How to Wash Cashmere Without Damaging the Delicate Material

Yes, your cashmere sweater can be machine-washed!


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Cashmere has a reputation for being difficult to wash, but that's unfair: Cashmere is quite easy to care for and can be washed using more than one method. While hand-washing is the ideal way to clean cashmere, cashmere clothing and accessories can, for the most part, be machine-washed.  

In this guide, you'll find care instructions for cashmere, including tips for hand- and machine-washing, stain treatment, drying, and storing cashmere garments.

The Basics of Caring for Cashmere

The best way to wash cashmere is by hand. If you've never washed a garment by hand, this might conjure an image of long hours spent hunched over a washboard, but in fact, hand-washing a cashmere item is, at most, a 15-minute job (usually less!) involving four easy steps.  Because cashmere shouldn't be overhandled, a no-rinse detergent like Soak Wash is recommended when hand-laundering cashmere items.

Cashmere can also be washed in a washing machine, provided some precautions are taken. Cashmere should not, however, be dried in a dryer; always air dry cashmere to prevent shrinking, fraying, or pilling.

Between washes, use a technique called spot treating to remove stains and light soiling from cashmere. Spot treating will help to extend the time between washes, which is ideal as cashmere shouldn't be overhandled nor overly exposed to water.

Before storing cashmere, it is important that the fibers are clean; over time, even the smallest stains can become set in, and lingering scents from personal care products like lotion, perfume, cologne, or deodorant can attract pests. When storing natural fibers, look for protective bags made of linen or cotton, which allow those fabrics to breathe.

Should I Dry-Clean Cashmere?

Dry cleaning, despite what many care tag labels insist, is not the best way to clean cashmere and other wools. Solvents used in dry cleaning strip the natural oils that are found in cashmere, taking with them the wonderful softness of cashmere and leaving the fibers more prone to damage. Additionally, dry cleaning is not as effective at removing odors as wet cleaning, i.e. water-based washing.

metal closet racks for sweaters
Marty Baldwin

How to Wash Cashmere by Hand

Cashmere does not like to be overhandled nor exposed to water for a prolonged amount of time. Therefore, be brief and gentle when hand-washing cashmere.

What You Need

  • No-rinse detergent like Soak Wash
  • Wash basin
  • Towel
  • Flat drying rack

Step 1: Identify a Place to Wash

Identify a place large enough to hold water, detergent and the cashmere garment with enough space for your hands to move through the water. Typically, a kitchen sink, utility sink, or bathtub will be the best place to perform a hand-launder cashmere, but a bucket or wash basin can also be used.

Step 2: Fill the Basin

Fill the basin about halfway up with cool water, leaving enough room for the garment and your hands to move. Add a small amount of no-rinse detergent, following manufacturer instructions on dosing.

Step 3: Wash and Soak the Cashmere

Carefully place the cashmere garment in the no-rinse detergent solution, using your hands to fully submerge it. Then, use your hands to gently agitate the garment to ensure that the water and detergent penetrate its fibers, dislodging dirt and grime. Allow the garment to soak in the detergent solution for 10 minutes. Drain the wash water.

Step 4: Air Dry the Garment

After draining the water, use your hands to press down on the cashmere while it is still in the washing basin to push out excess water. Do not wring cashmere, which will twist the fibers, causing stretching or fraying. Lay the garment on a dry towel and roll it up to squeeze out even more water. Finally, lay the sweater flat to air dry on a dry towel or flat drying rack. Do not hang a wet cashmere garment to dry, as the weight of the wet fibers will cause the item to stretch.

How to Wash Cashmere in a Washing Machine

Cashmere can be successfully and safely machine-washed in a front-loader or in a top-loader that does not have a center agitator. If your machine is a top-loader with a center agitator, machine-washing delicate fabrics is not recommended as the plastic fins on the agitator can cause damage. 

What You Need

  • Wool-safe detergent
  • Mesh washing bag
  • Towel or flat drying rack

Step 1: Place Cashmere in a Protective Bag

Place the garment inside a protective mesh bag, which will help to prevent damage caused by friction from other garments and from the drum of the machine. Wash cashmere with other delicate or lightweight items like undergarments and light pajamas. Avoid washing cashmere in loads with bulky or heavy items like jeans, sweatshirts, or towels.

Step 2: Select Cycle and Temperature Settings

Cashmere should be washed in cold water using the delicate or gentle cycle. If your machine has a separate setting for cycle length, choose the shortest cycle available. Cashmere shouldn't be overhandled, so wash it with the least possible amount of friction and exposure to water.

Step 3: Air Dry Cashmere

After washing, reshape the cashmere garment and lay it flat to air dry. A flat mesh drying rack is ideal, but cashmere can also be dried flat on a towel. Rotate the garment to promote even drying.

laundry room with laundry baskets beneath folding table
David Land

How to Spot-Treat Cashmere

A technique called spot treating is a good way to care for cashmere between, or in lieu of, washing. Spot treating can be used to address stains, as well as the buildup of environmental and body soils that can give cuffs and collars a dingy appearance.

What You Need

  • Liquid laundry detergent or stain treatment product(s)
  • Light-colored cloth

Step 1: Apply Detergent to Stain

Dip a light-colored cloth into diluted liquid laundry detergent or, if there is a specific stain, the appropriate stain treatment product. Use the cloth to very gently dab at the stain or discolored area, taking care not to scrub or otherwise roughly handle the fibers. Doing so will abrade the fabric, causing fraying or pilling. Using a laundry brush on cashmere is not recommended.

Step 2: Rinse Detergent

Rinse the cloth in clean water, and gently go over the area you've spot-treated several times to remove detergent, rinsing the cloth as necessary until all the residue is removed.

Step 3: Allow the Cashmere to Dry

Allow the cashmere to air dry completely before wearing or storing the garment.

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