Cashmere is a luxurious and delicate fabric that is known for its softness and warmth. However, cashmere garments require special care, as they are prone to shrinking when washed or dried improperly. In this complete guide, we will examine whether cashmere shrinks in the dryer or when washed, and provide tips on how to wash and dry cashmere properly to prevent shrinkage.
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Does Cashmere Shrink in the Dryer?
Yes, cashmere can absolutely shrink if tumble dried, especially at high heat. Thefibers in cashmere are very fine, which is what gives the fabric its soft feel. However, it also makes cashmere susceptible to shrinking when exposed to high heat in the dryer.
The friction and motion of a clothes dryer can cause cashmere fibers to tangle, distort, and shrink. Using high heat settings will make the shrinkage even worse. Depending on the garment, cashmere fabric may shrink up to 25% of its original size when tumble dried.
To prevent your cashmere from shrinking in the dryer, it is best to lay flat to dry instead. Drying your cashmere garments flat will allow them to air dry slowly at room temperature without heat damage.
If you must use the dryer, opt for a low heat or air fluff setting. Remove cashmere items promptly when finished to prevent over-drying. Using dryer balls can help maintain the shape and size while drying. Adding a few ice cubes at the end can steam the garment back into shape if minor shrinking occurs.
Does Cashmere Shrink When Washed?
Cashmere can also shrink when washed if not done properly. Frequent washing, high water temperature, and aggressive agitation can cause cashmere fibers to tighten and shrink. The degree of shrinkage depends on the quality of the cashmere, how it was constructed, and how carefully it is washed.
Lower quality cashmere tends to pill more easily and is more prone to excessive shrinkage. Finer quality cashmere that is tightly knit or woven will typically shrink less. In general, cashmere garments may shrink up to 5% when washed.
To prevent shrinkage when washing cashmere:
- Use Cold Water – Always opt for cold water washes to avoid heat damage. Lukewarm water can also be used for heavily soiled items.
- Gentle Cycle – Select a delicate or gentle cycle to minimize agitation. Soak the garment prior if heavily soiled.
- No Hot Drying – Reshape garments while wet and lay flat to dry to prevent heat shrinkage.
- Wool Detergent – Use a mild detergent made specifically for washing wool and cashmere. Avoid regular detergents.
- Hand Wash – For ultimate care, hand wash cashmere in a sink or tub using cold water and wool detergent.
- Limit Washing – Only wash cashmere garments when truly needed, such as once a season or less. Frequent washing causes excess wear.
Using these tips, cashmere can typically be washed without significant shrinkage. However it is always best to err on the side of caution when laundering luxury fibers like cashmere.
How to Wash Cashmere to Prevent Shrinking
Follow these steps to wash cashmere properly to avoid shrinkage:
1. Pretreat Stains and Soak
Pretreat any stains on the cashmere using a diluted wool detergent solution. Gently dab on stains and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
For heavily soiled cashmere, allow to soak in cool water with a capful of wool detergent for up to 30 minutes before washing. This will loosen dirt without risk of shrinkage.
2. Use a Mesh Wash Bag
Place the cashmere in a mesh wash bag, lingerie bag, or pillowcase and close tightly. This prevents friction and snagging during the wash.
3. Wash with a Mild Detergent
Wash the cashmere using cold water on a delicate or gentle cycle. Only use detergents specifically formulated for delicates, wool, or cashmere. Common brands are Eucalan, The Laundress, and Soak.
4. Rinse Thoroughly
Rinse the cashmere items twice with cool water to remove all traces of detergent. Detergent residue can damage fibers over time.
5. Soak and Reshape While Wet
After washing cashmere, soak the garment in cool water with a splash of hair conditioner for a few minutes. This helps restore softness. Gently stretch and reshape the garment back to size while still wet.
6. Lay Flat to Dry
Roll the cashmere item in a towel to remove excess moisture. Then lay flat on top of a towel or drying rack, gently smoothing and reshaping as needed while drying. Avoid hanging cashmere garments.
7. Steam or Iron While Still Damp
If needed, use a garment steamer or iron on low heat to remove any wrinkles once the cashmere is almost dry but still slightly damp. This will help set the fibers in place.
By following these steps, you can keep your cashmere from shrinking while still getting it clean. Taking special care when washing will extend the life of your cashmere sweater or other garment.
How to Unshrink Cashmere After Washing
If your cashmere garment accidentally shrank a little during washing, there are a few things you can try to stretch it back to size:
- Fill a sink or tub with cool water and add hair conditioner. Soak the garment for 20-30 minutes to rehydrate fibers. Then very gently stretch and massage the cashmere back into shape. Lay flat to dry, continuing to gently pull into proper dimensions.
- Steam the garment while stretching and smoothing to help fibers relax back to their original length. Use a garment steamer or iron with steam function on a low setting. Be very careful not to press down and crush fibers. Just hover and steam.
- Spritz with water and shape with your hands as the item air dries, working out any areas that shrank. The moisture will help relax the fibers. Lay flat, periodically smoothing and tugging to even out.
- Wash again using cold water and hair conditioner, followed by careful reshaping during drying. The fibers may relax more during a second wash.
- Take it to a professional if the fabric doesn’t bounce back. Ask for a cashmere specialist and explain it shrank during home washing. They may be able to professionally steam and stretch the garment back closer to its original size and shape.
While results vary, with patience it is often possible to manually stretch cashmere back to near original size if shrinkage was minimal. For best results, keep reshaping the garment as it air dries.
Does Dry Cleaning Shrink Cashmere?
Dry cleaning is often recommended for washing cashmere garments as it is gentler than home washing. However, dry cleaning can result in shrinkage if not done properly.
With dry cleaning, cashmere shrinkage may occur due to:
- Excessive agitation – Harsher dry cleaning machines can be too rough on delicate cashmere fabrics.
- Heat from pressing – Cashmere is vulnerable to heat damage during the drying and finishing process.
- Residue left behind – Chemical residues in the fabric can damage fibers over time.
To reduce the risk of shrinkage when dry cleaning cashmere:
- Find a reputable cleaner experienced with fine fabrics like cashmere. Ask about their methods.
- Specify gentle cycle – Request a gentle or delicate cycle with less agitation.
- No hot pressing – Ask them to air dry and press using low heat.
- No added stain removers or harsh chemicals which could damage the fibers.
- Check for residue – Make sure all chemicals are fully rinsed away after cleaning.
With care taken to use lower heat and prevent residue, dry cleaning is less likely to shrink quality cashmere garments. But air drying at home is still the safest method.
How to Dry Cashmere Without Shrinking It
To safely dry cashmere without risk of shrinkage, follow these tips:
Lay Flat to Air Dry
- After washing cashmere, skip the dryer and lay flat to air dry on top of a towel or rack.
- Gently smooth and shape garments back into proper dimensions before drying begins.
- Periodically check and tug garments back into shape as they dry.
Use a Mesh Drying Rack
- Lay cashmere flat across a mesh sweater drying rack or sheet. This allows air circulation all around.
- The mesh helps maintain the garment’s shape and prevents sagging as it dries.
Dry Flat Between Towels
- Roll cashmere in a towel to initially extract moisture after washing.
- Then sandwich between two clean towels and press to pull moisture out from both sides as it dries flat.
Dry Flat On Towels
- Lay your cashmere piece flat on top of one or more dry, fluffy towels.
- The towels will wick away moisture gentle as the cashmere dries in place.
Reshape While Damp
- When almost dry, use steam from an iron or garment steamer to reshape the garment and set fibers.
Caring for Cashmere: Washing, Drying & Storage Tips
Follow these general care guidelines when washing, drying, and storing your cashmere pieces to prevent shrinkage and damage:
- Hand wash or use a delicate cycle in cold water
- Use detergent made specifically for delicates or wool
- Soak in cool water instead of washing if heavily soiled
- Use a mesh bag for washing and rinsing
- Avoid vigorous motion that can distort shape
- Always lay flat or line dry, avoiding direct heat
- Reshape garments while damp, stretching back to size
- Dry flat between towels to absorb moisture
- Use a mesh rack to maintain shape
- Steam or iron delicately while still slightly damp
- Store cashmere properly folded or hanging in breathable garment bag
- Avoid plastic bags or tightly packed drawers
- Store in cool, dry place away from sunlight, heat, and humidity
- Use cedar blocks or natural moth deterrents to prevent insects
- Bring to a reputable cleaner for washing and storage during summer
Common Cashmere Care Mistakes to Avoid
To keep your cashmere pieces looking their best for years to come, avoid these common care mistakes:
- Machine drying, especially using high heat
- Washing with hot water or regular detergent
- Overloading the washing machine
- Aggressive scrubbing, wringing, or twisting
- Hanging cashmere garments to dry
- Storing in plastic bags or humid environments
- Forgetting to reshape garments while still damp
- Ironing while too wet or using excessively high heat
- Wearing and washing too frequently without allowing recovery time
- Not pretreating stains promptly before washing
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can you put cashmere in the dryer?
No, it is best not to put cashmere in the dryer. The heat and tumbling motion will cause cashmere to shrink and become misshapen. Always dry cashmere garments flat to prevent distortion of the fine fibers.
2. Does cashmere shrink every time you wash it?
Cashmere can shrink slightly each time it is washed if not cared for properly. Using cold water, gentle cycles, and laying flat to dry will help minimize cashmere shrinkage over repeated washings. High-quality cashmere that is tightly knit or woven tends to shrink less than lower grade fabrics.
3. Should you dry clean or hand wash cashmere?
Hand washing is ideal for cashmere, provided it is done gently using cold water and cashmere or wool detergent. Dry cleaning is also an option, as long as no hot pressing or harsh chemicals are used. Avoid home machine washing cashmere.
4. How do you soften cashmere after washing?
To restore softness after washing, soak cashmere briefly in cool water mixed with hair conditioner. Then lay flat to air dry, stretching it intermittently as it dries. Once dry, you can also use a garment steamer to add softness and volume back into the fibers.
5. How much does cashmere shrink?
Quality cashmere garments may shrink up to 5% during washing. Lower grade cashmere can shrink more dramatically, up to 25% or more. To maintain the original size, handle cashmere carefully when washing and drying and reshape garments while still damp from washing.