Cashmere fabric has a reputation of being hard to care for and expensive. But if you buy cashmere clothing, it’s important to know how to care for it properly. After all, you don’t want to spend your hard-earned money on something that can become easily damaged if you don’t know what to watch out for.
One of the biggest things to look out for with cashmere is the fabric shrinking. Cashmere is a natural fabric made from the wool of a Cashmere goat. All wool fabrics are prone to shrinking, especially when exposed to heat. So cashmere can shrink in both the washing machine and dryer.
In this article, I’ll further answer the question, “Does cashmere shrink?” I’ll explain under what conditions cashmere can shrink, what to avoid, and how to care for it properly to prevent shrinking. I’ll also explain how to unshrink cashmere if it does shrink. Continue reading to learn more.
Does Cashmere Shrink When Washed?
One of the first things you’ll notice when you look at the care tag of cashmere is that it usually says ‘Hand Wash Only.’ This leads many people to believe that you can’t put cashmere in the washing machine. While hand-washing cashmere is still the best and safest option, the good news is that you actually can machine-wash it and it won’t shrink just by being washed.
Rather, cashmere may shrink when it is washed with hot water. This is true regardless of whether you wash it in the washing machine or wash it by hand. Shrinking occurs when cashmere is washed with hot water because hot water causes the fibers to relax and constrict.
As long as you wash cashmere using cool or cold water, it shouldn’t shrink. However, there are other precautions you need to take when washing cashmere as well, even if you wash it by hand. I’ll cover these later, but just know that damage can occur to cashmere fabric other than just shrinking.
Does Cashmere Shrink in the Dryer?
Another thing you’ll notice when checking the care tag on cashmere fabrics is that it often recommends air-drying only or says not to tumble dry it. This is because cashmere is most likely to shrink in the dryer. This is again due to the amount of heat that the dryer produces.
The most shrinkage is likely to occur when you dry the fabric in the dryer using high heat. But even low heat can cause cashmere fabric to shrink some. That’s why it is not recommended to put cashmere in the dryer at all, as it is almost a guarantee that it will shrink at least a little bit.
Does Cashmere Shrink Each Time It Is Washed?
Another problem with cashmere is that it can shrink each time it is washed, especially if you repeatedly wash it incorrectly. Cashmere will likely shrink the most the first time washed using hot water or put into the dryer. But, it can shrink some each time exposed to heat in either the washer or dryer, but again, the most shrinkage is likely to occur in the dryer.
It’s very important that you take the time to wash cashmere correctly and that you don’t put it in the dryer even if you’re in a hurry and need it to be dried quickly. You don’t want to inadvertently shrink it by putting it in the dryer in a hurry to get it clean.
How to Shrink Cashmere
Even though I’ve spent most of this article explaining what you want to avoid to prevent cashmere from shrinking, there are instances when you may want it to shrink. For example, let’s say that you were worried about the fabric shrinking, so you bought a larger size. Now the garment is too big and you want it to be smaller.
You likely spent a lot of money on that cashmere garment, so you don’t want to shrink it too much when you’re only trying to shrink it a little bit. The best way to shrink cashmere without shrinking it too much is to wash it with warm water, but you’ll still want to wash it on the delicate cycle to avoid causing damage to the fabric other than shrinking.
After washing it in warm water, let it air dry (this can take several hours). Then, check the size and maybe try it on to see how it fits. If you think it needs to shrink a little more, you can wash it in hot water. But remember that you still want to use the delicate cycle to avoid further damage.
Whatever you do, don’t put cashmere in the dryer unless you need it to shrink a lot. And even then, only use a low-heat dryer cycle. The dryer can cause over-shrinking and can even further damage the fibers, especially if you use high heat.
If you do opt to go this route, you’ll want to check the garment every few minutes to keep it from shrinking too much. Remove it from the dryer as soon as it has shrunk to your liking and let it air dry to finish drying.
How to Wash Cashmere So It Doesn’t Shrink
Now, if you don’t want your cashmere garments to shrink, I’ll explain how to wash cashmere properly to avoid shrinking as much as possible. Remember that the best way and the recommended way to wash cashmere, so it doesn’t shrink is to hand wash it.
Before you hand wash it, there are a few things you need to know. First, cashmere doesn’t have to be washed after every wear. Wool fabrics are fairly stain and odor-resistant, so you only need to wash cashmere after every couple of wears or if the fabric is stained or starts to smell.
You’ll also want to use a detergent that is gentle or made especially for cashmere and wool garments. Even mild detergents can be too harsh for cashmere as it is considered a delicate fabric. And again, only wash it in cool or lukewarm water to avoid shrinking.
To hand-wash cashmere, follow these steps:
- Fill a washtub or sink with cool or lukewarm water and add a tablespoon of gentle or cashmere laundry detergent.
- Use your hand to mix the detergent around in the water to evenly dispersed.
- Submerge the garment in the water and gently swirl it around to make sure that the entire garment gets covered with water and detergent.
- Let the garment soak for up to 15-20 minutes.
- After 15-20 minutes, drain the water from the washtub or sink and replace it with clean lukewarm water.
- Gently swish and swirl the garment in the water to rinse the detergent. Avoid squeezing out the detergent as this can cause the fabric to become misshapen.
- After rinsing, drain the water again and gently press the fabric against the sides of the washtub or sink to squeeze out any excess water. Again, do not squeeze or wring out the fabric.
- Lay the garment flat on a clean, dry towel and roll the fabric up inside the towel. Then, press down on the towel to remove the rest of the excess water so that the garment feels damp.
- Unroll the towel and lay the garment flat on another clean towel to finish air-drying. Do not hang up the fabric to dry as it can cause it to stretch out of shape.
- After the fabric has dried completely, fold it when you put it away. Again, don’t hang it up because it can lose its shape.
If you don’t have time to wash cashmere by hand, remember that you can wash it in the washing machine. However, you’ll have to be extremely careful about what settings you use to avoid damage.
Again, only use a gentle or cashmere/wool laundry detergent. Other detergents may be too harsh and can break down the fibers. You’ll also want to use the gentle or delicate cycle as these cycles use less agitation to rinse the fabric so that it doesn’t become misshapen, torn, or damaged.
It’s also a good idea to avoid washing cashmere with clothing made from fabrics other than cashmere or wool. Wash it by itself or with other cashmere or wool garments. It’s best to put cashmere inside a mesh delicates bag to prevent the sleeves or other aspects of the clothing from getting caught or snagged on the inside of the machine.
Finally, avoid using hot or warm water. Make sure you only use cold or cool water if you want to avoid shrinking. And whatever you do, don’t put the clothing in the dryer after washing it. Remove it from the mesh bag and lay it somewhere flat to dry. Again, hanging it will cause it to stretch. After it is dry, fold it when you put it away for storage.
Does Cashmere Shrink When Dry Cleaned?
You may see that the care tag on some cashmere garments recommends that they be dry-cleaned. This is usually if they have embellishments on them that could snag during the washing process.
If you’re worried about your cashmere garments shrinking while being dry cleaned, dry cleaning does not use water, so you shouldn’t have to worry about shrinking in that aspect. However, dry cleaning does use some heat which can shrink cashmere a little bit, although the amount of shrinkage shouldn’t be significant.
Even if the fabric recommends dry-cleaning, the best way to avoid cashmere shrinking is to wash it yourself by hand. You can still hand-wash cashmere garments that say ‘Dry Clean Only.’ Just avoid putting these garments into the washing machine to clean them, especially if they have embellishments that can cause the fabric to snag.
Can You Unshrink Cashmere?
If you do accidentally shrink your cashmere garments, there is a way that you can try to unshrink them. However, they may not return entirely to their original size, depending on how much they shrunk.
The best way to unshrink it is to hand-wash it first by following the steps above. Water will cause the fabrics to relax a little and make them easier to stretch back out. However, you want to stretch while the fabric is still wet so that the fibers don’t break.
If you want the most accurate size, take another garment that is the same size and shape as your cashmere garment, lay it flat on a sheet of parchment paper, and trace the outline. Then remove the other garment from the parchment paper and lay your cashmere garment in its place.
Gently pull and stretch the cashmere garment until it matches the shape of the outline. If the entire garment moves, you may have to place some books or heavy objects on top to keep it from moving.
Make sure to pull the garment symmetrically and as evenly as possible to not become misshapen. Don’t pull too hard either, as you risk breaking the delicate fibers. If the garment doesn’t want to stretch, you may have to resoak it to loosen up the fibers again.
After stretching it to as close to its original size as possible, place heavy objects onto the garment so that it holds its shape as it dries. Then, let the garment dry completely and fold it up for storage if you aren’t wearing it. Make sure to wash the garment correctly in the future so that it doesn’t shrink again.
Cashmere garments are prone to shrinking, but you shouldn’t have too much to worry about as long as you only wash them in cool or cold water and avoid putting them in the dryer. Hopefully, this guide taught you how to wash your cashmere garments to avoid shrinking since you likely paid a lot of money for them.