You just bought a beautiful cashmere-wool sweater.
It fits perfect and feels amazing.
But what do you do when its time to wash it?
Throw it in the washing machine?
Chances are, it will shrink 3 sizes…
…and lose its original shape and structure.
Take it to the dry cleaners?
Dry cleaning uses harsh chemicals that can shrink wool fibers.
So, even if your sweater's tag says, “dry clean only,” it might be better suited to hand washing at home.
If it is wool or cashmere, you can wash it yourself at home without risking damage.
Avoid unnecessary transformations of your woolen garments during a wash cycle and follow these instructions:
1. Do Not Use A Washing Machine
The friction from your washing machine's cleaning cycle will felt wool. The heat and soap shrink the garment and turn it from a soft, woven texture to a harder material – felt.
Running wool items through the wash cycle of your machine also damages the machine as fuzz from the wool can detach and felt, forming hard clumps inside the pump.
Wool does not need to be washed frequently. Especially if allowed to be aired out between wears.
Ask yourself, “Are you sure it needs to be washed?”
If yes, use a basin, sink or bath tub and wash by hand. This is the preferable cleaning method for wool.
Softer wool like cashmere or lambswool can get roughed up in a machine cycle, so keep in mind the type of wool before deciding if you want to wash by hand or by machine.
Even if the care label reads “dry clean only,” handwashing a cashmere sweater actually makes it softer over time. Use a soft detergent or baby shampoo.
If garments do not require washing there are still ways of maintaining clothes. Use spot-cleaning to target soiled areas. A brush can be used to spot clean. Brush the soil off and rinse the area through with cold water.
2. Soak The Sweater In Cold Water
Dissolve a gentle cleaner in water first, to prevent it from reacting with the wet wool. Whatever product you use, make sure you add very little as soap increases felting. A tablespoon of detergent is sufficient for a medium or large sweater. A smaller sweater will require only half a tablespoon.
Soak the sweater in cold water for 5-10 minutes before washing. This technique will prevent the wool from shrinking.
Ensure all the entire garment is saturated with water. Use cold water as hot water or warm water will shrink wool.
3. Gently Squeeze Suds Through
Move the water and the detergent through the fabric. Swish the sweater around in cool, sudsy water until it is completely wet.
After a few minutes of soaking and swirling, remove the sweater from the basin.
Gently roll the sweater into a ball and squeeze out the excess water without wringing, rubbing or twisting the sweater. Wool tends to stretch easily and lose shape, so practice care when removing excess water.
4. Rinse The Sweater In Cold Water
Heat will increase the amount of felting. Rinse the sweater in cold water.
Empty the basin filled with the detergent and water mix. Fill the basin with cold water again and immerse the sweater until it is completely soaked.
Rinse the sweater a second time until the water is free from detergent lather.
5. Remove Excess Moisture With A Towel
Never wring or hang-dry, since wet wool stretches easily. Hold the sweater by its shoulders to allow the water to drain from the sweater into the basin.
Press out the excess water by using the following technique:
- Place a clean, dry towel flat on the floor. Lay your damp sweater on the towel.
- Starting from the bottom, roll up the sweater into the towel until you've got a sweater-towel tube.
- Press down on it a few times to make sure the towel soaks up any additional excess water, then unroll it and re-shape again.
- Squeeze and press gently before unrolling in fresh air to dry.
6. Pull carefully Into Shape
Before drying the sweater, you need to block it back into shape. Blocking a sweater preserves the correct sizing and evens out the fabric. This important step helps to reshape the sweater to its original dimensions as it dries.
- You want the sweater to be damp, but not dripping wet.
- Spread the sweater on a dry towel or on a dry, clean, flat surface.
- Smooth out the fabric and coax the sweater into the desired shape and size.
You can even adjust the fit so that the sweater is slightly bigger or smaller than before.
7. Dry The Sweater Flat
Now that your sweater is clean, all you need to do to dry is lay it flat in its natural shape.
It can take days for wet cashmere to dry. To speed up the process, use a large salad spinner to shake out the excess water. Then lay it flat to dry.
Avoid drying the sweater in direct heat or sunshine.
Do not use a tumble dryer to speed up the process.
You can use a folding clothes rack to lay the sweater flat similar to dry cleaning a suit with a steamer's built-in hanger.
BONUS – Wool Sweater Folding Instructions
- Avoid a line running down the middle of the sweater by folding each side of the sweater inward by a third.
- Smooth the arms down, and fold in half.
- Hanging a fine wool fabric like a cashmere sweater causes shoulder dimples. The shape of the sweater is bound to be distorted by the pull of gravity.
Wool is one of the most resilient fabrics, with natural breathability and stretch. Its natural properties allow it to dissipate any moisture it might absorb.
However, despite its resilience, a wool clothing item still requires occasional care to keep it looking its best.