Let’s bust this myth once and for all: You do not have to dry clean your sweaters. Not. Even. Cashmere. We know, we know—you’ve had some disasters that have scared you, like when one of your wooly faves accidentally ended up in the dryer. (On the bright side, your two-year-old niece now has a chic turtleneck). But if you practice some TLC, there’s no reason to haul your beloved knits off to the cleaners.
THE BEST WAY TO WASH WOOL SWEATERS
Don’t let cashmere scare you—when it comes to washing, this plush fabric is like any other sweater in your closet. “All animals in the wool family, whether sheep, alpaca, mohair, lamb, merino or camel use the same cleaning process,” says Whiting.
Her advice: It’s always safer to hand wash. Fill a sink, tub, or basin with tepid water and add a squirt of a cleanser that’s specially formulated for wool, like The Laundress Wool and Cashmere Shampoo. Don’t have any on hand? “The alternative is a good hair shampoo, because wool and cashmere is hair,” she says. Next, submerge your sweater in the bath. Gently swirl it around for about 30 seconds, and let it soak for up to 30 minutes. Drain the dirty water and rinse with cool, clean water. Now for the most crucial step. “Avoid that gut reaction to wring it,” stresses the expert. “Wringing manipulates the fibers, and when the yarns are wet, they’re weaker. You might end up disfiguring your sweater.” Instead, gently remove the water by pressing your sweater into a ball (think: pizza dough). You can even press the ball into the side of the sink or your work surface.
THE BEST WAY TO DRY A SWEATER
Back away from the dryer, which is notorious for shrinking knits. Once you’ve gotten the excess water out, lay the sweater flat on a clean towel or drying rack and re-create its natural shape. Let it air dry. To speed up the drying, roll the sweater up in the towel like a sleeping bag. Then, unroll it and replace the wet towel with a fresh dry one or place the sweater on a drying rack and reshape it again. A major no-no: Hanging your sweater up to dry. “You’re going to end up with a sleeve sagging in a place it shouldn’t be,” says Whiting.
HOW TO WASH CASHMERE IN THE WASHING MACHINE
Though Whiting prefers hand-washing, the washing machine isn’t off limits. For best results, she says, place your sweater in a mesh washing bag. Select the delicate cycle on the machine, and make sure the water temperature is cold and the spin is on low. “You can shrink or felt an item by overly agitating it,” she warns. “That’s having your machine on too high, or really going to town with the item while hand washing.” Once the cycle is complete, promptly remove the sweater to reduce creasing and follow the drying instructions above.