Tis' the season to wear chunky woolens and soft cashmere sweaters. The label says "Dry clean only," but you want to save time and money...and maybe even wear your favorite sweater again tomorrow. Next time it needs cleaning, instead of dropping it off, scheduling a pick-up, and missing your comfy sweater, wash it in the machine. Fear not! Your sweater should not shrink like the one in this picture!
After much brow knitting and web-surfing for information, I decided to wash a 2-ply cashmere sweater with a silk collar in the washing machine. In the past, this sweater has endured repeated pressings and toxic chemicals, so I thought I'd chance it. Yes, there are those who will only hand wash, but the dripping water, soaked towels, and drying time involved puts a wet blanket on this activity.
Let's unravel how to try the not-so-scientific sweater experiment:
1. Button, zip, snap, or tie any parts that need connecting. Then turn the sweater inside out. NOTE: Do NOT turn inside out IF the sweater has appliques, like beads, sequins, rhinestones, rosettes, etc.
2. Put it in a white, well-worn, clean cotton pillowcase (no worries about dyes and it is porous).
3. Use a new, white cotton shoe-lace to tie the pillowcase closed -- wrap it around a few times and make a secure bow. [I used the white braided string off of a Lord & Taylor shopping bag!]
4. Throw in a few similar colored, lightweight hand towels to "cushion" the sweater in the machine. [Bonus: save time and energy doing other laundry that goes into the dryer.]
5. Only using the "Delicate/Hand Wash" cycle, set water to Cold/Cold or Cool/Cool temperature.
6. Don't use softener. [Not sure why, but this is what most of the research advised.]
7. Conventional Woolite or a cashmere soap aren't necessary...I used Avalon Organics Lavender Shampoo. Add about 2 Tablespoons to a small load; this was plenty to make a nice natural lather. [I also read that baby shampoo can be used.] NOTE: Since I wrote this article, I have successfully tested sweaters using regular, liquid laundry detergents by Seventh Generation & Mrs. Meyers - Just be sure to use a small amount.
8. Remove from the machine as soon as the cycle is finished, take the sweater out of the pillowcase, block and let air dry flat. [I used the top of a small laundry rack, put a towel under the sweater to avoid rack-lines. Drape the arms slightly over the sides and resting on top to avoid stretching, and support a collar on one of the rungs if needed.] NOTE: See comments for instructions on "blocking" and other tips!
9. After a few hours, turn the sweater right-side out. Re-block if necessary and leave to continue air-drying. I checked it once more, gave it a quick shake and put it back until it was dry.
10. The sweater kept its size and shape. The shampoo made it soft and lavender scented!
Still unsure? Try this experiment with a cashmere sweater you can spare to lose. Let us know if it turns out well or knot...Good luck and keep warm!