How to Wash and Care for Wool and Cashmere Clothing

stack of wool sweaters

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 30 - 45 mins
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0 to $25

Wool, which comes from sheep, llamas, and alpacas, and cashmere, which comes from goats, are on the delicate end of the spectrum when it comes to fabrics for clothing. Learning how to wash wool and cashmere properly greatly reduces any damage that can be done to the fibers during the cleaning process.

Ideally, wool and cashmere clothes should be hand-washed, though they can be machine-washed on the delicate cycle using shampoo formulated for these 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.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

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


  • Stain remover
  • Wool and cashmere shampoo


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
How Often to Wash After every few wearings
Materials and tools to clean wool and cashmere clothing

The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

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 use.

    Red wool sweater pretreating stain and tested inside seam

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  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.

    Shampoo measured over washbasin with water to wash wool sweater

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  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.

    Red wool sweater soaking in washbasin with soapy water

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  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.

    Water pressed out of red wool sweater after rinsing

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  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.

    Red wool sweater wrapped in white towel for drying

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

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.

    Black wool garment placed in mesh bag for washing

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  2. Wash on Delicate Cycle

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

    Mesh bag placed in washing machine

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  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.

    Black wool sweater laid flat to air dry

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

    Treating Stains on Wool and Cashmere

    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.

    Stain remover gently rubbed into wool sweater

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

    Care and Repairs

    Fix holes or tears in wool clothing with 100 percent wool roving in a color that matches the item of clothing. You will also need 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 last stitch, then cut off excess yarn.

    Ball of black yarn pulled to repair hole in wool sweater

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor


    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.

    Clothes steamer passing over wool sweater to iron

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

    Storing Wool and Cashmere

    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.

    Red wool sweater wrapped in acid-free tissue paper for storage

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

    How Often to Wash Wool and Cashmere

    Wash wool and cashmere after every few wearings (between seven to 10, if possible), or after every season you wear the item. 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.

    Tips for Washing Wool and Cashmere

    • 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 wool 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.
    • 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 them on a sturdy wooden hanger and dry them at room temperature away from direct sunlight or heat.
    • How do you wash wool without ruining it?

      Read the instruction label first to see what the manufacturer suggests. Typically an unstructured wool or cashmere item can be carefully washed by hand or on the delicate cycle of a machine and is best air-dried.

    • Can wool go in the dryer?

      Some garments can be dried on the tumble-dry setting, but always check the care label for specifics.

    • Does wool shrink when washed?

      It can shrink if you wash it in hot water. Hot water causes wool to shrink.