Cashmere is best cleaned by gentle hand wash. Because it is a natural fiber, after becoming wet, it regains its shape as it dries. There are distinct advantages to hand washing cashmere. Loose fibers, which have worked their way to the surface of the garment, get washed away which helps to prevent pilling. Repeated gentle washing helps retain the natural softness of cashmere. Dry cleaning does not dispose of the loose fibers. Repeated dry cleaning, with its harsh chemicals, can strip the natural oils from the cashmere fibers and in time reduce the hand soft feel. An accumulation of dry cleaning chemicals will also dull the color.
Of course, for every rule there is an exception. Heavier garments such as coats and hand knits might be too difficult to manage by hand wash and too bulky to lay out flat to dry, so dry cleaning becomes an acceptable alternative.
Wash the cashmere item in lukewarm water (maximum 30 degrees) with a very gentle detergent. Do not use fabric softeners or a product that contains bleach. Do not use a washing machine because it is difficult to control the water temperature. Also, the spin cycles are very harsh and they distort the fibers too much, causing the garment to look "fluffy." Rinse several times, then gently roll up in a towel to remove the excess water. Do not rub or wring the garment. Lay the garment flat on a towel or drying rack away from the heat (such as a radiator). Do not dry the garment in the sun as this can cause discoloration, especially in lighter colors. If any pilling remains after washing, it can be removed with a de-pilling comb. Gently brush the item over the pilled area. A light pressing with a steam iron set on the lowest setting, or using a pressing cloth as the final step should remove any creases that may have formed during the drying process leaving your garment in the perfect condition for wear or storage.
Cashmere items should be neatly folded during storage. They should not be hung on hangers for long periods of time. And remember, moths love cashmere. Garments should only be put away clean as perspiration attracts moths. TSE also recommends using lavender sachets or cedarwood blocks in your storage area, as they are natural moth deterrents.
TSE offers an exclusive line of cashmere shampoo to clean and protect luxurious knits. It is available at all US TSE boutiques.