How do you take care of a cashmere sweater?
Contrary to popular belief, cashmere loves water: washing it regularly will not damage it – quite the opposite, in fact. So you can wash it regularly, even often, as long as you respect certain rules. For, though cashmere fibres don’t mind water, they only like it cold! Your wash water should never be warmer than 20°C (68°F), otherwise you risk damaging the sweater.
When it comes to washing cashmere, there are two schools of thought. First, those who prefer the washing machine, as the machine’s consistent movements respect the fibres and weave structure; second, those who swear by handwashing. In either case, use cold or lukewarm water, a little laundry detergent or shampoo, but never, ever, ever use fabric softener, as that can alter the cashmere’s natural softness.
If you use a machine, place your sweater in a net laundry bag or pillowcase. Set the machine on the wool cycle and select the lowest-speed spin (400 to 600 rpm).
If you wash by hand, soak your sweater in barely warm water, adding a small amount of wool-specific detergent. Let it soak for a half hour, knead it gently without rubbing, then rinse it with water of the same temperature, so as not to generate any thermal shock, until the water that runs out of the sweater is clear. To remove excess water, placed the sweater flat on a towel, roll the towel up with the sweater into a cylinder and gently squeeze it, without twisting.
In both cases, your drying method is crucial if you want your sweater to remain its original size. Spread it on a dry towel and on a flat surface, away from any source of heat.
If you follow this modus operandi to the letter, the sweater will retain its original shape. You won’t even have to iron it!
NOTE: A new cashmere sweater will very often “pill” (produce small balls of fibre). In fact, when it is being knit, a small surplus of material is always added to ensure perfect balance of the fibres. It is these excess fibres that form the infamous pills on your cashmere sweater when they detach from the weave. Pills form faster when the cashmere fibres rub against each other or against outside surfaces, such as a sleeve or the edge of a desk.
FEAR NOT: the pills are superficial and will disappear with successive washings. Still, it is important that you not pull on the fibres to remove the pills. If you must, as a last resort, you can attend to the problem by using a razor especially designed for sweaters – often called a lint or fuzz remover – and giving your favourite sweaters an occasional “shave”. You might even have fun doing it!