How to Care for Your Cashmere

Well hello, October!  The days are shorter, the nights are cool and summer is about to bid a final farewell, even here in the Bay Area, where the seasons are markedly less dramatic than elsewhere. We’re in full fall swing here at the Store and we’re excited to trade our sundresses and sandals for warm sweaters and booties.  

Cashmere sweaters, made from the wool of cashmere or pashmina goats, are a fall staple here at the Store, and often come with a higher price tag than knits made of other materials. We consider them investment pieces, meaning with the proper care they should last as long as 30 years, according to some cashmere experts. We’ve collected tips for cashmere care that we thought you might find helpful. Follow them to keep your cashmere sweaters, scarves, hats, and gloves in heavy wardrobe rotation for years to come.

  1. Shave regularly. Knits made from natural fibers can pill–a.k.a., form fuzz balls–in areas where friction occurs, such as under the arms, along the inside of the thighs, or where you carry your handbag. Pilling occurs most frequently when cashmere is brand new; use a razor blade, lint tape, or special device like the Gleener to keep yours fuzz-free.
  2. Don't wear and wash. Assuming your day was free of stains, spills and sweating, you can wear your cashmere more than once before it requires cleaning. Laundering is recommended after about three wears, but you can up that number if you're wearing yours over a base layer, or if you air it out after each use.
  3. Ignore what the label says. Because it's a delicate yarn, many cashmere items are labeled “Dry Clean Only.” But cashmere comes from goats, and goats' fur–like human hair–gets fluffier and more lustrous after it's washed. By contrast, commercial dry cleaning will damage and break down the fibers over time.

(When to make an exception: If your item has special buttons, metals, embroidery or beading, follow the care instructions on the label, or do further research on the best way to get it clean.)

  1. Wash your cashmere in cold water using a mild detergent or baby shampoo. Hand washing your cashmere items is always your best bet. Soaking for 20 minutes should suffice.  And while we generally always hand wash our cashmere, some experts are o.k. with machine washing cashmere for a short gentle cycle and spin. And remember, heat will most definitely shrink cashmere, so ALWAYS wash in cold water. And regular laundry detergent is too harsh for delicate cashmere, so be sure to use appropriate cleanser.
  2. Lay flat. And wait. Cashmere is at its most delicate when the fibers are wet, so this is the stage that requires the most care. Unfortunately, wet cashmere can take days to dry, so this is also the stage that requires the most patience. The most important rule to follow is NO WRINGING; to gently press excess water out of your garment, place it on a dry towel and carefully roll it up. Once the towel has absorbed as much of the moisture as possible, shape the garment and lay it flat in a shady spot to dry.

And we know, there are inevitably times when you MUST wear the sweater sooner. If you’re in a pinch, you can put it in the dryer for five minutes to speed things up. Then lay it flat to complete the process. Just remember,  heat causes cashmere to shrink, so use the air-dry setting only.

While some of these facts are cashmere-specific, you can follow this process to clean and care for any pure woolens. Do not follow these steps if your garments are cashmere or wool blends with synthetic components (acrylic, nylon, polyester, etc.), or for lined items like wool jackets and suits.

If your sweater is wrinkled after air drying, gently use a steamer, not an iron, to remove wrinkles. 

  1. Store your cashmere. Once your cashmere is dry, store folded, never hanging, in a drawer or on a closet shelf.  The weight of the item on a hanger will likely stretch and misshapen the shoulders and sleeves, altering the fit and original design. 

So there you have it.  Follow these simple steps and you’ll be wearing that new cashmere sweater for years to come.  We actually love seeing our clients at the store and around town in sweaters we helped them choose even several seasons ago.  That’s the fun part of our work.  We like helping you build a lifetime wardrobe. 

See you at the Store, 

Evan and Ronnie xo

Sources: Real Simple, Naked Cashmere, Ethica


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