Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cashmere Care Basics

Katherine classic cardigan, Isle of Skye Cashmere, $250.00

Hi Susan,

I have one simple fashion question that I know you can help with. How 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.

Thank You!

Mother of one year old boy/girl twins

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.

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 DAMMIT 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!
add to sk*rt


Anonymous Annika said...

There is something even better than baby shampoo: Eucalan. It does not require rinsing. I use it for all my wool and delicate hand washing.

February 10, 2007 10:04 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

Oh, I need to know more about that, Annika. Right now. Please.

February 10, 2007 12:28 PM  
Blogger The June Cleaver Diaries said...

I'm just impressed that her twins are only 1 and she's brought the cashmere out already. Mine just turned 2, and I'm still working up the nerve to move my cashmere back into semi-regular rotation.

February 10, 2007 1:00 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Katy, the GREAT thing about cashmere is that it CAN be easily washed. Henry once threw up fish sticks on my favorite twinset, and I had an unfortunate incident involving some really terrible chicken Marsala and a pashmina shawl--both came clean with baby shampoo and cold water.

WEAR THE CASHMERE. You deserve it.

February 10, 2007 1:51 PM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

Thank you so much Susan! I knew you would be the person to ask. I PROMISE to never take my sweaters to the dry cleaners again. You have saved them from dry cleaning havoc and cut down on my cleaning bill. I really appreciate the step by step instructions, I never would have thought to turn them inside out.

I pulled out the sweaters a few weeks ago during a moment of wreckless abandon, when I was fed up with everything else I own that looked like it had been washed 1,000 times-- becuase it had. I figured that now that we are past the spit up stage they could be worn again. I always layer over a tank (just like yours Susan) and usually just wear that during meal time in case the food starts flying. So far I don't have any mishaps to report and am happy to be wearing my favorite seaters again now that it's so cold here. (sigh....)
Now, any tricks for getting the little pilly things off?
Keep up the great work Susan!
Thank you, thank you!!!

February 10, 2007 1:54 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Stephanie, I KNEW I left something out! Thank you!

About pilling: washing your cashmere sweaters will prevent pilling. Before wearing a new cashmere sweater, wash it; for the first three or four wearings, wash after every wearing. After that, wash as needed.

Low-end cashmere is more likely to pill than mid range or expensive cashmere. Those Old Navy cashmere sweaters, the ones that were selling for $40.00? Pass on those; they won't hold up. Look places like Ann Taylor or J. Crew or Banana Republic; the sweaters will be in the $125.00 range, but it's worth it.

For sweaters that are already pilling, try a sweater stone, or a very fine pumice stone (like you would use on your feet). Stroke the stone gently over the pilled sections of the sweater, in one direction; the pumice stone cuts the little balls off. Voila!

Finally, this: wash cashmere (and ALL) sweaters before storing. If you like, you can store them in canvas containers, with cedar balls to prevent moth damage.

February 10, 2007 2:15 PM  
Anonymous Annika said...

Eucalan at the Diaper Shop. I use it for handknits including Sam's wool diaper covers and for my sweaters. It could also be used for delicates like stockings and bras. In fact, I really should start washing my bras in it. Most yarn stores sell it. It comes in a wool-only variety (which I'm sure could be used for non-wool) and regular. It smells like lavender, but really like lavender, not like perfume.

February 17, 2007 9:56 PM  
OpenID JAKnarr said...

I always wash my cashmere myself. Recently I bought a cashmere lounging set from Nordstrom Rack and OMG, when I wear it, my own body heat brings out that wet dog smell!!! (And I am not perspiring at all!) I have NEVER had that happen to ANY cashmere I have owned before and I do own (and wash myself) alot of it. Can you think of why this is happening to this set? The set has been washed twice now and still reaks of wet dog smell. I bought 2 of the sets and am thinking I'll take back the other 'unworn' one - this smell is foul. Any ideas?

March 17, 2009 1:12 PM  

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