How to Clean and Care for Wool and Cashmere Clothing

stack of wool sweaters

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Overview
  • Working Time: 30 - 45 mins
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Wool and cashmere are on the delicate end of the spectrum when it comes to fabrics for clothing. Therefore, great care must be taken to ensure that the cleaning process doesn't damage the the fibers, which come from sheep, goats, alpaca, and llama.

Ideally, wool and cashmere clothes should be hand-washed, though they can be machine-washed on the delicate cycle using shampoo formulated for thee garments. Stay away from chlorine bleach, as even dilute solutions of chlorine bleach will cause permanent yellowing, color loss, stiffening and weakening of wool. Additionally, never place any wool or cashmere garment in an automatic dryer—you will end up with a shrunken garment that is often impossible to restore.

Structured wool clothes, such as outer coats, blazers and men's suit coats, should always be dry-cleaned. While the exterior wool fabric is washable, the fabrics used to create the inner structure may be destroyed or become misshapen when washed. There is no way to reverse the damage once this happens.

How to Wash Wool and Cashmere Clothes
  Detergent Wool and cashmere shampoo
Water Temperature Cool
Cycle Type Delicate
Drying Cycle Type Do not machine-dry
Special Treatments Air-dry
Iron Settings Do not iron

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washbasin or sink
  • Mesh washing bag (for machine-washing)
  • Clean towels
  • Drying rack

Materials

  • Stain remover
  • Wool and cashmere shampoo

Instructions

How to Hand-Wash Wool and Cashmere Clothes

  1. Pretreat Stains

    Pretreat stains following the guidelines for the specific type of stain. However, before you pretreat, read the product label carefully to ensure it can be used on wool or cashmere clothing. Stain-removal products should be tested in an inconspicuous spot, such as an inside seam, before using.

  2. Fill a Washbasin

    Fill a washbasin or sink with cool water. Wool is sensitive to water temperature and may shrink if washed in hot water. Following the product label's directions, add wool and cashmere shampoo to the water.

  3. Soak the Garment

    Submerge the item of clothing in the water. Agitate the water surrounding the garment—not the garment itself—to distribute the soap. Let the item soak for up to 30 minutes.

  4. Rinse the Garment

    Run cool water over the item of clothing until the soap has rinsed out. Press the water out of the item, but do not wring it. The item may release excess dye into the water, so don't panic if there is water is colorful when you remove the garment. You're unlikely to notice any color loss once the item is dry.

  5. Allow to Air-Dry

    Lay the garment flat on a clean towel and roll it up to remove the extra water. Transfer the item to a drying rack or a dry towel and lay it flat to allow it to air-dry. Place it away from direct sunlight and heat sources, which can damage, shrink, or yellow the clothes.

How to Machine-Wash Wool and Cashmere Clothes

  1. Place Item in a Mesh Bag

    Put the garment in a mesh bag to protect it from harsh agitation. Put the bag in the washing machine and, following the product label's directions, add wool and cashmere shampoo to the machine.

  2. Wash on Delicate Cycle

    Set the machine to the delicate or wool cycle. Make sure the water temperature is set to cold and the spin cycle is on low.

  3. Allow to Air-Dry

    Remove the bag from the machine, and pull out the item. Lay the garment flat on a clean towel and roll it up to remove the extra water. Transfer the item to a drying rack or a dry towel and lay it flat to allow it to air-dry. Place it away from direct sunlight and heat sources, which can damage, shrink, or yellow the clothes.

    Storing Wool and Cashmere Clothes

    Store wool and cashmere garments in a cool, dry location. Heat and humidity, such as in an attic or basement, can cause damage to the fabric. For the most part, the items should be folded carefully and placed in a breathable cotton garment bag. For an extra layer of protection, wrap the pieces in acid-free tissue paper and add silica gel sachets. Avoid plastic storage bags, which trap moisture and increase the risk of mildew and discoloration.

    Wool and cashmere clothing shouldn't be hung in storage, as this will cause the item to lose its shape. The exception is jackets or suits, which can be hung with a solid, structured hanger.

    Pests, particularly moths and silverfish, love to lay eggs in and nibble on the natural fibers of wool and cashmere. Ward them off by storing the clothing with cedar balls or herb sachets that contain lavender, mint, rosemary, thyme, or cloves.

    Repairs

    Fix holes or tears in wool clothing with 100 percent wool roving in a color that matches the item of clothing, a felting needle, and a felting mat. Place the mat under the area that needs to be repaired, and then tear a piece of roving in the size that you need. Use your fingers to shape it into a spherical shape, place it on top of the hole or tear, then sew it into the wool with the felting needle. The roving will attach itself to the wool as you sew it.

    To repair a hole or tear in cashmere, purchase yarn that matches the color of the item. You can use cashmere yarn, but it's not required. Thread an embroidery needle with the yarn, but don't knot it at the end. Start to sew the hole or tear by pulling the yarn through, but leave a 1-inch tail on the inside of the sweater. Tie a knot around the closed stitch, then repeat until the hole has been fixed. Tie a knot around the stitch, then cut off excess yarn.

    Treating Stains on Wool and Cashmere Clothes

    If the stain is fresh, blot it with a clean cloth. Work a stain remover into the dirty area by gently rubbing the stain remover on the fabric with your fingers. Don't scrub at the spot with a brush, which can mark the fabric. Follow it up by washing the item carefully.

    Ironing

    Both wool and cashmere fibers can be damaged by the high heat of an iron. Use a steamer to get rid of wrinkles.

    If you must use an iron on wool or cashmere, turn the item inside out and use a pressing cloth. Apply low, moist heat to the top of the pressing cloth for no more than 10 seconds at a time.

    Tips for Washing Wool and Cashmere Clothes

    • To help wool clothes keep their shape, always empty pockets and remove any accessories that might pull on the fibers like belts and jewelry.
    • If you have a two-piece ensemble, always wash both pieces at the same time. This will keep the color and wear more consistent.
    • Button or zip clothes to help them keep their shape and prevent wrinkles.
    • Spot-clean stains as they happen so the garment might be worn a few more times. Every time you clean a wool garment, a little bit of damage is done to the fibers. Prolong the time between cleanings as long as possible.
    • For heavier wool clothes, use a soft-bristled garment brush after wearing to remove surface dust and soil.
    • Allow at least 24 hours between wearings so the fibers can dry from any moisture from the body or outside sources and relax back into their original shape.
    • If wool outer garments get wet, hang on a sturdy wooden hanger and dry at room temperature away from direct sunlight or heat.