How To Care For Cashmere Sweaters

I live in a pretty warm place, and don’t really have many occasions to wear cashmere. Basically it’s only cool enough to wear sweaters here in January and February, so any cashmere I do buy really only sees daylight (or soiree light) when I travel. 

Cashmere is expensive, so it can be devastating when you pull out that signature piece to find it has been an all-you-can-eat buffet for moths, or that it has pilled where the arms meet the torso, or when your fluffy cashmere comes back from the cleaners looking like a lack-luster polyester blend.

This article came to my inbox via
If you are a cashmere lover, you may find it helpful too!

Love Your Cashmere Sweaters? Here’s How to Care for Them, From’s Resident Expert

Written by Lynn Yaeger for

image by Arno Frugie for Vogue

Because I am very, very old, I have owned far more sweaters than you have. In the ’90s they were vintage, in the aughts their labels gradually improved, and today a lot of them are what I would modestly describe as extremely nice.

After all these years of tending to knits; of watching age wither them; and witnessing their sad, often premature demises, I have learned a few things about their care and handling. In fact, you might say, I’m a bit of a jailhouse expert on the subject.

So, in the spirit of the season, I have decided to share a number of my hard-learned secrets, carefully culled from decades of disasters.

Moths, the Enemy
First off, let’s deal with the worst-case scenario: the hell wrought by the revolting, insidious moth. These vile creatures appear to be endemic in Manhattan—a friend swears she laid a wet sweater out one night to dry and woke up the next morning to find a tiny hole. To add insult to injury, they invariably feast on your more expensive items, preferring a nibble at a Chanel cashmere buffet to chowing down on a Big Lebowski thrift shop number. To stem this encroachment, it is useful to employ the birth control metaphor. Forget cedar chests and closets, the moth-repellent equivalent of the unreliable rhythm method. What you need is an ultra-strong condom in the form of an impenetrable zip-top plastic bag. Then, after you seal the sweater in the bag, put it in a drawer that closes tightly. (Yes, purchase a separate chest of drawers if you must! You will thank me when your sweaters are hole-free.)

In the event that the damage is already done, you can also call upon the re-weaver. These skilled craftspeople will work miracles—but the cost isn’t exactly cheap. Still, if it really is worth $100 to make your turtleneck whole again, so to speak, it’s nice to know these geniuses exist.

Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Limited US

Pills and Fuzz
Sometimes the problem isn’t holes but pills. These annoying bumps can show up after a single wearing of a new sweater. (Research reveals that more and more, cheap fibers are employed in sweater construction, unlike the better filaments used years ago, which is why your 1950s cardigan, now almost 70 years old, remains pill-free and that thing you bought last month is dying.) For this blight, you can try a battery-powered “fabric shaver,” which buzzes the fuzz off and is fairly helpful (your cardigan will look much better, but not like new). But remember not to use this contraption on lace or other delicate materials! (You don’t want to know how I know this.) You can also get one of those roller things with the sticky tape, which is better than nothing—though far more useful for picking up pet hair than for de-pilling. Also, the dry cleaner can sometimes de-pill, so be sure to specifically ask about this. Speaking of which—though most sweaters return happy from a trip to the cleaners, there are some knits that should never darken that door.

Washing Vs. Dry-Cleaning
Once I had a gray crewneck Calvin Klein cashmere sweater that I loved more than life itself. So imagine my despair, my horror, when my beloved pullover came back from the dry-cleaner as stiff as shoe-box cardboard. Vowing that this sort of tragedy would never befall me again, I asked around, and it turns out that cashmere experts—yes, such people exist!—recommend washing over cleaning.

This is easy enough if you have your own washing machine—put that baby in a mesh bag, set the dial for the gentle cycle, and cross your fingers. But if you, like me and millions of other deprived New Yorkers, are without the luxury of a home machine, then just go ahead and soak your cashmere in the bathroom sink—cool water, not too many suds! Tenderly squeeze it in a towel to get the water out, lay it flat, gently coax it back into shape, and pray that no moths are in search of a midnight feast.

Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Limited US

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *