How to Shop, Clean, and Care for Cashmere So It Lasts for Years
Keep your cashmere knits soft, washed, and pill-free with these expert at-home tips.
Yes, a good-quality cashmere sweater can be expensive—but cashmere is (and will always be) a wardrobe staple for its long-lasting composition and luxe, cozy feel. Tracking down the ultimate cashmere piece requires a bit of shopping research before adding a must-buy sweater to your cart. And think of it as an investment. Once that beauty is in your closet, it will last for years—as long as you know how to wash it and keep it in great condition.
For the best tips on how to buy, wash, and repair cashmere sweaters (without a trip to the dry cleaners), we tapped a few clothing pros for their expertise. Follow these pointers to keep your cashmere looking brand new for years.
How to Buy Cashmere
Be price savvy. Cashmere is priced based on weight. A heavier, better-quality sweater will run you about $250. A lighter, more basic one will cost about $150.
Look for a cashmere blend. Blends aren't quite as soft as 100 percent cashmere, but they're slightly less expensive and often last longer.
Consider color. Cashmere sweaters in lighter colors, like ivory, tend to feel softer than darker colored pieces because the yarn wasn't exposed to as many dyes.
How to Wash Cashmere at Home
First check the fabric care label and follow any instructions, says Laura Goodman, senior scientist and fabric care expert at Procter & Gamble. And remember to turn your cashmere sweater inside out before washing.
To machine wash, use the gentlest possible cycle and add a detergent that rinses clean and does not contain any dyes.
Better yet, wash your cashmere by hand. Cashmere is quite delicate, and hand washing helps prevent damage. Mix a mild detergent or a baby shampoo with cool or lukewarm water, and let your sweater soak for about five minutes before rinsing clean.
To dry, lay the wet cashmere on a towel on a flat surface. Don’t wring it out—that can cause the fibers to stretch. Instead, carefully roll up the towel and cashmere item together (like a jelly roll), starting from the end closest to you. This will gently squeeze out any excess water.
Unroll the towel and lift the item off, carefully bringing it back to its original shape. Lay it flat on another dry towel to let it air dry completely.
How to Store Cashmere
Fold it—don’t hang it.
Once dry, don’t hang your cashmere clothing. “The shoulders will likely become misshapen and the weight of the sweater will pull the sleeves out of its original design,” Goodman says. “Instead, fold sweaters and store them in a dresser or on a closet shelf.”
Store it for the season.
If you put your cashmere away for the summer, place it in an airtight container with cedar chips. The wood will help ward off moths and prevent mustiness.
How to Repair and Care for Cashmere
Sew up holes.
If moths manage to get to your sweater, turn it inside out and loosely sew the holes closed.
Prevent shrinking and reverse stretching.
It’s not necessarily true that your cashmere will shrink if you wash it at home. “As long as the label doesn’t specifically say 'dry-clean only,' hand washing or using a gentle cycle is safe for cashmere,” Goodman reassures. “Drying is a key part of the cashmere clothing care process to avoid shrinkage: Make sure to air dry the item by laying it flat rather than tossing it in the dryer.”
To reverse any stretching, gently wash the sweater, then reshape it to the size you want—it will retain the new dimensions when it dries. Steam the sweater between washes so it stays looking fresh.
Rinse out stains.
Want to rinse a smaller stain without washing the entire piece? Most marks should disappear if you blot the spot with baby shampoo, rinse it in cold water, and lay the sweater flat to dry.
Prevent and remove pills.
Contrary to another popular misconception about caring for and washing cashmere, the life of a piece of cashmere isn't over once it pills. “Pills tend to form on wool, cotton, cashmere, even polyester garments, usually at a point where two fabrics rub together, but you can fix it and even prevent it,” Goodman says. Use a fabric conditioner to protect the fibers and reduce friction that causes pills. Already noticing pills or fuzz? You can try a few methods to remove them: small scissors or a razor blade, fine-tooth comb, pumice stone, fruit zester, sweater comb, electric fabric shaver (these are affordable and can come in handy for everything from removing pet hair to de-pilling throw blankets).