Washing Cashmere At Home

The Laundress Wool & Cashmere Shampoo. Details & tips for washing cashmere at home at une femme d'un certain age.

With the weather beginning to warm up, you may be preparing to store winter clothes. With wool and cashmere pieces, it’s very important to be sure they’re clean before storing to avoid attracting moths.

Tips for washing cashmere (and wool) sweaters

For decades, I was told that we should always dry clean wool and cashmere pieces. For structured items like coats and jackets, that makes sense. But in the past few years I’ve begun washing my wool and cashmere sweaters at home with great results. And I’ve learned that cashmere actually gets better with washing, and will pill less over time.

I really like the Wool & Cashmere Shampoo from The Laundress. I need to reorder soon, and will try this one with the Cedar fragrance. (My current bottle does not have fragrance.)

Lingerie bag for laundry. Details and more laundry tips at une femme d'un certain age.

Now here’s the part that may surprise you…I often wash my sweaters in the machine on the delicate cycle (cold water, always!). My secret? I always use one of these lingerie bags for sweaters without embellishment or embroidery (if they have either of those, I recommend hand washing). I then reshape and dry flat or on a rack.

And I use these bags to wash scarves in the machine as well as my lingerie. (Yes, even silk scarves.)

Laundress sweater comb for removing pills from wool and cashmere sweaters. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Almost all cashmere will pill to varying degrees. I use this sweater comb to gently remove the pills.

Nordstrom Delicate Fabric wash. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

For my silk items and lingerie, I’ve used this delicates wash for years. If fragrance isn’t an issue for you, the one with Lavender scent is nice. A little goes a long way, and one of these bottles usually lasts me for several months to a year.

How do you care for your wool and cashmere items?

Stay in touch.

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37 Comments

  1. March 31, 2020 / 4:40 am

    I agree that washing cashmere yourself is better than dry cleaning. But I am scared of putting these pieces in the washing machine. Although I do put silk and lingerie in the washing machine in the bags you use too, I don’t dare to do that with sweaters. I once had a sweater which went really out of shape after being fine 10 times in the washing machine. Not in a bag. I will admit.
    Greetje

  2. Jeanne
    March 31, 2020 / 5:23 am

    I don’t like the wrinkles that’s I have experienced with hand washing. The garment always seems diminished in my experience.

  3. Linda B
    March 31, 2020 / 6:13 am

    Because I am an avid knitter, I have many handmade garments made of wool, cashmere (blended with wool), alpaca, silk, cotton and linen. I have handwashed them all these years, and laid them flat on my patio table to dry. This is the time of year I am very busy getting the woolens clean and ready to store for the long Tucson summer. But I also have a few vintage cashmere sweaters that my aunt passed on to me years ago. I usually take them to the dry cleaners in the spring before I store them, but this year, I am considering adding them to the handwash cue. I have a wondering though about the black cashmere tunic–will it lose the pureness of it’s black with this treatment? I think I am going to risk it. Perhaps I should order some of that lovely looking cashmere and wool shampoo!

    The one caution I want to share with the readers here is that if you do use your machine to handwash woolens, make sure that the agitation is minimal and do NOT do a warm wash, especially not if it is followed by a cool rinse. That will shrink and/or felt your sweaters. I even recently have experienced that a machine knit wool cycling jersey that I do throw in the machine on a cold, delicate cycle has managed to shrink somewhat. Very unfortunate!

  4. Tracy
    March 31, 2020 / 6:42 am

    I use Eucalan to handwash. It’s made for wool and does not need to be rinsed! I fill a small plastic washtub with cool water, add a drop of Eucalan, and let it sit for 30 minutes to get the water to room temperature before adding my sweater. Then I soak the sweater for 15 minutes, remove, squeeze as much water out as possible, roll it in a towel to get all the extra water out, reshape and dry flat on top of a drying rack. At first it feels strange not to rinse the soap out, but I promise that it works!

    • DeeDee
      March 31, 2020 / 7:30 am

      I am a weaver and knitter and use Eucalan for any of my wool or cashmere pieces. I use the washer to gently spin the extra water out and then air dry. Works great!

      • Patricia
        April 1, 2020 / 2:24 pm

        I’m a knitter, too, and swear by Eucalan. I soak the sweater in cold water, skip the agitation cycle, then use the spin cycle to get rid of the excess water. Lay flat to dry. Works great.

        • Kim
          April 1, 2020 / 7:55 pm

          Another knitter here. I use both Eucalan and Soak – excellent products.

  5. Nancy
    March 31, 2020 / 6:49 am

    I also use lingerie bags for bras and always hang to dry, they last so much longer. I’ve always used Dr Bronner’s to hand wash cashmere and silk. So many people get all anguished about hand washing something, it’s the easiest thing ever.

  6. Barb
    March 31, 2020 / 6:59 am

    I started washing my cashmere and wool sweaters in my washer several years ago. I put the washer on the delicate cycle with a cold water wash and rinse. I use just a bit of fabric softener and Woolite. I’ve found that it’s important to reshape the sweaters on the drying rack. Once they dry, they are soft and don’t have the chemical smell from the dry cleaners!

    • Linda M.
      March 31, 2020 / 3:16 pm

      Nothing better than Eucalan for hand washing wools, lingerie, anything. You can tell it’s cleaning as various scummy stuff rises in the water, and best of all, there is no rinsing. None! You just drain, squeeze gently, roll the sweater in a towel to get the bulk of the water out, and lay it flat to finish drying. A small bottle lasts me a few years as you only use a tiny amount. If you have one, you can also use it in a top loading machine, then spin the water out on the gentle or hand wash cycle.

  7. Téa
    March 31, 2020 / 7:24 am

    I’d like to add that I have an old CLEAN window screen that I prop across the tub and lay damp sweater on…the air circulates nicely!

  8. Elizabeth
    March 31, 2020 / 8:07 am

    So many helpful comments today. I still hand wash cashmere & wool items, then roll in a towel before air drying on a laundry rack. The sweaters & dresses hold their shape much better if rolled in a towel.

    HELP, PLEASE! I treated myself to an expensive St James ( French brand ) pullover, on sale last month! It specifies Dry Clean only. This piece has cotton fleece on the inside attached to a wool knit exterior. Is it safe to hand wash in cold water? Do any readers own one of these amazing pullovers & how have you cleaned it? I am SO terrified it will shrink if I wash it. Thanks for any advice!

    • Leslie
      March 31, 2020 / 6:23 pm

      Elizabeth–I would try asking the manufacturer about washing this item. Generally I find that washing something where the lining is made from one fiber and the outside from another is not a good idea. If they shrink at all they are likely to shrink different amounts and possibly even different “directions” (i.e. one might shrink in length, the other in width). Had this happen with a linen skirt that had a cotton lining. The linen outside became shorter than the cotton lining. Fortunately they weren’t attached anywhere except the waistband, and I could hem up the lining.

      • Elizabeth
        April 2, 2020 / 8:28 am

        Thank you, Leslie, for your response. You are right about contacting the manufacturer & that is what I will do. With another brand-I hand washed a beautiful cotton sateen shift dress, with instructions that said hand wash. Like you, the outer cotton sateen shrunk shorter & the lining hung out about 3 inches. Please keep healthy, Leslie. Elizabeth in Canada

  9. Elizabeth
    March 31, 2020 / 8:08 am

    I hand wash all my cashmere sweaters. Once they’re completely dry, I iron them – using a pressing cloth – to kill any larvae (ick). It scared me at first to apply heat, but this method has worked well.

  10. Mary
    March 31, 2020 / 8:40 am

    These natural fabrics (wool, silk, and linen) have been around thousands of years, well before dry cleaners were invented! Dry cleaning is very hard on fabrics and use lots of chemicals that are terrible for the environment. Hand or machine wash in cold water on delicate cycle and hang or lay flat to dry has never harmed any fabric that I’ve washed – and I am a seamstress who has washed all my garments for years.

  11. Lagatta de Montréal
    March 31, 2020 / 8:47 am

    Hemp is another natural fibre that has finally been revived, after bans on growing it (even no-THC, industrial hemp) and the general stoner association with recreational cannabis. There are some lovely garments incorporating hemp now.

    I always wash good knits (even cotton ones, other than t-shirts) by hand.

  12. Kathy Ludgate
    March 31, 2020 / 8:55 am

    Because I knit, I use Eucalan or Soak, a wash for natural fibers. This can be purchased from yarn shops, suppliers.The largest size lasts for almost a year. I also wash my lingerie in it. I always soak my sweaters in this for about 15 minutes, wrap in a towel to take out excess water and then dry flat. I have also used the dry cleaner sheets designed for the dryer for sweaters.

  13. Audre
    March 31, 2020 / 8:55 am

    I wash all of my cashmere sweaters and agree that they.become softer than dry cleaning them. This past winter when purchasing a new sweater at Bloomingdales the salesperson told me about the benefits of washing cashmere, but told me to have it dry cleaned the first time and then wash it (on the delicate cycle) every time after that. She was adamant about the first time dry cleaning and explained that she had been selling cashmere for decades and this reduces the pilling overall. Has anyone ever heard this first time dry cleaning rule?

  14. Jean
    March 31, 2020 / 9:07 am

    I finally hand washed a cashmere sweater and laid it out to dry. It turned out just fine, so I did my other two sweaters. I wear the heck out of one of them and it’s years old. Just discovered a small hole – of course front and center. Panicked! However…I have a trusty needle and thread so will try my hand at darning. They weren’t “expensive” but still…so soft and cuddly 🙂

    • Lyn
      March 31, 2020 / 9:56 am

      “Steal” some yarn from a seam and use it for the darning. It ensures a match. (6-8″ of salvaged yarn should do it) Try to duplicate the missing stitches. This is probably easier to picture if you are a knitter. You can use regular thread to sew up the seam where you stole the yarn. There are a lot of internet sites about this, but look at a couple of them — some just close the hole with a slight pucker and some go for the invisible repair (my preference.)
      There’s nothing like “cheap” cashmere sweaters. You can wear them without a second thought. I still wear bargain 40-year-old favorites. None has ever been dry cleaned.

      • Jean
        March 31, 2020 / 10:30 am

        Thanks so much for the suggestions Lyn. A bit scary thinking of “stealing” elsewhere on the sweater, but I’ll check out some sites to see how they’ve done it.

  15. Jill Ann
    March 31, 2020 / 11:02 am

    I wash my cashmere sweaters in my washer, cold water delicate cycle. I have the machine without the agitator, which I think is important. I don’t put them in bags either, because they seem to wrinkle a lot more. Sometimes I even throw the in the dryer (gasp!) but only for a minute or so, just to release more wrinkles. Then I lay flat on a mesh sweater dryer & reshape. So far, it’s worked fine!

  16. Jen
    March 31, 2020 / 12:23 pm

    I’m a hand knitter too and I use Soak. I love it because you don’t have to rinse after you have washed your garment with this product. It’s nice to have just one step.

  17. Isabelle Patthey
    March 31, 2020 / 1:36 pm

    FYI : Dr. Bonner’s Castile soap work well too for wools.

  18. March 31, 2020 / 1:36 pm

    I used to wash mine by hand then roll them in a towel to squeeze out the excess water. My current machine has a “hand-wash” cycle which is fantastic for the cashmere (no more squeezing!). I’ve always washed all of my silks and lingerie on delicate. I agree with what Mary said, these natural fibers have been around for far longer than dry cleaners…also washing them delicately is so much better for them (and us) than harsh dry cleaner chemicals. Great post, Susan!

  19. Kellie
    March 31, 2020 / 1:39 pm

    I too have used Eucalan for cashmere. I’ve also used it for merino, and alpaca—all labeled “dry-clean only”. I first tried it on a sweater that had been dry cleaned a number of times. I was stunned at how gray the water was after I squeezed out my sweater—probably all the dry-cleaning chemicals! The Eucalan is much gentler on the natural fibers. I’ve never liked the idea of dry-cleaning chemicals, not to mention the cost.

  20. kathy
    March 31, 2020 / 2:15 pm

    Susan,
    I LOVE all the products from The Laundress and since discovering their Cashmere and Wool liquid I have never looked back. I put them in a large enough mesh bag – delicate cycle and lay them flat to dry. And I only wash one at a time.

  21. kathy m
    March 31, 2020 / 2:15 pm

    Susan,
    I LOVE all the products from The Laundress and since discovering their Cashmere and Wool liquid I have never looked back. I put them in a large enough mesh bag – delicate cycle and lay them flat to dry. And I only wash one at a time.

  22. Jacie
    March 31, 2020 / 3:02 pm

    Thanks for your always informative blogs, Susan. Not only do I learn new things but also have been taking small steps to expand my wardrobe. At 76, change is not always easy! Please continue to brighten the days of so many of us , especially during these difficult times. It takes courage, commitment, and loyalty to your readers to continue to do this. Question about the amount of Eucalan and the amount to use. One woman said she only used a drop in a small washbasin.. The recommended amount is one teaspoon for a gallon of water. I would be delighted if this amount works! I have used Eucalan for several years for my lingerie and am very impressed with the results. My lingerie lasts longer and I love the no rinse. Any other comments about the amount to use.?

  23. Jill
    March 31, 2020 / 5:37 pm

    As

    Hi Susan! This is off topic but have you noticed Dr. Deborah Birx’s beautiful scarves during the covid 19 news briefings? She and Dr. Fauci are both are calm, intelligent voices during this crisis. So thankful for them and all health care workers!

  24. Ainsivalavie
    March 31, 2020 / 7:46 pm

    I have washed my cashmere sweaters in my front load Bosch on its hand wash cycle for several years. I tried the mesh bag but found it seemed to cause more pilling which is caused by friction. I switched to an old linen pillow case which protects the sweater better. It goes through a gentle spin and I use a towel meant to quickly dry the hair to squeeze out more water. Again less friction on the sweater. I lay them to dry then lightly, remove any pilling and lightly press. They look great too! It’s odd but I have one very, very expensive wrap that I bought on Poshmark and it never pills the same with some inexpensive Shopping Channel pieces. It’s my mid priced pieces that pill terribly like my Lord and Taylor sweater which was 170.00 on sale. Glad to know that continued washing will help reduce the scourge of pilling. After having a dry cleaner return an expensive silk dress smelling horribly of B O I avoid dry cleaning whenever possible.

  25. Joanne in New Zealand
    March 31, 2020 / 10:24 pm

    Nothing enters my house that can’t go in the washing machine. Cold water, wool or delicate cycle, mesh bag and some Martha Stewart wool wash does the trick for merino and silk. Cashmere isn’t very common in New Zealand, possibly because we have so many sheep!
    But does anyone have suggestions for storing woollies safe from moths? Even put away clean and bagged, they seem to get nibbled on, grrr!

    • MaryInMD
      April 1, 2020 / 7:57 pm

      I insert cedar grilling planks into my stacks of sweaters when I store them. The planks are generously sized so the scent is well distributed, take up almost no space, and are far less expensive than cedar blocks sold for the purpose of storing woolens. Works like a charm! I air everything on my screened porch when I unpack, and any lingering cedar scent disappears in a day or two.

  26. Charlene Caruso
    April 1, 2020 / 8:49 am

    I highly recommend Laundress products. I always use the Laundress wool and cashmere shampoo for both my cashmere sweaters and my merino garments. I use the mesh garment bags and I have a washer with a hand.wash/wool cycle. I use only cold water. I then lay the garment flat on a towel to dry, turning the garment over at least once. I don’t notice much pilling and colors do not fade. The cashmere becomes softer and softer.
    I use the Laundress delicate shampoo for my bras and camisoles on delicate washer cycle in mesh bags. Then I let them air dry.
    They also have a spray to refresh your sweaters between washes.

  27. Amy
    April 2, 2020 / 7:50 am

    This is a helpful post with great comments. Thank you!

  28. Kellee
    April 6, 2020 / 12:50 pm

    Thanks for the link – I bought the cashmere/wool cleaner for me and the lingerie package for my daughter for Christmas. Looking forward to trying it on my cashmere scarf.

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