Cashmere sweaters, prized for their soft, luxurious feel, are often sent to the dry cleaner for fear of accidentally damaging this luscious material if washing it at home. While cashmere sweaters can be washed in a regular home washing machine if you take certain precautions, it's best to hand wash cashmere, as there's far less chance of harming it. Some washing machines can be a bit rough on clothing, so washing by hand is the better choice.
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What Is Cashmere?
Cashmere, sometimes called cashmere wool, is a bit different than other wool. While the average wool comes from sheep, cashmere fibers come primarily from cashmere and pashmina goats. Goat hair may not sound luxurious, but cashmere fibers are lighter, softer, and better at insulating than sheep's wool. The material is light enough to wear even in summer, unlike most bulky wool sweaters. It's often more expensive than sheep's wool because far less is produced every year. Less than 7 tons of cashmere is produced annually compared to 2 million tons of sheep's wool.
Hand Washing Cashmere
Like sheep's wool, cashmere does best with delicate care. Too much friction while washing could turn it into felt, so this is not a material to scrub under any circumstances. For best results, fill a clean washtub with lukewarm water and a squirt of a soap designed for delicates or specifically for wool and cashmere. Place the cashmere sweater in the water and swirl the water gently, ensuring the sweater is completely underwater and not bunched up. Let the sweater soak for up to 30 minutes, drain the water, and then rinse in fresh lukewarm water.
When you're finished washing the sweater, avoid wringing it out, as this could change its shape. Instead, press various parts of it against the inside of the washtub to squeeze out most of the water. Lay it flat on an absorbent, lint-free towel and then gently roll up the towel with the sweater inside it for a few minutes so the towel absorbs most of the water. Unroll the towel and lay the sweater flat on a fresh, dry towel or a drying rack to air-dry. Feel free to check on it from time to time or to swap the damp towel for a fresh one.
Machine Washing Cashmere
If the care tag on your cashmere sweater indicates that the item is machine washable, wash it according to the listed instructions. Otherwise, exercise caution when machine washing cashmere or wool. Fibers like cashmere do best in a mesh washing bag designed for delicate items and when washed on a delicate cycle with a soap for delicates. Use cold water and a low spin cycle and avoid the extra spin cycle at the end, as this could damage the fibers.
Remove the cashmere sweater from the machine as soon as possible to prevent unsightly creases and wrinkles. Remove excess water by rolling the sweater in a towel, as with the hand washing method. Never put a damp or wet cashmere sweater in the dryer, as it will likely shrink or change shape in some areas.