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Packing Cashmere

I’ve seen how multiple people have recommended cashmere sweaters as a lightweight way to keep warm on cold weather trips, so I bought two sweaters online from a Nordstrom’s after Christmas sale. When they arrived I checked the laundering instructions and saw they are dry clean only. Is there a safe way to hand wash cashmere, or should I return them?

Posted by
4343 posts

I always follow the labels. If it says dry clean, I wouldn’t wash it. Cashmere is expensive and you wouldn’t want to risk shrinking it by hand washing. I have a few cashmere items that can be hand washed.

Posted by
232 posts

I have safely hand washed cashmere. The key is using cold or lukewarm water, a mild detergent (woolite or Ivory) and handling as little as possible. Let garment soak, swishing it in the suds. Rinse thoroughly, then roll in a towel to remove excess water. Lay flat to dry.
I worked for an apparel manufacturer for years. A lot of garment care labeling is CYA.

Posted by
7950 posts

Thanks Jennifer. That was my thought, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Traveling with clothing that has to be dry cleaned would be totally impractical. I only buy clothing that is easy to clean, so I think I will be returning them. I’ll keep my eyes open for hand washable cashmere.

Posted by
7950 posts

Katheryne, that’s good to know. Now I’m not sure what to do. Maybe I’ll keep one and return the other.

Posted by
817 posts

Hi. I travel (and work) with cashmere. I often get good deals online at Garnet Hill, especially at the end of the season. I used to do the home dry cleaning method with Dryel in my dryer, but for some reason, those dryer sheets have disappeared from stores. Perhaps they are not environmentally friendly? When I found I could not dry clean at home, I took a good look at my newish washer. I have a setting called hand wash light. I put each sweater in a lingerie bag and do a small load on cold. This works for me. I dry flat - actually, draped on towels over the upstairs banister.

I would not want to suggest you do this with your new purchases. I had older versions that I was happy to experiment with, and the experiment was successful.

In travelling with cashmere or other woolens, I make sure to have an underlayer, say a silk long-john t-shirt. This absorbs many daily odors. I also travel with the Trader Joe's dryer lavender packets. Put them under the arms at night to refresh.

A nice lightweight fleece may be less problematic and still look nice and may relieve you of this decision??

Posted by
1237 posts

I've got one cashmere sweater, and three Merino fine wool ones.
If you have quite a new washer, you'll be fine using the shortest, coldest delicate cycle, as I do for all of mine.
I put in an old well worn towel with them, and dry them flat.

Posted by
3564 posts

As mentioned, a lot of labels err on the side of caution. I would actually suggest merino for travel. It washes better and seems to have a longer, tighter fiber and twist so it doesn't pill as much as I experience with cashmere or cashmere blends.
Wool has a lot of antibacterial products, so if you buy and pack one or two of those blow up travel hangers, use them for your sweaters and hang to air.
If you prefer to not dry clean then first check on line whether you can find washable cashmere as an alternative and then return. If sale was good and you want to trial one, then try it holding on to the second one as long as you can and still fit the return date. Thankfully covid seems to mean generous return policies.

Posted by
11905 posts

It didn't shrink when the goat wore it out in the rain, and it won't shrink for you if you wash it carefully, as described above. The bigger risk is pilling if it is inexpensive cashmere made from shorter fibers. Be careful not to rub it too much.

I have a lovely cable-knit cashmere sweater I bought years ago from Territory Ahead, back when they sold womens' clothing. The label says, "Hand wash, cold, in mild soap. Do not wring or twist. Lay flat to dry". I have washed this numerous times with no ill effect. Handle it carefully in the water, squeeze the suds through it, and then rinse.* Wrap it in a towel to press out most of the water ( I put it on the bathroom floor and dance on it). Then it goes flat on a mesh sweater dryer.

*Try to avoid running water directly over the sweater (that can cause pilling too). Fill the basin with sudsy water, immerse the sweater and squeeze, then lift it from the water while you drain and re-fill the Basin with clean rinse water. You will have to do that several times to get the suds out.

I like Bronners peppermint Castile liquid soap for washing wool and cashmere. It is nice and gentle, and the peppermint scent is a good moth repellent, if you need to worry about those. We don't seem to have them here, but I keep all my merino and cashmere sweaters in ziplock bags or plastic salad boxes just in case.

I used to have a cashmere turtleneck I bought at Nordies and washed that too. But it was itchy around my neck so I gave it away.

I agree with Debbie that many dry-clean-only tags are CYA. I often ignore them.

And Andrea, have you tried merino wool? I find it just as soft and itch-free as cashmere, and it is easier to care for. The yarn is twisted more tightly so it is more durable and less prone to pilling. Brands like Smartwool and Icebreaker are mostly athletic styles, but those are fine for a warm baselayer. And if you want something to wear as a final layer, there are some more stylish options, by those or other brands.

Edit: I was writing when Maria was posting her reply, somdid not see it till now. I see we agree on the longer fibers and tighter twist with merino. I like it so much Inwear it summer and winter.

I suggest, as others have, that you try washing one of the cashmere sweaters before returning either of them. Maybe even twice. Then decide. As you know, Nordstrom has a very generous return policy, so even if you take a month to make up your mind you should have no trouble returning it. Just be sure you keep the return shipping label ( or you can probably print one from your order history if you didn't).

Posted by
5518 posts

My understanding is the regulations in the US require a garment to list a minimum of one acceptable cleaning method, so they usually choose the safest option.

Posted by
430 posts

The gentle hand-wash, gentle towel-wring, & dry on a flat mesh rack method has worked fine for me for years. 'Course, the only cashmeres in our house come from thrift stores, so no big bucks invested, but still I want them to be happy. Great travel companions, ditto merino.

Dry-cleaning typically uses, or at least used to use, harsh chemicals, & isn't necessarily dry: name comes reportedly from the method's inventor, Mr. (or Mrs.) Drei. Maybe that's apocryphal, but for sure beware smelly smells.

What's CYA, way upthread?

Posted by
7950 posts

Stewart&Vicki, CYA = Cover Your Ass.

Cashmere is nice, but I think it’s too high maintenance for me. I have a couple of merino wool sweaters I bought at Costco a few years ago that are suitable for a top layer. They didn’t carry them last year. Maybe they will get more in before the trip I hope to take in November/December.

Thanks for all the great advice everyone!

Posted by
2447 posts

Hi Andrea, I have used Nordstrom brand Unscented Fabric Wash for Cashmere, lingerie & workout fabrics, etc. (a little bit goes a long way.). Unfortunately they recently discontinued the product. I am almost out of the fabric wash. (It lasted 2 years) They now have a product called Tangent Cashmere Detergent. It’s organic and is designed specifically for Cashmere. Like others have mentioned, I am not a fan of Cashmere. I still have a Cashmere hat and scarf but I prefer Merino Wool. I like to layer with silk for cold weather. It’s light weight for travel. As mentioned up thread, I also store my wools in a gallon ziplock bag.

Posted by
1190 posts

I know I shared this on a thread about a year ago, but I was a volunteer backstage when a professional dance company came thru to do Nutcracker Suite with ornate, fragile costumes, and they spritz them w vodka to neutralize perspiration smells

Posted by
5498 posts

Sweaters are my first stop at the thrift store -- checking for merino wool or cashmere. At $10 I feel OK using cold water with Woolite (mostly just soaking, with some hand-agitation) and drying flat on a sweater rack. On a trip it's spot-cleaning in the sink.
And I was also told by a cousin in the high-end apparel industry that many labels say "dry cleaning only" because if they said "hand wash cold, dry flat" there would be customers who would throw the item in the washing machine and dryer ... and then demand replacements.

Posted by
1112 posts

I love cashmere, also alpaca. Lightweight and warm. I don’t wear wool. I took a cashmere cardigan to Italy. A teaspoon of Forever New, available on Amazon, in cold water hand washed it fine. The low amount of soap created less bubbles to rinse out but was adequate for one sweater in the sink. Do not wring but wrap in a towel to get the water out. Then lay flat to dry.

If there are any knitters out there, cashmere and alpaca are wonderful to knit with. I’m knitting an alpaca hooded sweater now.

Posted by
80 posts

I usually hand wash my cashmere sweaters using the methods mentioned above and lay them flat to dry. They come out fine. I don't need to wash them very often and usually wear something underneath. The only time I dry cleaned cashmere was when I got yellow flower pollen on a cardigan from an arrangement of lillies. The dry cleaning did get the pollen off. In terms of travel, I find that merino wool packs down thinner, but cashmere seems a little lighter.

Posted by
753 posts

Unless you're moving every couple days (like on a tour) what's wrong with having them cleaned? Most good hotels offer this service. I very rarely do laundry of any sort when traveling. I hate to waste the time.

Posted by
38 posts

"Hand wash, cold, in mild soap. Do not wring or twist. Lay flat to dry".

This is the perfect advice. I have kept my cashmere in good condition for years following this method.
Cashmere is warm and lightweight - perfect for travel!

Posted by
7964 posts

"It didn't shrink when the goat wore it out in the rain, and it won't shrink for you if you wash it carefully, as described above."

My thought exactly! My only issue with cashmere was that it pilled from where I wore my cross body purse across it. Well, that and I didn't store it properly at the end of the season and a moth got to it.

I truly wanted Merino wool to not be itchy. I had several Tee shirts and concluded they were itchy although they might not be bad as an outer garment unless the collar touched me. I found Cashmere easier to wear - no itchy, even the cheapo cardies from Lands End.

BTW, some of those sweaters from Nordies come in beautiful colors!

Posted by
183 posts

I wear both merino and cashmere, at home and pre-Covid when I could travel. I use the delicate wash machine setting ( cool water), a mesh bag for the really delicate sweaters and a specialty soap like those mentioned already- then gently reshape and air dry. For travel I don't see why you would need to wash an outer layer regardless of the material, if you wear a silk or other base layer- you can sink wash that as/if needed and it should dry overnight.
For me merino is more for hiking and other outdoor activities (socks, too) where cashmere would be for a museum day.
Garnet Hill, washable cashmere, has great sales, like the very wrap I am currently "wearing"- and the wrap and a cashmere neck warmer are such comfort items I always take both for travel.

Posted by
136 posts

Cashmere sweaters don't need to be washed often. They are natural and don't smell. Wear a thin teeshirt under it, and you can get away with washing it when returning from the trip.
I usually wash them at the end of the winter season. Hand wash only- I use shampoo; lay flat to dry on a towel; use hair conditioner- it prevents shrinking.
I sometimes iron them through a wet thin cotton cloth - it removes dirt well and avoids washing.

Posted by
868 posts

I wear cashmere sweaters almost everyday in the winter. I use Woolite dryer sheets (dry cleaner at home). You place sweaters and scarves, dress pants, etc. in the dryer with a sheet for about 15 minutes. Used to be able to get the Woolite sheets at the grocery (look up on the shelf where Dryel and Woolite products are.) If the grocery doesn’t sell them, check online at Walgreens or other online merchants.

Posted by
7950 posts

Wow, thanks for all of the responses. I bought 2 V-neck sweaters, one red and one blue. The V-neck would make it difficult to wear something underneath, so I am going to return the sweaters. Today was the last day of the sale, so I decided to buy a crew neck in blue. I will then be able to wear something underneath and that should eliminate the need to wash it with any frequency. I have some powdered Forever New that I take with me when I travel for sink washing if necessary. I try to stay in apartments with a washer when possible. We will only have a couple of two night stops. Well, I’m not sure what to expect during the week we visit my family in Germany, but I’m sure it will be fine. Reading the reviews for the sweater some people complained about pilling. I’ll wear it after it arrives to see if that’s a problem. If so, Nordstrom has a very generous return policy. I’ll also check thrift stores when Covid allows to see what I can find there. I have a Merino wool sweater I got at Costco a few years ago that I will take as well. I hope they carry them again this year. Thanks again!!

Posted by
868 posts

Andrea, good luck with your purchases!
I think pilling depends on the maker. I’ve had Boden cashmere sweaters that I’ve worn for years, and I’ve worn them out, but they never pilled. I have two of the LL Bean cashmere v-necks, and they’re nice, soft sweaters, but they started pilling after little wear. I have a few Banana Republic merino sweaters that have held up pretty well. It seems to vary depending on brand.

Posted by
4382 posts

I was hoping friend Kim would jump in here. We used to have a wonderful luggage store here in the Tulsa area that offered packing classes. I never made it to one, but Kim did. She said the best advice she got was to always pack a couple of camisoles to wear under other layers. The camis absorb sweat and odor, and are a breeze to wash. The outer layers stay fresh.

Posted by
7448 posts

I’m glad to hear cashmere can be washed. I’ve never bought cashmere because i worked at a dry cleaners in high school and i avoid dry cleaning at all costs because of what i saw “behind the scene”. Now that i know i can hand wash it, i may buy it.

Posted by
157 posts

I have several cashmere sweaters and love them for being warm but not hot and also light for packing. Yes, they will often pill where there is a rub like a purse strap or underarm. The pills can easily be removed with a sweater shaver, available on Amazon. Just use a light touch.

Posted by
617 posts

Joe- because it is simply not done! And no wearing white after Labor Day unless your last name is Wolfe.

Posted by
7950 posts

Well guys, let me try to explain. The sweater has a real V-neck. It’s a much lower V than you would find on a mans V-neck sweater. A mans V-neck with a nice T-shirt looks okay. To wear a high neck thermal shirt on a woman’s V-neck would look stupid. It would be like having your underwear hang out. Although maybe that’s a look you like. Personally I don’t. If you by chance have a woman in your life maybe they can explain it to you.

Onefastbob, thanks for trying to mansplain though. I’m sure you must be a real fashionista.

Posted by
154 posts

Andrea, go take a look at Garnet Hill as another poster mentioned. They are having a huge sale and it ends tomorrow - lots of cashmere options. I have safely hand washed my cashmere sweaters the same way the other ladies on here have described.

Posted by
6982 posts

To wear a high neck thermal shirt on a woman’s V-neck would look stupid

I had not contemplated a 'thermal' type garment being the other piece.

I had envisioned something like this-
https://www.nordstrom.com/s/chelsea28-ruched-mock-neck-tank/5583982?origin=category-personalizedsort&breadcrumb=Home%2FWomen%2FClothing%2FTops&color=grey%20light%20heather

or this
-- https://www.nordstrom.com/s/bdg-urban-outfitters-ribbed-baby-tee/5312519?origin=coordinating-5312519-0-2-FTR-recbot-recently_viewed_snowplow_mvp&recs_placement=FTR&recs_strategy=recently_viewed_snowplow_mvp&recs_source=recbot&recs_page_type=category&recs_seed=0&color=LILAC

being used beneath the sweater.

If 'it's just not done', is the reason I can accept that, not understand it, but accept it.

I guess there is a reason when my wife goes shopping, I am left home. :-)

Posted by
617 posts

Wait a minute! Didn’t Madonna make a lot of money running around (on stage and elsewhere) with her undergarments hanging out....? LOL

Yeah, not asking my wife about this. That would raise too many other questions - and I see no good coming out of that.

Posted by
7950 posts

Well guys, I’ll put your fashion advice just behind my husband’s. I don’t take it from him either. But thanks for trying.

I would think wearing something sleeveless under a sweater would defeat the purpose of doing it to keep it clean since underarms would be exposed.

lizthemadhatter, thanks for the tip about Garnet Hill. Sadly the only things I would have been interested were sold out. I’ll just stick with the crew neck cashmere I just ordered and the merino wool I have. I hope to find at least one more sweater in a thrift shop. Maybe by the time it’s safe to go shopping here again people will have cleaned out their closets and discarded winter wear.

Posted by
7448 posts

Stewart&Vicki, many dry cleaners use dry cleaning fluid much longer than they should to save money because it’s expensive. If you can smell any chemical at all on your dry cleaning it’s because the dry cleaner over-used the chemical fluid. Also, chemical fluid dry cleaners use can damage certain fabrics, melt buttons, zippers, etc. They should be tested first but sometimes aren’t and clothes can get ruined.

For me, putting clothes in a machine with chemical fluid isn’t washing or cleaning them. Clothes aren’t really clean imo unless they’re washed with soap and water, but that’s just me.

Posted by
626 posts

I wear the cheapo cardigans from Lands End when I travel and rarely wash them. At home, I am not at all careful with my clothes, frequently using them to wipe paint or dirt or glue or whatever off my hands. But traveling, I have learned to open up my cashmere cardigan while I am eating anything and moving it over to the sides so that I can avoid staining the front of it when I inevitably do what is called in my family "donating to the food shelf."

Posted by
37 posts

I love my Naadam cashmere sweaters and their washing instructions specifically warn against dry cleaning. They give hand washing instructions along the same lines as many of the previous posters. For merino, check out Woolx - very high quality products easily washed in the sink and dry overnight.