Products mentioned in this post:
There was an overwhelming amount of positive response from my past post about how to shop for quality sweaters (thank you!!). Many of you e-mailed and submitted your responses via my survey that you'd love to know how I care for my cashmere/wool pieces. You also let me know that you enjoy this type of post-- so there will be more like this to come!
So first thing's first. I almost never hang my sweaters. Have you ever tried to hang a sweater and then when you go to pull it off of the hanger, it becomes misshapen or stretched in the shoulders? It practically ruins the sweater!
Do not hang your sweaters. Reserve drawer or shelving space for them.
I personally prefer storing sweaters in drawers or any type of storage where they are closed off from dust/light/etc. You can see in the photo above this is exactly how my cashmere pieces are stored. A pile of sweaters looks so nice and neat sitting on a shelf, but having them exposed to light breaks the natural fibers down quicker. I also suggest storing them in something closed off because bugs are a real issue. Too many times, I have reached for a favorite sweater of mine only to be disappointed to find holes in it from nasty little moths or other bugs.
Depending on your climate, bugs may be a bigger issue or less of one, so it's important to be conscious of that. Same things goes for humidity... you want to make sure you are storing them in a very dry environment!
Store your sweaters with cedar.
A cedar closet would be ideal. My sister and parents both have cedar closets which are awesome. Sadly, I do not have one. Although, you can line your closet with cedar...I would suggest that you do this option if you own your home, not if you're renting! Since I don't have a cedar closet, I got this great kit off of Amazon which is 71 pieces of cedar in different formats (only $15!). From little blocks to sachets, this kit has it all. I stash the pieces all throughout my closets and drawers.
The key here is to make sure that you can actually smell the cedar. If you can't, you take a piece of sandpaper and lightly sand the pieces and they will release their scent again. Pretty simple and absolutely worth it because it works.
During the off-season, store your sweaters in sealed containers.
Maybe you have some heavy wool or cashmere sweaters that you put away during the summer months and that's great. My suggestion is to put them away in a manner that assures that they are sealed away in a dry, dark place in a temperature controlled space. I very carefully fold each sweater, place a cedar block on top and then wrap in tissue paper and seal with a piece of tape. Then I store it in a plastic bin and top it off with cedar planks (which you can buy at any home improvement store). I then tape the lid shut and stick a label on the bin so I know exactly what the contents are.
Hand wash your sweaters with soap/detergent that is made specifically for cashmere or wool.
I wait until the absolute last second until I wash my wool and cashmere. To make that sound less gross and more hygienic, I almost always wear some type of undershirt when I wear a wool or cashmere sweater. Whether that be a simple cotton tee or a silk camisole, making sure there's a barrier between my skin (which has sweat and oil that will deteriorate the fabrics) is my main goal. I know that sounds so silly when you think about the fact your buying cashmere for the softness, but it is something that will majorly help to preserve the sweater's longevity.
When washing, I usually do this when I have racked up a few sweaters that need to be cleaned so that it's more like doing a load and I can get it over with at one time (because this is time-consuming). You'll need a bucket/bin that's plenty big enough.
Fill your bin up with cool water (not cold, cool). DO NOT USE WARM/HOT WATER. Any type of warm water/heat, in general, is what causes wool and cashmere to shrink. I REPEAT, NOTHING WARM/HOT. You've been warned.
I like to dip my garment (inside out) in the bucket of water so that it is damp (not soaking) and then add in a few squirts of the cashmere and wool shampoo (it smells really nice). You'll want to gently massage the shampoo into the sweater. Think of it almost like how you would wash your hair. Never pull, stretch, or wring out the sweater, if you do, it will become misshapen. Once you have kneaded the shampoo throughout the sweater, put it into the bucket of water and let it soak for an hour or two. When you come back, gently rinse your sweater with cool water.
The sweater will be soaking wet. Again, do not wring out the sweater! Lay it flat on a towel and gently pat it with the towel until you've taken away all of the excess water. Then lay perfectly flat to dry so it will keep its shape. It will take several hours to dry-- I like to leave them to sit overnight.
I will warn you. I've never had a cashmere sweater ruined with this process, but after washing a cashmere or wool sweater for the first time, I can always tell a difference post wash. It almost makes it seem a little worn, which is not necessarily a bad thing, it just looks more loved and actually becomes softer. But, this is why I always wait for as long as possible to wash them for the first time.
If you are pressed for time, go ahead and toss your pieces (inside out) into your washing machine. I am only recommending this if you have a really nice machine with the appropriate settings. For example, I'm willing to bet your dorm room machines are not equipped for this nor are some apartment laundry rooms. I have washed cashmere (inside out) on gentle in the washing machine and quite honestly I can't tell much of difference between handwashing vs. in the machine-- but I do feel like handwashing is a much more gentle way to go about it and I like to play it on the safe side when it comes to this!
Never dry clean your wool or cashmere.
I know that dry cleaning is the easiest way out, and a lot of the care labels on sweater tags will even say 'dry clean only', but don't do it. The chemicals used in the dry-cleaning process break down the natural fibers. Think about it: a cashmere sweater is goat hair and a wool sweater is sheep hair. You wouldn't put chemicals on their hair (or your hair!!) so you don't want to do that to your sweater!
If you must hang, use padded hangers.
I have these great satin padded hangers which are very inexpensive but do the trick. You'll notice a lot of higher end hotels usually have these in the closet and there's good reason for it. The satin is soft and smooth enough so that it won't cause your sweater to pill. The padding gives the sweater a little more shape while it hangs. I like to hang sweaters if I am getting ready and know that I am going to wear a certain sweater. I also use it to hang sweaters when they need to be steamed.
So there you have it! That is how I make sure my sweaters last as long as possible! Scroll through to see some of my favorite cashmere/wool/alpaca pieces!