballs. To keep the sweater’s best appearance, just pull these off by hand after every wear. You can also use a very soft bristle lint brush, but always brush downward, in the direction if the knitting stitches, and lightly. Cashmere has become a very fashionable item, and today’s most fashionable knits feature light and loose textures. But this looseness and lighter weight causes the sweaters to be much more delicate and fragile. They will pill more, and so fashion comes at a price.
Always hand wash or dry-clean cashmere. <– Not quite true, Mr. Fischer! 😉
For hand washing:
Wash each garment separately in cool, tepid water. Use only a small amount of high quality mild shampoo. Do not use any bleach or harsh detergents, which will remove all the natural oils in the fibers and cause the garment to feel harsh and brittle.
Gently squeeze the garment in the soapy water. Do not rub. Wash quickly. Do not let the garment soak.Rinse repeatedly in cool water until the water is clean and clear of any soap. Gently squeeze out any excess water. Do not wring the garment.
Put the garment into a wash bag or pillow case and spin out any remaining excess water using the spin cycle on your washing machine. You can also place the sweater flat on a clean dry towel and roll it up, applying pressure to squeeze out any excess water.
To dry, place the sweater flat on another clean, dry towel, pulling the garment into shape. Make sure all the ribs and cuffs are closed and tight together, not stretched open. Dry in an airy place away from direct sunlight and away from radiators or any direct heat. Once thoroughly dry, the garment can be delicately tumbled in a home dryer at a cool temperature (air dry, no heat) to make the fibers ‘bloom’. Put the garment inside out in a lingerie bag or pillow case, then tumble for a short time. When dry, pick off any pills or yarn balls. Gently steam the garment to shape. Steam through the sweater to lift the top surface – do not directly iron and press the sweater, which could scorch the surface. To be safe, use a clean damp cloth over the sweater when you steam. Leave in an airy place to dry and cool. Fold flat and store. Do not hang. Store in acid-free tissue paper. Do not store cashmere in a sealed plastic bag.