how to wash a cashmere sweater

J. Crew FactoryHow do you care for your cashmere sweaters? Hand wash or dry clean? If you hand wash, how exactly do you do it? I’m not that domestically challenged in every area, I just do not know the best way to do it and usually end up taking my sweater to the dry cleaners. I have heard that that can actually be damaging to the fibers and I wonder if it’s true.

This is such a great question, and so simple (and yet! so important!). DO NOT dry clean cashmere. Ever. Dry cleaning fluid is incredibly hard on the fibers, and will cause them to dry out and break before their time.

Don’t do it. Just don’t.

Instead, hand wash your cashmere sweaters in cold water and baby shampoo. Yes, really! Baby shampoos have very few surfactants, so they’re extremely gentle, and they smell great as well, which makes up for the fact that a wet cashmere sweater smells like a wet dog. Just ask my husband.

Here’s the 411 on washing your cashmere sweaters:

1. Clean out the sink. Be sure to wipe up any cleaning product BEFORE you plop the sweater in.

2. Fill the sink with cold water and a few squirts of baby shampoo. Baby shampoo has fewer surfactants and is gentler on the fibers. Don’t use regular detergents; they are too harsh and will dry out your sweater.

3. Turn your sweater inside out and plunk it in the water; gently squeeze until the sweater is wet through. DO NOT wring or twist.

4. Treat any areas that need extra care. Squirt a tiny bit of baby shampoo on the specific spot; massage gently with your fingertips. Rinse and repeat if needed.

5. Leave the sweater to soak for three to five minutes. (And here I am compelled to admit that I actually SET A TIMER because otherwise I wander away and an hour later one of my children is in the bathroom yelling “THERE’S SOMETHING BLACK IN THE SINK!” and I realize that HOLY COW my SWEATER is STILL SOAKING. So! Timer.)

6. Drain the sink; rinse the sweater until the water is clear and the sweater is soap-free. Gently squeeze the water out of the sweater. I typically start at the neck and squeeze to the hem. DO NOT wring the sweater. For the love of all that is holy, DON’T DO IT.

7. (Almost done! Promise!) Lay a clean, dry towel on your clean, dry kitchen table. Lay the sweater flat on the towel and roll it up. Gently squeeze the towel to draw the rest of the water out of the sweater. Again, DO NOT WRING. I’m begging you.

8. Lay ANOTHER towel on a flat surface; spread the sweater out flat. Button cardigans and pull the placket so that it’s straight; be sure that sleeves and hems are laid out completely flat, to avoid crazy drying wrinkles. Voila! You’re done! I lay my sweaters on top of the dryer, to speed drying, but be warned that if the dryer is running and warm, this will also spread the wet dog smell.

That’s it! You’re done!

This post originally appeared at BlogHer in April of 2008.


6 thoughts on “how to wash a cashmere sweater

  1. Hi Susan,

    Does this rule just apply to sweaters that are 100% cashmere or all sweaters made with any cashmere? (I have a sweater that is 15% cashmere, 30% nylon and 85% cashmere.) Also, I am a huge fan of febreeze to freshen clothes up (mostly because I am lazy and try to avoid having to wash them) – and sometimes I also put them in the dryer? Am I destroying my sweaters by doing this?

    Thanks for your help!

      1. You had cashmere on the brain, Chrystal. Clearly. 😉

        I use baby shampoo for cashmere and cashmere blends; for washable wool, I use Woolite. I don’t think Febreeze will hurt your cashmere, as long as you’re using it conservatively and washing after every 3-4 wearings.

        But I would skip the dryer. It’s the most damaging part of the laundry cycle, for ALL your clothes, even the ones designed to be tumble dried. Cashmere becomes brittle when it dries out, and over time dry cleaning — and the dryer — damage the fibers.

        If you want to air your sweater out after you wear it, spread it over a towel on the floor or lay it across the back of an upholstered chair for a day or so. Keep in mind, though, that food smells are difficult to get out without washing, and that any food stains will attract bugs — so sometimes it’s worth the effort to just do the laundry.

  2. I even have the original ORIGINAL cashmere care article you posted to Friday Style way back in 2007 bookmarked. I’ve referenced it many times – the results speak for themselves.

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