Fresh from the Wash

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By Roxy Rowton

Before storing away cold-weather garments to make way for fashioning a new seasonal wardrobe, it is a good practice to clean wool and/or cashmere clothing. Contrary to the care labels in many woolen garments, these can be laundered by hand or in the washing machine. Hand washing is the gentlest method of all to clean wool and cashmere clothing. It also provides an extra bonus of the effectual removal of troublesome odors.

Laundering Fine Woolen Clothing

Woolens are especially sensitive to water temperature and agitation. Begin by filling a washbasin with cold water and add a few squirts of laundry shampoo formulated for wool and/or cashmere. Submerge the wool or cashmere garment and gently swish the garment to distribute the suds evenly. Soak
garment for 20 to 30 minutes. Next, run cool to tepid water to rinse the garment. Repeat this step until the water is no longer soapy and runs clear. Gently press the garment to remove excess water. It is important to not wring or twist the garment, but gently squeeze the water out.

Then, place a fresh, preferably white, towel on a flat surface or drying rack and transfer the just-laundered garment onto the towel. Gently pat the garment into shape. Roll up the garment and the towel together, pressing to remove further water. Repeat with a second towel, if necessary. Do not place the
item in the dryer or hang it. Allow the garment to air dry by placing another towel on a drying rack or flat surface. When drying, avoid placing the garment in direct sunlight or near other heat sources. Direct sunlight or heat can yellow, shrink and damage the yarns. After the garment has air dried, steam to remove any wrinkles as ironing can crush or flatten the natural pile of the yarns.


First, turn the wool or cashmere garment inside out and place it inside a mesh laundry bag. The use of a mesh bag during machine washing reduces agitation, prevents snagging and keeps garments from tangling together. Prepare the machine wash by selecting the wool or delicate cycle on the machine, the water temperature to cold, and the spin cycle to low or ultra-low. Add the appropriate amount of laundry shampoo for the load size. When the washing cycle is finished, promptly remove the garment to reduce wrinkles and creases. Proceed to air dry the garment following the steps outlined in the hand-washing instructions. After drying, steam to remove any wrinkles or creases.

Storing Woolen Clothing

Woolen clothing should be stored folded to prevent stretching the garment’s shape. Before storing, remove unwanted pills from wool and cashmere clothing. Use a sweater comb to remove any pilling. To keep pests, like moths, from chowing down on a favorite woolen garment, place a cedar or lavender sheet in the folded garment and store in a linen or cotton bag (not a plastic bin!).

Laundering by hand or the washing machine of woolen clothing does require extra effort and attention. But it pays rich dividends by protecting the yarn quality, retaining the garment’s shape and preserving the life span of woolen garments.

Wardrobe and style consultant Roxy L. Rowton ( spends much of her workweek in the closet or the fitting room helping women look and feel their very best. She has two-plus decades in the fashion, apparel and beauty industries.


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