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You Can Dare To Wash Cashmere... In The Washing Machine

Shrunken read sweater
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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Comments

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Tonya

I have a black cashmere coat that is covered with fur from my cats and dogs that its almost white now. I have tried taking the lint roller but that barely gets it off. I've tried the dry cleaning bags for the dryer with no success. I'm a little too scared to put it in the washer. Any suggestions??

Luci Weston

@Carly: Hi! Thanks for your question; I've been thinking about it... I know what you mean about a favorite sweater, it's hard to let it go.

Two things to note:
1. Definitely wash it according to the instructions in this article. Block it exactly like you want the shape to be (don't pull or stretch it, just smooth it into as the original shape as can be recreated). I don't think the blocking will make it substantially smaller, but it will help to "reshape" it.

2. Unfortunately, if you put it in the dryer, the chance of it shrinking in an odd manner is greater than getting a resized sweater [after drying it]. While you can definitely put cashmere in the washing machine, I would NOT recommend or suggest the dryer. It will shrink, and you are correct that it will probably "pill", plus the feel of the wool may be different (but not better).

Try the blocking technique; and let us know the outcome. Good luck & thanks so much for popping by HWA!
Best,
Luci

Carly

Hi Luci,

I have a cashmere sweater that I've worn so many times that it has stretched out so much that I can't really wear it anymore. Do you think I will be able to block it so that it ends up smaller than it is right now? If not, do you think putting it in the dryer for a bit would help shrink it at all? I just don't want it to shrink too much or to get pilly.

Thanks,
Carly

Luci Weston

@Catherine DePino: Thanks Catherine! Yes, you can wash more than one sweater at a time... BUT use one pillow case for each sweater. I've done it this way and it worked. Let us know how they turn out!

Catherine DePino

Hi,

Love your site. Don't know if you got my question. Can you wash more than one sweater at a time?

Thanks so much.

Catherine

Luci Weston

@Margaret: Good, if you follow the steps in this post, I think you'll be pleased. That is a great question, Margaret!

Blocking is just a way to maintain your sweater's shape & size when it's wet so that it dries in its original proportions (see how-to below).

Okay, don't let the # of steps below scare you, it's EASY to block a sweater (or any garment):

1. look at its natural shape when it's dry
2. take note of how it hangs, the way the collar sits, the shoulder angles (squared or rounded), etc.
3. some people (like Martha Stewart) actually measure the garment - the width, length, sleeve length, etc. {I just eyeball it and haven't had a problem}
4. wash your item
5. when its wet, you will now "block" it back into its original shape/size; DON'T let the arms hang unless they are short sleeves, otherwise they may become too long
6. be sure to lie it flat on a sweater rack if you have one OR I use the top of a small laundry rack with a towel underneath the sweater to avoid rack-lines (the kind that folds up)
7. also, be sure to turn it over & inside out so it dries evenly - each time you move it you must re-block it {same as steps 8 & 9 in the original post}

The objective of blocking is to have a clean sweater that fits they way it should WITHOUT arms that hang to your knees!! :)

Hope this helps, Margaret.
Thanks for commenting!!

Margaret

I'm going to try your recommendation to wash my cashmere sweaters....
But, first how do you properly block a cashmere sweater?
Thanks,
~M

Luci Weston

@amanda: Hi! First I would roll them with a lint roller and try to remove the fur. Also, shake them outside to get rid of any extra fur. Depending on how big the table clothes are, it may be hard to fit them into a pillow case. Try one in the washing machine with a cotton sheet or two (and nothing else). Definitely use the gentlest cycle on your machine. Yes, you can use regular detergent, but go very light on the amount. Less is more! Thanks for popping by HWA!

amanda

I have 3 cashmere table clothes, and a very spunky cat. There is cat fur all over them and i need to clean them, would I follow the same rules as above and is it OK to use regular washing detergent.

Luci Weston

Hi @GM: Hmmm... I would still wash them in cold water only, but do it twice or three times. Then, I would test this next tip with the WORST of the sweaters first - Use white vinegar as a rinse agent. I used it with a black cashmere scarf that smelled like a southern BBQ pit after I visited a restaurant recently. The vinegar did the trick of removing the odor and the color stayed true without any bleeding. While it's not an odor issue that you have, I'm thinking the vinegar might help solve the problem.

After you wash your sweaters, be sure to rinse your machine on a mini-load using hot water without any laundry in the tub, just to be certain the larvae are gone.

Good luck and let me know what happens. :)

GM

what if you need to wash in hot to kill moth larvae (ew)?
8 cashmere sweaters, 4 with holes :(

Luci Weston

@Mary: Thanks for the tip & leaving a comment. It is interesting that you don't put the sweater in a pillow case or lingerie bag to wash. Good to know it works for you this way, too. I haven't been that brave! :)

Mary

I wash my cashmere sweaters all the time in the machine. I do a gentle wash with a little detergent and I just toss it in. I lay them flat and they dry nicely! If there any wrinkles I toss them in the dryer for a couple minutes. This has never harmed any of of my sweaters...in fact I just washed the 250.00 sweater my husband bought me for Christmas and it looks great.

Luci Weston

@Royce: Good! Thanks for trusting the info on HWA. We test everything so our readers can rely on what they find here.

As for the wrinkles, did you follow steps 8 & 9? They really make a big difference in the allowing the garment to dry wrinkle-free. It's important to shake out the sweater, then "block" it so it retains it shape for the next wearing.

If you don't have a laundry rack, try placing the sweater on a clean, dry towel; smooth and shape the sweater to its original contours. Let dry for a bit, shake it, turn it, and re-block it each time. It may take a while to dry, but it should be wrinkle-free. Let us know, and thanks for commenting!

Royce

Wow, this really worked! Thank you!!
Now how do I get the wrinkles out of the sweaters?

Luci Weston

@Gail: Thank you, Gail, I'm so glad you found HWA and that your sweater turned out great. I love to receive feedback from readers... Your comment made my day!!

Gail Kallaus

Nice site Luci. I washed a cashmere sweater and it turned out great. I got the link from a friend and just sent it on to my sister. Thanks for a great article.

Account Deleted

This is great, Luci! Thanks for the money saving tip. I love saving money. We wanna see a picture of your not dry cleaned sweater!

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