Imagine getting a cashmere shawl you absolutely love, only to accidentally make it way too small because you didn't wash it correctly. Ouch! On the other hand, what if you have a big cashmere sweater and you're thinking, "Hey, maybe it'd look even better a tad smaller?"
Cashmere can shrink when we don't wash or dry it right (we've already mentioned about it in our washing guide) and with a little heat application you can also purposefully adjust the fit.
In this article, we'll guide you on how to care for your cashmere to avoid shrinkage, how to intentionally shrink or stretch it and what to do if it accidentally shrinks. Follow these simple guidelines and you can confidently wear, wash and store your cashmere without worry for years.
Let's get started...
Why does cashmere shrink?
Cashmere comes from the undercoat of the Chyangra goats. At its core, it is a protein fiber, just like own hair.
And, just like how hot water or blow-drying can affect our hair's texture and size, excessive heat affects cashmere's structure, leading to shrinkage.
These fibers also have natural oils that provide a protective layer. Over-washing or using harsh detergents can strip these oils, making the fibers more susceptible to damage and shrinkage.
When cashmere is exposed to heat, moisture, and agitation (like in a regular washing cycle), the fibers can start to mat together in a process called felting. This results in the fabric becoming denser and, consequently, shrunken.
On a microscopic level, cashmere fibers have tiny scales. If not washed gently, these scales can latch onto one another, causing the fabric to constrict and shrink.
Does cashmere shrink when hand washed?
We recommend hand washing cleaning cashmere as it is gentler on the fibers. However, even with hand washing, you have to be cautious.
If you use hot water or agitate the fabric too vigorously, there's still a risk of shrinkage.
Always use cold or lukewarm water and be gentle.
Does cashmere shrink when washed in cold water?
Cold water is less likely to cause cashmere to shrink compared to hot water.
However, the manner in which you handle the cashmere during washing, such as excessive wringing or stretching, can still lead to some shrinkage.
It's always best to combine cold water with gentle handling.
Does cashmere shrink in the dryer?
Yes, majority of cashmere shrinkage issues we've seen are when it's put in the dryer.
The combination of heat and tumbling can lead to both felting and shrinkage.
It's best to avoid the dryer altogether for cashmere items and instead lay them flat to air dry.
How to Unshrink Cashmere
Realizing that your favorite cashmere piece has shrunk can be a moment of despair.
But, don't fret; there's hope in restoring it to its original form or at least close to it.
Here's a step-by-step guide to help you unshrink your cashmere:
Prepare a Soaking Solution:
Fill a basin or sink with lukewarm water. Ensure the water is neither too hot nor too cold.
Add a generous squirt of baby shampoo or a pinch of mild cleanser for soft fabric.
Mix the solution until it’s soapy.
Soak Your Cashmere:
Immerse the shrunken cashmere item in the water, ensuring it's fully submerged.
Gently swish it around for a few minutes to ensure the soapy mixture penetrates the fibers.
Let it soak for about 15-20 minutes.
Drain the basin or sink and gently press the water out of the cashmere. Avoid wringing or twisting as it can distort the fibers.
Refill the basin with clean, cool water and rinse the item. Repeat this until all the soap is washed out.
Stretch and Reshape:
Lay the cashmere item flat on a clean towel, gently stretching and reshaping it to its original size.
Be patient and careful during this process.
Roll the item in the towel to soak up excess water, pressing gently.
Unroll and again lay the item flat on a dry towel, continuing to reshape as it dries.
Let the cashmere dry naturally, keeping it away from direct sunlight or heat sources.
Sometimes, you may need to repeat the process if the item hasn't fully returned to its original shape. Make sure to always store cashmere pieces properly to avoid future shrinkage or damage.
While this process can be effective, remember that it might not always return the cashmere to its exact original size, but it can get it quite close.
With proper care and attention, your cherished cashmere pieces can serve you beautifully for years to come.