You Can Dare To Wash Cashmere... In The Washing Machine
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 washing 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 household activity. FYI: All items mentioned for this project are available in the ads below for your convenience. Note: I am an Amazon Associate and an Amazon Influencer, read more at my Blog Ethics page, paragraph 6.
Let's unravel how to try the not-so-scientific sweater experiment that works!
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, or very well-worn, clean cotton pillowcase (no worries about dyes if it is white, if not, be sure it is color-fast [has been washed many times] and it is a porous woven cotton).
3. Use a new, white cotton shoe-lace to tie the pillowcase closed -- wrap it around a few times and make a secure bow. TIP: The thicker the string, and with knots on each end, makes it easier to pull closed, AND then to unknot it after washing. [I use a white cotton braided string off of a department store 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. Do NOT use softener. [Not sure why, but this is what most of the research advised.]
7. Do NOT use bleach!
8. Conventional Woolite or a cashmere soap aren't necessary…I regularly use Avalon Organics Lavender Shampoo for this task. Add about 2 Tablespoons to a small load; this is plenty to make a nice natural lather. [I also read that baby shampoo can be used - but I haven't tried this option to confirm results.] NOTE: I also successfully tested sweaters using regular liquid laundry detergents by Seventh Generation & Mrs Meyer's (I prefer the lavender scents of these brands). Just be sure to use a small amount of detergent!
9. Remove from the machine as soon as the cycle is finished, take the sweater out of the pillowcase, block and let air dry on a flat, clean surface. [I use 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. You can do the same thing on a table BUT be sure to turn it regularly because there is no air-flow like on a laundry rack.] NOTE: See comments for instructions on "blocking" and other tips!
10. After a few hours, turn the sweater right-side out. Re-block if necessary and leave to continue air-drying; also, gave it a quick shake to move the air around the fibers and put it back until it is dry. The sweater will keep its size and shape. The shampoo makes 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!
❋❋❋ BONUS Info: If you like this article, please check out my videos with more tips, hints, and how-to's to make your life better, brighter, and easier! Thanks, Luci
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Oh no! Sounds like the zipper definitely is the culprit, that's one of the reasons why I suggest a pillowcase with a tie... Nothing to snap the fibers. I wouldn't even use a net bag, try the pillowcase. I think the netting might rub the sweater in spots creating tension on the fibers. Cashmere is wool but it is more delicate. Good luck on your next sweater washing. Thanks for commenting, it's good for others to know what not to do!
Posted by: Luci Weston | January 2020 at 09:21 PM
Unfortunately, I just put a cashmere sweater through a gentle, cold cycle, and added a scarf to the load, which was inside a net bag.....when I removed the sweater, it had holes in it. DRAT! I think the net bag zipper caused the holes, although I cannot be sure. The cashmere sweater only was 6.00 at a thrift store....so not a great loss. Next time I guess, I will try washing it by itself in a net bag.
Posted by: Hadasa | January 2020 at 08:39 PM
Well this is a good question Anne... I've been thinking about it.
First, there is always a risk with anything but I think you should be fine by following all of the article steps BUT I would highly recommend using a washing machine that does NOT have an agitator in the center. So either a front loader or one without the agitator but still a top-loader (this is the type I have and use for all my cashmere).
Second, if the shawl is too big for a pillow case, do you have a twin size duvet cover? That would work like a giant pillowcase to house the shawl. If not, then I'd chance it, if you are willing to take the chance, and put it in without the cover -- definitely on the gentlest cycle for wash, and spinning. AND I'd add a few clean cotton pillow cases (ones that won't add lint to the shawl) to buffer it during the washing process.
Please let me know what you choose to do and how it turns out.
Thanks for reaching out. :)
Posted by: Luci Weston | April 2017 at 12:45 PM
I have been considering cleaning a large navy blue cashmere shawl for several years now. Worried i will ruin it. Too large to put in a pillow case loosely...no very good dry cleaners in area. Would prefer washing machine because of difficulty draining water from it by hand. I would really like some advice.
Posted by: Mrs Anne L O'Malley | April 2017 at 06:16 AM
@Lynn: Oh, I am so glad to hear this... It is worrisome at first until you know how to was the cashmere with this process. I just washed a bunch to put away for the season. TU for letting me know, I love to hear good results!!
Posted by: Luci Weston | April 2017 at 12:38 PM
Thanks. I was worried. You certainly got me through this one.
Posted by: Lynn | April 2017 at 08:07 AM
You are welcome. Hope it helps!!
Posted by: Luci Weston | March 2017 at 01:18 PM
Thanks for sharing this information.
Posted by: Philip Pettit | March 2017 at 04:27 AM
Kathy: Please check recent comment regarding your question. Thx! (Tech got a bit wonky thats why it's out of order! Oops)
Posted by: Luci Weston | February 2015 at 02:06 PM
Hi KathyD: Ok, so I went in search of a "de-pilling" apparatus both in person at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, as well as online. There are a number of combs, razors, and fabric shavers. Years ago, I had a battery operated fabric shaver and it didn't do much other than pull on the wool, so I gave up on it.
What I decided to do in order to answer your question and offer an easy, DIY, inexpensive solution was to experiment on a wool and angora blend sweater that had some pilling. It's one of my favorites, I've worn it for years and can't quite let go of it… In any case, I digress!
1. After looking at all the different types of scissors I own, I decided to use a tiny, round-tipped, craft/mini-thread scissor (like the ones in a hotel sewing kit or a kid's craft kit).
2. I hung the sweater so the pills or fur balls looked more 3D than when laying flat. You could lay it down, but to my eye, they were more visible when hanging.
3. Working my way from under the arm area (I started there in case I poked through or pulled on the wool so that it would be undetectable if mended). I slowly and gently cut the pills off. Do NOT pull on them, just get slightly under and cut; keep the scissor above the sweater and parallel to it to avoid gauging the knitted, intact part of the sweater you are trying to save!
This did indeed work, and I want to thank you for your question because it helped me renew and extend the life of one of my favorite sweaters! :)
Posted by: Luci Weston | February 2015 at 01:58 PM
HI Edie: Thank you for sharing your tips!!
JUST TO BE CLEAR FOR THE READERS WHO WANT TO WASH THEIR CASHMERE IN A WASHING MACHINE… Edie has been successful washing a cashmere sweater BY HAND using hot water. She is right, never use hot water in the machine when washing cashmere (or any wool, for that matter, better safe than sorry).
Posted by: Luci Weston | February 2015 at 01:40 PM
I use hot water every time I bring home a new thrift store sweater. I have not shrunk, felted, or faded one yet. Felting happens when agitation and heat are combined. Wool and cashmere sweaters can usually handle minor agitation (the wool wash on the machine) OR heat but not both at once. Never machine wash on hot. I hand wash and don't swish the sweater around or run water over it. I wash only one or two at a time, because I can only fit two on my drying rack.
Posted by: Edie | February 2015 at 12:11 PM
Hi KathyD: Hmmm… Did you use the pillow-case as per the article? Just curious because if you did, the pilling or fur-ball issue surprises me.
I have a wool sweater (not cashmere) that has this same issue. I want to test a few things on it before answering your question. Please check back by mid-day Sunday, 2/8/15. I will experiment and let you know.
Thanks for writing and the question!
Posted by: Luci Weston | February 2015 at 05:26 PM
I WASHED A CASHMERE SWEATER IN THE MACHINE AND IT HAS THESE LITTLE FUR BALLS HOW CAN I REMOVE THESE
Posted by: KATHYD1946@YAHOO.COM | February 2015 at 08:55 AM
Thank you Anna for the how-to tips! Plus, I love the idea for buying cashmere sweaters at thrift shops… what fun to find such a great bargain.
Posted by: Luci Weston | January 2015 at 10:24 PM
I have dozens of cashmere sweaters that I picked up at thrift shops for about $5 each. As a result, I am not afraid to experiment with them. I just throw them into a commercial laundry machine, maybe about eight at a time. I set the machine for cold water on the delicate cycle. Then I put in a few squirts of dishwashing detergent and let it go. If it seems that there is too much soap, then I let them go through another rinse cycle.
Of course, I would never put them in the dryer! When the machine is finished, I take them home and stretch them out by hand in every direction. Then I hang them up on wire hangers to dry for a couple of days. I don't have any problems with them even after washing them ten times.
Posted by: Anna | December 2014 at 10:18 AM
I don't use pillow cases or mesh bags either. They come out great. I putmine in the dryer, but with no heat iuntil they are about half dry. Then I lay flat. None if the rolling up in towels and squeezing water out. I've not ruined one yet.
Posted by: sonja | October 2014 at 03:58 PM
I have also put them in the duet on air fluff only seeing. No heat. They seem to come out with less wrinkles. When a lot of the water had been removed, but not dried, I take them out and lay flat.
Posted by: sonja | October 2014 at 03:54 PM
Regarding the cashmere coat post: You should use a clothes brush to get they hair off. They work much better than lint rollers and are also Eco-conscious. You often come across them in old vanity sets (the comb, brush and mirror being the other pieces). You should be able to find one in an antique store. you will recognize them by their stiff bristles (a shoe brush will have softer bristles). Lay the coat flat on a table or hang it securely and go at it.
Posted by: firstname.lastname@example.org | March 2014 at 12:54 AM
I have several of the mesh laundry bags that I use for my sweaters and other delicate tops. They are well worth the money and last for years. The water seems to circulate a little better. (Just be sure there are no other clothes with small hooks that can get caught on the holes of the bag.)
I even threw a couple in the dryer with an absorbent towel (very, very low or no heat) after shaking and redistributing them more evenly in the bag. This seemed to help them dry on the rack faster and didn't harm them at all (as far as I could tell). Thanks for sharing your information. I did use fabric softener (liquid), but very little.
Posted by: Towana Fuqua | February 2014 at 02:56 AM
@Neelima: Thanks for asking about this option... I would NOT use a net bag because the pressure of the water and spin cycle in the machine may cause "net" marks on the cashmere. It may work but I wouldn't risk it.
Posted by: Luci Weston | January 2014 at 02:45 PM
can I use a net washing bag rather than a pillow case
Posted by: neelima chopra | January 2014 at 03:41 AM
@Sara: Thanks for the question... No, the pillow case doesn't have to be white BUT it has to be "colorfast," that is, that the color won't run or bleed during the wash cycle. I suggest and use white because it doesn't present a color transfer problem. Hope that helps! Luci :)
Posted by: Luci Weston | December 2013 at 07:19 PM
I was wondering does the pillow case have to be white?
Can it be red?
Posted by: Sara | November 2013 at 10:04 AM
@Tonya: Thanks for the question, Tonya. To be honest, I'm stumped with this one... BUT I doubt the weight of the wool in a cashmere coat would do well in the washer so I would NOT recommend it. Unfortunately, you may have to take it to a professional dry cleaner, but definitely go to a "green" shop so you can avoid them over-processing your coat with lots of chemicals. I am sorry that I am unable to provide a better solution, but please stop back and let me know how it worked out so we can share it with other readers. With so many pet owners, I'm sure others have the same issue. :)
Posted by: Luci Weston | December 2012 at 03:27 PM