If you’ve ever wanted to buy a really nice cashmere sweater but hated the idea of spending money on dry cleaning bills, I’m going to show you how to wash dry clean only cashmere at home – plus my trick for how to remove pills from any sweater. I’m going to ignore the fact that, in the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen snow flurries. There have been gloriously warm, sunny days too, so I’m going to focus on those. There could be a blizzard tomorrow, but I’m still going to go through the motions of spring, which includes laundering, de-fuzzing, mending, and then gleefully shoving my winter wool and cashmere to the back of my closet.
Most of my winter sweaters are cashmere and I blame Winner’s (the Canadian equivalent of T.J. Maxx). Once they started introducing cashmere at affordable price points, I was hooked. Now anything else, even the softest merino wool – heck, even cheap cashmere – feels itchy. Even at discounted prices cashmere sweaters (and scarves!) are expensive enough to make me want to care for them. But I refuse to dry clean – what a hassle and so expensive! Instead, I launder all of my dry clean only wool and cashmere garments at home, using Eucalan no rinse delicate wash (which you can also use for lingerie, down jackets, baby clothes – any delicates).
Here’s how to wash dry clean only cashmere at home – whether you have a top loader washing machine or not!
How to Wash Dry Clean Only Cashmere at Home in a Top Loader Washing Machine:
I have a top loader washing machine, so I just fill it with tepid water, add a cap or two of Eucalan, let it agitate for a minute to mix up the soap, add my wool items, and turn off the machine to let everything soak for a couple of hours. I squeeze the items a bit, mid-soak, to work the soap through. Although a 15 minute soak is the minimum, I find a couple of hours does a better, more thorough job. (It might be psychological.) Then I set the machine to spin (no rinse needed) and let the garments dry on a collapsible dry rack (which Szuka promptly investigates, so she can deposit fuzzies from her disemboweled toys onto my freshly washed cashmere sweater).
How to Wash Dry Clean Only Cashmere at Home by Hand:
If you have a front loader which prohibits soaking an item, you can also just soak a sweater in a basin and then gently squeeze (not wring) it out by hand, which is what I did as an apartment-dweller. I actually used to wash a batch of cashmere in a (freshly clean) bath tub!
I actually despise my clothes drying rack because it broke the first week we bought it (in 2007), but I can’t find a good replacement so I’ve been using and repairing it ever since. Dry racks either just have bars, like this, which are good for socks and undies but not sweaters, or they are this mesh style (which my Mom has), but it takes awhile to set up/put away those – although they’re really good for drying delicate items flat. So I’m stuck with this broken one because it has the magic combo of collapsing easily like a regular rack but it has three little mesh “shelves”. I am considering ordering this hanging style to give it a whirl (but this one teases me with its one measly mesh shelf). Honestly, I’m also thinking of just DIYing the best darn dry rack the world has ever seen.
Of course, you can also just lay a sweater on a towel to dry and avoid this agony, but be sure to flip it around and maybe even change the towel to avoid that weird wet smell – you want your wool to dry with lots of air.
How to Customize the Scent of your Eucalan:
So now you know how to how to wash your dry clean only cashmere at home and you can even customize the scent! I always find Eucalan in shops that sell knitting supplies and yarn. I did some sleuthing, though, and found a big unscented jug online for just over $50 (right here) and a 16.9 oz bottle for $8 (right here) – which is a lot less than what I paid. It comes in different scents, like grapefruit lavender, jasmine, and eucalyptus (you can even try a sample pack), but I chose unscented this time, so I can customize it. I decanted some of my colossal jug into a smaller bottle, added a few drops of vanilla essential oil, and now my cashmere sweaters smell like cake. Heavenly.
How to Remove Pills from Any Sweater:
A downside to soft woolens is how many pills and fuzzies develop, which makes even the prettiest sweater look shabby, so I use a sweater shaver to remove pills and balls. You just turn it on and gently move it across the surface. I put my hand under the sweater so the shaver is working across a smooth, flat surface. I work little by little, starting at the most pilly areas and working outward.
Even though there are literally hundreds of styles of sweater shavers on the market, I don’t think a lot of people I know use one, because I’m constantly affronted by pilly sweaters. A few relatives are terrible offenders and I’m tempted to accost them with a shaver one day – but it’s a fairly distinct buzzing noise, so I’d have to work quickly.
A Warning About Sweater Shavers:
One tip, though: I bought a sweater shaver from The Superstore a few years back that totally chopped holes in my favorite sweater! A little weary now, I use sweaters shavers manufactured in the 80s and 90s. I think that one year every single person who celebrates Christmas in North America got one as a stocking stuffer, so you can find them pretty easily in thrift stores – normally in the little section of bagged up things. I’m currently hoarding three different models, and all of them work perfectly. If you do buy one, read some Amazon reviews before committing, and then test it on a few crummy articles of clothing first – keep the packaging in case you need to return it.
Eucalan is Made in Canada and you know how I feel about things made in Canada!! Yaaaaaay! Plus it’s biodegradable. Now that you know how to wash dry clean only cashmere at home, it’s time to pack away the sweaters and find out swim stuff, yes?
I love, love, love cashmere, but just like wool and angora I can't wear it. Against my skin I break out. Over something cotton (blouse) it makes me wheeze. Sad! I have 3 beautiful sweaters hanging in my closet, they've been there for years, can't wear them, can't give them up.
Oh my goodness, that is sad, because soft wools can be so comfy and cozy – but not, obviously, if accompanied by itchy skin and wheezing. I know other people with this same allergic reaction, and they too have a few beloved woolens they can't give up. There are so many other soft, natural fibers out there, though, hopefully you've found some great ones.
I am planning an eventual basement reno which will include our laundry room. I found this link on finehomebuilding (diy built in drying racks). http://tinyurl.com/n38fboq. Thought it was a fantastic idea and is one of the first pins that made it onto my "home – laundry" board.
That is AMAZING! I am definitely going to pin that for our eventual laundry room reno too! We don't have space now, but I need to make space for that in the plans. So clever. Thanks so much!
Ha! We totally had that same sweater shaver!!!!
I've been using Eucalan for years and absolutely love the stuff. It makes washing wool blankets a breeze, I must say.
So happy to hear you're a fan! It's such good stuff, I can't gush enough.
Surely you could take the mesh shelves off of your broken drying rack and attach them with zip ties or some string to the last rack with the one mesh shelf to get what you want.
I think it's definitely possible, but I can also see it being a nightmare (too short, too long, too low, getting caught up when we open/close it). I will eventually figure something out – and maybe go with your idea – but it's been eight years. I'm in no hurry. I think it might wait until we reno the laundry room, at which point we can build in a nice dryer and I can gleefully set this thing on fire. But I do want to keep complaining, lol.
I do this too. I hate drycleaning, and it makes me itch! And I like being able to clean my clothes as needed!I have a drying rack with those barred shelves. I just put a towel over it and then put the sweater on that. It does take longer to dry but not by that much. I would like a better solution though. I used to have one of the mesh stacking ones you linked but yes, they do take a long time to set up, comparatively. Also my cat slept on it and broke it, so there's that!
So happy to hear you're a fan! I like your tip to use a towel on the drying rack. Let's make a deal: if either of us find THE perfect dry rack, we'll share with the other. I know it's out there…
Awesome post. I'm terrible at washing my own sweaters, but my mom has a magic hands, so I often cart them to her house. I know, right? I'm just not very good at washing and reshaping them. But I love my cashmere, too, so I won't give them up. I must investigate this cleaner and defuzzing (scary!) situation you've shared today. Thanks for the thorough recap.
Haha, no shame! There are many tasks I still offload to my Mom. She's just better at some things 🙂 I'm happy this was helpful!
I hate washing sweaters. But this guide will help. I've been doing some things wrong.
Happy to help!
I'm definitely going to have to order some Eucalan now, Woolite just grosses me out with its smell and I never feel like things are clean. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Tanya 🙂 I haven't seen any update on your blog/instagram for quite some time, and it is unusual. So I just leave a note to tell you I miss your posts, and I hope you're all fine. Take care ! Big hug from Germany.
Such a useful blog for us. Thanks Tanya for sharing about cashmere care at home 🙂
For a sweater drying rack, you can use a window screen. Just don’t buy steel window screening because it will rust. I use the aluminum screening. I think there is also a man-made product that might be plastic or polyester. Anyway, they are easy to store flat and can just be balanced on your rack. I have found your ideas on cleaning helpful and signed up for your news letter.
That’s such a great idea, thank you! And I’m so happy to hear you signed up for the newsletter!