Feb 20, 2020
Understand cashmere fibre
Protecting against damage
Preventing Moth Infestation
Tips for Storing Cashmere Garments
The clothes in your collection made of cashmere undoubtedly hold a special place as pieces to be worn with a great deal of care and consideration. Often expensive, always luxurious -- cashmere garments are a timeless cornerstone of fashion at its finest. This level of prestige calls for the very best practices in cleaning, storing and preserving these clothes.
Cashmere has reigned supreme in the world of natural fibre textiles for thousands of years, and to think it’s spun from the fine undercoat of certain mountain goats seems plucked straight from a fairytale. The process that takes the bushy winter fleece from around a goat’s neck to turn it into the luxuriant softness cashmere is known for is a time-consuming and meticulous task.
It begins in spring, when goats naturally shed their downy-soft double fleece that’s grown throughout winter to keep them warm. The undercoat can be shaved off or, preferably, combed through to release tufts of fleece to spin into skeins of yarn. Once dyed, the yarn is woven into wearable textiles of all kinds, though scarves and sweaters made of cashmere tend to be the most commonly purchased garments.
Naturally, the quality of the final garment is influenced by many factors. While any goat can produce the winter undercoat used to make cashmere’s woolen yarn, specific breeds — now called cashmere or pashmina goats — are known for possessing the softest undercoats of any breed. In particular, herds from the Kashmir Valley, hemmed to the northeast by the Himalayas, are believed to produce the finest cashmere wool due to the individual hairs of their undercoat being longer and smoother as a result of their environment.
Additionally, cashmere wool that has been collected by a comb-through method is often regarded as having a finer quality and softer feel than cashmere gathered from shorn goats. This is because the hand-picked process results in fewer of the coarse guard hairs that shearing cannot avoid so easily. However, combing and dehairing the soft fleece can take one to two weeks, which is considerably longer than less refined methods.
Knowing how much work is involved in the production of cashmere textiles, it’s easy to understand why just as much care must go into cleaning and keeping these valuable pieces pristine.
Dry cleaning is so-named due to the use of solvents, rather than soap and water, to clean garments. When it comes to whether you should dry clean your cashmere or hand wash it at home, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, you should consult the label on your garment. If it explicitly states that the item should not be dry cleaned, it’s wise to take it at its word. Dry cleaning solvents can be harsh on natural fibres like cashmere and cause a build-up that makes the piece look dull.
However, if your item has unsightly stains or if you’re worried about a moth infestation, taking it to the dry cleaner may be your best option to restore the piece to its former glory. For normal needs, dry cleaning should be done sparingly for cashmere, when appropriate.
The process of cleaning a cashmere garment yourself properly is not difficult, but it does require taking your time with a few key steps and using the appropriate products. Be sure to pre-treat any spots or stains with a cashmere-safe stain remover, then turn the garment inside out before washing it by hand or placing it into a washing machine.
Follow these steps for the best results when hand-washing cashmere, being especially careful with 100% cashmere garments:
Whether you choose to hand-wash or machine-wash your cashmere garments, special considerations need to be made when it comes to drying them. Never tumble dry cashmere garments unless the label provides instructions on how to do so.
Natural fibers like cashmere are more vulnerable to damage and permanent stretching when wet, so extraordinary care should be taken while handling damp pieces. When drying a cashmere garment after washing, lay it out flat on a hard surface.
You can speed the drying process by placing a towel beneath the garment and another on top, then gently rolling the sandwiched garment into a spiral. The natural pressure this places on the garment will help squeeze the water out without causing the fabric to stretch.
As with any part of the cleaning and drying process, consult your garment’s label for any warnings or instructions when it comes to ironing or steaming the cashmere piece. If ironing is listed as safe, it will certainly call for a low temperature setting.
You should also only iron a cashmere garment when it is turned inside out. This minimizes the risk of the iron leaving a visible mark or causing pilling or pulling of the fabric’s fibres. When possible, steaming cashmere to straighten wrinkles is preferred.
Never use bleach or products that contain bleach when spot-removing on cashmere clothing. Even if the bleach product is colour-safe or heavily diluted, the harsh chemicals can degrade the natural wool fibres.
Some cashmere and wool-safe detergents can act as a spot treatment, but only use them in this manner if the label specifies appropriate instructions on how to use it in this way. Typically, the stain removal process with a detergent means applying an undiluted or heavily concentrated amount directly to the stained area and leaving it to sit for a few minutes.
When in doubt, take the garment to a dry cleaning professional if you have an especially stubborn stain. They should be able to help you determine if their solvents are safe enough for spot-treating a cashmere garment even if it’s not suitable to use solvents for a full wash and press cycle.
Read more on cashmere stain removal.
Textiles made from natural fibres like cashmere may be more likely to hold body oils and perspiration, which can cause yellowing and staining where it contacts the skin closely. The underarm area is particularly vulnerable to this kind of exposure. Wearing thin, breathable clothing beneath your cashmere pieces, when possible, can help reduce its exposure to your natural oils.
Mishandling is the number one reason cashmere garments become misshapen or ruined. If your garment has intricate beading or bright, colourful dye, you should always handwash it even if the label says machine washing or dry cleaning are safe. This way, you can ensure you preserve every detail and keep your cashmere looking as good as new.
Due to the short, natural fibres that make up cashmere wool, your garment may begin to pill in areas where it rubs together or as a reaction to washing and drying. While this is normal for cashmere textiles, you’ll need to de-pill it carefully to avoid damaging the garment. Invest in a speciality wool comb to help you manage this process safely.
In between wear, try to keep your cashmere garments out of direct sources of light or heat. Never store them near radiators, central air vents or windows. Both heat and light are the enemies of natural fabric clothing, especially cashmere.
Cashmere or wool-safe softeners and conditioners can help keep your cashmere garments feeling soft and supple. Even mild detergents can strip away the natural oils that protect the individual hairs within each woven strand of yarn. Replenish them with safe, gentle conditioners specifically formulated for use with this delicate textile.
Clothes moths are a menace that, once established, can cause a significant amount of damage in a very short amount of time. Infestations are prone to occur when clothing is stored during the off-season, so warm summer months are prime time for clothing moths to dig in to popular winter wear like cashmere scarves and sweaters.
Clothes moths who feast on valuable garments like cashmere or silk are primarily attracted the proteins found from remnant body oils and skin cells shed during regular wear. Cleaning cashmere clothing thoroughly before storing it is the first step in preventing a destructive infestation from taking hold of your closet.
Also, clothes moths thrive in dark, damp recesses, so make sure to bring your stored garments out occasionally, even when you have no intention of wearing them any time soon. Airing them out and exposing them to gentle, ambient light can help deter pests from burrowing in for the long haul.
Investing in tried-and-true tricks of the trade may also help you keep your cashmere garments safe from pests. Cedar oils are known to ward off clothing moths, as is lavender and cloves. While the oils in cedar can destroy eggs, they do not kill larvae or grown moths. Other natural remedies likewise deter, but do not destroy, eggs, larvae and adult moths.
Chemical-based fumigants and pesticides can be incredibly effective, but some people may need to avoid their use if they are sensitive to the smell or allergic to any ingredients. In this case, moth traps are the perfect solution to controlling an infestation. These traps use non-toxic, naturally occurring pheromones to attract moths to the sticky strip that traps them to its surface permanently.
Whether you’ve just begun to see evidence of clothing moths attacking your cashmere or you’re dealing with a full-blown onslaught, it’s best to use multiple products that work to both repel and kill moths at all stages. Rewash your garments thoroughly and allow them to dry completely before storing them again after treating your space properly.
For more tips on clothes moths prevention, check our blog!
Simple steps like these will help you keep your cashmere in perfect condition so that it’s ready to be worn as soon as it’s brought back out again.
Before you pack your beloved cashmere items up for the season, you should prepare the area where they’ll be stored ahead of time. Give every inch of it a thorough dusting and disinfecting. Make sure it’s completely dry once you’re done wiping it all down.
Because cashmere clothing should never hang, you will need storage solutions that allow you to fold the garments neatly and keep them protected but still able to breathe. Choose handy storage options like a zip-up plastic bag that still allow for some airflow to keep condensation at bay.
As added protection, use an acid-free tissue paper between folded layers to reduce any possibility of pressure damage while in storage. Your storage space should also be out of direct light and heat, so choose a closet with a solid door and one that isn’t under a vent.
Finally, remember to store your cashmere garments with natural moth repellents like cedar balls and lavender sachets. In order for these to remain effective, be sure to replenish them every month or two. Ideally, the closer the garments are to these deterrents, the more effective they will be, but avoid letting the fabric of your cashmere clothing touch cedar or lavender directly. A layer of tissue or cotton cloth should be sufficient to prevent the natural oils from seeping into the cashmere.
Taking care of your cashmere clothing may require a few extra steps and a small investment in the appropriate items necessary for cleaning and storing the items safely, but it’s well worth the time and effort when you know you’ll be able to keep your luxury items for years to come.
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