The importance of water temperature cannot be overstated: fill your basin with room temperature water. If the water it too cold, it will set stains; too hot, and it can result in incredible shrinkage.
Add in a small squirt of gentle soap, be it a specialty cashmere wash natural unscented detergent, or even baby shampoo. And remember, more soap doesn’t mean a cleaner garment, it can actually add residue – so be frugal with your soap allocation.
Turn the garment inside out – this protects the outside surface of the garment from rubbing during washing, and will keep the world-facing exterior looking better, for longer. Fully submerge in the tub, gently swirling and pressing or squeezing to absorb the water. Next, drain the water, and refill and drain the sink with clean soapless water a couple of times, to rinse thoroughly – always being careful not to agitate the fibres excessively.
MACHINE WASHING CASHMERE
Remarkably, cashmere can go in the washing machine. But as you might expect, hand washing is always the safest option, giving you the greatest control over how the garment is treated throughout the wash cycle.
And machine washing cashmere still requires a very careful approach – don’t just chuck it in with the everyday shirts and socks.
To minimise the risk of damage, wash cashmere garments in a mesh washing bag, and don’t include any other garments; they’ll just cause unnecessary rubbing throughout the cycle.
Use a very short, delicate cycle on the machine – not the wool wash cycle – and aim for about a two-minute wash. If you can’t set the cycle perfectly, manually interrupt the machine. Water temperature must be set to cold, spin cycle low. It’s important to know that cashmere can shrink or felt if it is agitated too much, either by using a washing machine on the incorrect setting, or even hand washing too roughly. Once the cycle is finished, remove the sweater immediately.
There are three – usually – unforgivable sins of drying cashmere:
- Wringing out the water
- Pinning a wet garment up on the clothesline, and
- Just throwing it into a tumble drier (however, somewhat shockingly, cashmere can be tumble-dried! But it does require extreme caution and care, as detailed in the next section).
Wet cashmere has weaker fibres, and the twisting and stretching action of wringing out or hanging a garment can disfigure it. Instead, try this: once removed from the water, gently ball up the cashmere garment and squeeze out excess water, or press it against the side of the washing basin. Lay it flat on a towel, and roll both up into a tight cylinder, squeezing excess water out of the knit and into the towel. Unroll, and lay the cashmere flat on a clean, dry towel or drying rack, gently arranging it into its normal shape.
Re-shaping is an important step in the drying process, as the garment will essentially remain in this shape until the next wash. It is usually a simple process if the garment has been handled delicately during washing, however, some knit structures are prone to ‘monkey arms’ when wet: where the sleeves become stretched and skinny. To correct this, lay the damp garment flat and gently adjust the sleeve width, working from the shoulder down to the cuff.
And finally, always dry out of direct sunlight, to avoid fading and sun damage.
HOW TO TUMBLE DRY CASHMERE
As mentioned earlier, yes, you can tumble dry cashmere. But beware: tumble-drying can quickly damage or destroy your garment if not approached with extreme common sense, caution and care. And with that in mind, it’s important to remember that allowing the garment to dry naturally is always the preferable option.
If you still want to proceed with tumble drying, start by preheating the tumble drier on a medium setting – this speeds up the process and means the cashmere only requires minimal time in the machine.
When you do add your garment to the drier, add in some ‘tumble buddies’: a couple of soft, dry shirts or similar. These tumble buddies ensure that everything in the drier takes on the correct tumbling or floating action, rolling around in the machine, instead of sticking to the sides or blades. It’s crucial to ensure that your garment is tumbling correctly – if not, stop it immediately and either add more tumble buddies, or revert to drying flat.
And finally, don’t leave the garment in the drier for any longer than five minutes. If it hasn’t dried in that time, it’s best to accept defeat and use the traditional drying approach. Any longer than five minutes in the drier and you risk damaging or destroying your garment.
CLEANING SPOT STAINS ON CASHMERE
Spilt or splashed something? Make sure you take a gentle approach to the tackling that spot – if you scrub or dab furiously at a stain, the garment could end up with a damaged or fuzzy surface. Instead, gently massage a stain remover into the area before the next wash. Another trick is to attempt (gently!) working the stain out from the opposite side, rather than pushing it further into the fibres.
REMOVING PILLING FROM CASHMERE