I have a reputation for being obsessed with looking after my clothes. Everything has the right hanger, box or covering. Some items are best folded up in a drawer with a more than substantial amount of moth repellent; important shoes are kept in their original boxes; and I separate my tights from my neatly matched, rolled-up socks. I like to make things last and enjoy fussing over my precious items, new and old.
One thing I still don’t really know how to look after, though, is cashmere. How does one wash cashmere at home? Is that a fashion crime? Should your cashmere sweaters go in the freezer or something? Are there especially evil moths that will just come for my cosiest knits at a certain time of the year? How long can I wear a cashmere sweater for and expect it to last or look passable? Questions, questions!
Well, someone who basically speaks cashmere, Anna Singh, co-founder of Chinti & Parker, kindly gave me the answers. So here’s her expert guide to caring for your cashmere pieces, which highlighted quite a few things I’ve been doing wrong over the years…
1. What is the biggest mistake when it comes to looking after cashmere?
"Never put cashmere away dirty! Sweat, hair and stains attract moths and make it more likely for female moths to find the perfect place for their eggs to hatch. Cashmere is a protein fibre—much like our own hair—and responds well to the same gentle washing approach. It’s best to wash your cashmere every three to four wears, even if it’s not visibly stained."
2. So can I use a washing machine to clean my cashmere pieces?
"We would never recommend using the washing machine, as the risks are far too high. The best way to wash your cashmere is by hand with a specialist cashmere wash, baby shampoo or gentle low-alkaline detergent. The more alkaline detergent is, the harsher it will be on your cashmere. Here are the best steps for cleaning your cashmere:
"1. If you’re washing more than one item, ensure you separate pieces into light and dark colour groups, start with the lightest colour first and use tepid water.
"2. Soak for 15 minutes and swish, lightly squish (technical term) the sweater around in the soapy water.
"3. Next, gently press out the excess water but never wring the sweater. Always be careful not to stretch the fabric. This can sometimes happen to delicate cashmere weights under hard running water, so avoid this!
"4. Very wet cashmere can take days to dry, so top tip—use a large salad spinner to remove any excess water. We find the spinners with a pull cord are the most effective.
"5. When it comes to drying, place your sweater on a large, flat towel and reshape it as it dries, roll the sweater in the towel to remove any excess water, then reshape and lay flat to dry."
If, however, you have bought machine-washable cashmere, it will likely be fine so long as you follow the washing instructions. I would also recommend that you invest in a delicate or knitwear-specific washing detergent—Steamery has one that I really love.
3. What is the best way to store cashmere?
"Store your cashmere in a drawer or storage box with cedar balls. These are great to store with cashmere, as moths don't like the smell. They need to be replaced each season since the smell will fade. We include one of these with each cashmere purchase from our website to get you started. Another great option that works is cedar oil."
4. Should I hang or fold my cashmere jumpers?
"Always fold. Cashmere will stretch and lose its shape if it's hung. Over time, a hanging sweater's sleeves will grow longer and longer, where the shoulder seam is will move down towards your elbows. Even if this is the style of the garment, it will visibly lose its look over time if you leave it hanging. Every evening in our showroom, we take samples off the rails and lay them on canvas fabric to ensure as little stretch as possible."
5. Do you need a razor or brush for pilling?
"To remove any pilling, you can use a razor, electric de-bobbler or cashmere comb. Try to always remove the pills in this way, pulling them off by hand the sweater will, over time, soften even more. It's a common misconception that pilling is linked to the quality of the cashmere itself; however, it's simply a natural occurrence and an inevitable consequence of the delicate processing of fine cashmere."
My favourite is the Steamery Pilo Fabric Shaver (£58), which you can buy from Arket.
6. How best can you deter moths?
"In addition to cedar balls, moths don't like the light or being disturbed. It's good to get into the habit of opening your drawers once a month and giving your cashmere pieces a good shake. To be extra safe, you can air out your clothes in the sun as larvae are strongly repelled by light and will fall from clothing."
7. Can you mend cashmere if you get a moth hole, or is it game over?
"If you need to repair any holes in a cashmere sweater, we recommend sending the piece to Love Cashmere Care Service in Hawick, Scotland. However, if you suspect a moth has caused the hole, ensure you freeze the piece ahead of sending."
8. What's the deal with freezing cashmere?
"If you do see a moth flying around, the first thing to do is to try and kill the larvae and any eggs. The easiest way to do this is to put the affected items into a sealed plastic bag and place them in the freezer for a week. Then take the bags out and let them return to room temperature. Wash and lay flat to dry."
9. How long should a cashmere jumper last?
"At least 10 years, if you take care of it. I still have some of our original sweaters. It really just depends on how well you care for it. We strongly encourage and support our customers in taking care of their Chinti & Parker garments. We include a step-by-step guide on our website to ensure product longevity."
Shop our favourite cashmere jumpers and cashmere-care items: