Spring is when many people switch wardrobes, putting sweaters and scarves and heavy winter coats away in favor of linen shirts, lightweight cottons, and embroidered shorts. Warmer weather is a good time to review the best practices for washing and storing wool sweaters, from cashmere to merino, and beyond.
The Gold Standard: Hand Washing
Hand washing is truly the ideal way to clean a sweater made from natural fibers like cashmere, merino, or angora. To the uninitiated, hand washing may sound like a miserable, labor-intensive chore, but it's actually a very simple and straightforward endeavor. In the case of hand washing sweaters, a short one, because sweaters do not like to be over-handled and should not be exposed to water for a prolonged amount of time.
Use a detergent like Soak Wash when you wash sweaters by hand.
Here's how to wash a sweater:
1. Use cold-to-lukewarm water and make sure wherever you're performing this operation is roomy enough to accommodate enough water to fully submerge the sweater, with space left for your hands to get in there.
2. A no-rinse detergent like Soak Wash is ideal (because again, sweaters don't like to be over-handled).
3. After washing, drain the water and, with the sweater still in the sink, use your hands to press down, which will push excess water out. Don't wring! Wringing a sweater will twist the fibers, which can stretch or fray the fibers.
4. Place the sweater on a dry towel and roll it up, to squeeze out even more water.
5. Finally, lay the sweater flat to air dry, as hanging a wet sweater can stretch it until its misshapen.
Cashmere in the Washing Machine
By all means, you may certainly wash your cashmere in the machine! Just follow these simple rules:
1. Use cold water.
2. Select the delicate setting and choose the shortest cycle available.
3. After washing, reshape the sweater and lay it flat to air dry.
One important caveat however: If you have a top-loading washing machine with a center agitator, the plastic fins may introduce more friction than is good for delicate fabrics.
The Case Against Dry Cleaning
Dry cleaning, despite what care tag labels may suggest, isn't ideal when it comes to sweater care. The solvents used in dry cleaning will strip away the natural oils found in cashmere and other wools, making the fibers less soft and more prone to deterioration over time.
Dry cleaning is also less effective at eliminating smells than is wet washing, which is particularly important with sweaters that tend to be worn many times before being cleaned, and which can develop personal odor issues.
However, dry cleaning has one big advantage over hand or machine washing: You're not doing the actual work. If outsourcing the care of your sweaters is crucial for you, look for specialty cleaners, like Allo Laverie in New York, that offer hand washing services.
If you're a person who puts sweaters into seasonal storage, there are a few things that will preserve them while they're stashed for the summer. The most important thing is to clean them before they're put away; over time, even the smallest stains can set in, and lingering scent from lotions, perfume and cologne, or deodorant can attract pests.
Speaking of pests: Skip the mothballs, which smell dreadful and are also toxic, and opt for cedar or lavender. The natural fibers of your sweaters need to breathe, so store sweaters in protective bags made of linen or cotton, and not in plastic bins. The exception to this is if your storage space is prone to high moisture levels and/or flooding, in which case plastic will be a better bet for keeping your precious sweaters safe.
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.