Stain Removal: Tips For Cleaning Cashmere

Cashmere does not always require dry-cleaning. Fine garments with proper care can last for years. Follow these guidelines.

Cashmere is a luxurious fabric that needs special care to maintain its soft, luxurious texture. It is a common belief that cashmere must always be dry-cleaned, but this is not the case. In fact, over time, dry cleaning chemicals can damage these natural fibers.

There are appropriate reasons to dry-clean cashmere garments: they contain sequins, beads, or other delicate trim; they are multi-colored but not colorfast; they have serious stains. Also, woven cashmere items should be dry-cleaned (and it will state this on their labels), however, cashmere knits can be gently hand washed. Rubbing changes the texture of cashmere, so you will not want to spot clean your garment. If you do, there will always be a noticeable worn area on your piece. If you have a stain, either wash the entire garment or allow a dry cleaner to handle it.

To hand wash cashmere, dissolve mild detergent or baby shampoo in lukewarm water. Never use bleach. Place the garment in the water and then gently swish it around for a few minutes, allowing the suds to soak in. Be sure to wash dyed garments separately in case the colors bleed. Rinse your garment in cool water (and a little hair conditioner, if you like, to maintain softness), being careful not to stretch the fabric. When you are finished, instead of wringing out the garment, place it on a clean, un-dyed towel and roll them up together to blot away excess water. For large garments, you may want to do this several times. Finally, place your garment on a fresh towel or sweater rack. Flatten and reshape the piece, and place it away from heat or direct sunlight to dry. You may want to turn the piece over occasionally so that it will dry faster.

Although hand washing is inexpensive and not very difficult, you don't want to over wash your cashmere garments. With normal use, you should be able to wear a cashmere sweater at least half-a-dozen times before it needs washing. If you must iron your cashmere, turn it inside out, place a slightly damp cloth over the piece, and press with a cool iron. Never apply an iron directly to cashmere.

Because friction damages cashmere garments and causes pilling, when wearing a cashmere sweater, avoid jewelry, pocketbook straps, or even a coat that may have a rough lining. To accessorize, consider wearing a scarf and carrying a clutch style pocketbook. If your cashmere happens to develop pills, do not brush at them with any sort of lint remover. This just causes further pilling. Instead, wash the sweater to remove the worst of the pills and then gently remove the rest by hand.

Finally, when storing cashmere in the off-season, make sure it is clean. Body odor and stains are virtually impossible to remove once they have set for a few months. Protect your cashmere from moths by storing it with cedar chips or mothballs and keeping it in airtight plastic. If you follow these guidelines when caring for your fine cashmere items, they should bring you many years of enjoyment.

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