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How to Wash Cashmere and Wool Sweaters—and Save a Trip to the Dry Cleaners


What Is Cashmere?

Cashmere is a fiber made from the hairs of specific types of goats that are native to Central Asia. Cashmere is part of the wool family, and the fibers are used to make textiles, clothing, and yarns. Since the fibers are derived from animals, they need special care to keep them in good condition. The upside is that if properly maintained, cashmere and other wool types can last for many years to come.

How Often You Should Wash Cashmere Sweaters

You should only wash your cashmere sweaters twice a season at most. It isn't recommended to wash or dry clean your cashmere sweaters after every use, as it can damage the yarns that make up these items. While how often you wash your sweaters ultimately comes down to personal preference, Gwen Whiting of The Laundress says she launders hers at the beginning of the season and toward the end. "If you have a pile of sweaters in your closet that you don't wear on heavy rotation, then once or twice a season is perfect," she says.

Before You Start

Washing cashmere and non-cashmere wool at home is fairly straightforward, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you begin.

Washing Non-Cashmere Wool

No matter what type of cashmere or wool you are washing, you can follow the same steps outlined below. "All animals in the wool family, whether sheep, alpaca, mohair, lamb, merino, or camel employ the same cleaning process," Whiting says.

Measure First

The original dimensions of your sweater can sometimes get distorted during cleaning, so you want to measure your garment beforehand. "Measure your sweater because that's what you want your final sweater after washing to conform to," Martha said during a segment of The Martha Stewart Show years ago. To do so, use a tape measure and measure the entirety of your item, including the length of the sleeves, from the armpit down to the base of the sweater, and the width of the head and hand openings. Martha recommends writing the measurements down so you don't forget.

Materials You'll Need

  1. Tape measure for measuring before washing
  2. Wool wash or a good hair shampoo
  3. Mesh washing bag (for machine washing)

How to Hand Wash a Cashmere Sweater

According to Whiting, it's always safer to hand wash your sweaters using the following steps.

Step 1: Fill a tub with cold water

First, fill a sink, tub, or basin with cold water—but not ice cold, Martha says—and add a squirt of a cleanser that's specially formulated for wool. Don't have any on hand? "The alternative is a good hair shampoo because wool and cashmere are hair," Whiting says.

Step 2: Submerge your sweater

Next, submerge your sweater in the bath. "Don't mix colors," says Martha. "Beiges, whites, are separate from any colors."

Step 3: Swirl and soak

Once in the water, gently swirl your garment around for about 30 seconds and let it soak for up to 30 minutes before rinsing out the soap with cold water from the faucet.

Step 4: Rinse

Drain the dirty water and rinse with cool, clean water.

How to Machine Wash a Cashmere Sweater

Though Whiting prefers hand washing, she says that the washing machine isn't off-limits.

Step 1: Use a mesh washing bag

For the best results, place your sweater in a mesh washing bag. The bag will help protect the sweater from agitating in the washer.

Step 2: Choose the delicate cycle

Select the delicate cycle on the machine and make sure the water temperature is cold and the spin is on low. "You can shrink or felt an item by overly agitating it," she says. This can happen if your machine is on too high a setting.

Step 3: Remove immediately

Once the cycle is complete, promptly remove the sweater to reduce creasing.

How to Dry a Sweater

Whether you wash your sweaters by hand or in the machine, Whiting says that they should never go into the dryer or be wrung out by hand. "Wringing manipulates the fibers, and when the yarns are wet, they're weaker," she says. "You might end up disfiguring your sweater."

Step 1: Squeeze Excess Water Out

Instead, squeeze out excess water by first pressing your sweater into a ball. Once it's no longer sopping wet, Martha says to lay it out on a dry towel and manipulate the sweater so that it conforms to its original shape (using the measurements you wrote down earlier).

Step 2: Towel Dry

Next, fold the towel in half over your sweater; then roll the towel with the sweater inside until most of the moisture is gone. Place it onto a fresh towel to finish the drying process.

Tips for Removing Stains, Wrinkles, and Pills

Whether it's a spot of ketchup or a patch of pills, you can easily restore your sweater to its original state with a little care.


If you notice a stain on your sweater, don't panic and dab at it aggressively—that will just make it worse. Whiting recommends working a stain remover into the area before the next wash, but she says to go easy with the application. "If you're scrubbing it with your fingers or a scrub brush, you're going to have a visual result," she says. "You're either going to disrupt the weave or cause it to be super fuzzy." Gently massaging it in will do the trick.


Heat is kryptonite to wool, so don't use an iron, as it crushes the fibers. Instead, reach for a steamer. "Some wools, like a lighter merino or cashmere, are more prone to wrinkles after you wash—then you need to steam," says Whiting. She also likes to use the steamer between washes for a quick pick-me-up. "Steaming fluffs the yarns up and is a natural refresher," she says.


Pilling—those little balls that form on your favorite sweaters—is caused by friction. To stop pills from taking over, Whiting recommends de-fuzzing as you go. She swears by two products: A sweater stone for a heavier gauge yarn and a sweater comb for a thinner weave. "They are two tools that just remove the pill, versus a shaver that won't discriminate between the pill and the textile," she says.

How to Store Sweaters

While some clothes can be kept in drawers and on hangers, there is a very specific way to store wool and cashmere sweaters—and doing so correctly is a key part of their care. You also want to be diligent when stowing these items away at the end of the cold-weather season, as they easily attract moths.

Fold Your Sweaters

Although sweaters can be space hogs, it's important to fold (not hang!) them. "If you hang a sweater, you'll end up with distortion," says Whiting. "You'll have horns on your shoulder, or your arm will get stuck in the hanger and stretch it."

Store in Cotton Bags

For long-term storage, avoid plastic bins, where moisture and bugs happily thrive. "We recommend cotton storage bags, which bugs can't eat through. Cotton is also breathable, so you're not going to have that retained moisture," says Whiting.

Wash at the End of the Season

Before you store your knits away for the season, make sure to give them a wash. "You always, always, always want to launder at the end of the season," says Whiting. The main reason? Moths. Even if you only wore the item one time, you might attract the pests, which consider body oil, products like lotion, and perfume food.

If you do spot tiny holes in multiple sweaters, it's time for a closet cleanse. "Empty everything out, and then vacuum, spray, clean, and launder in phases," says Whiting. "Steaming is also really great for removing bug larva." If the problem is severe, quarantine your sweaters in plastic bags until you can wash them thoroughly.