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Do cashmere sweaters shrink? How to prevent?

Wearing a cashmere sweater lower body only

Buying a cashmere sweater will cost so much money, it’s considered to be an investment. This material is highly luxurious and has a reputation for being high fashion, so whatever you wear that’s cashmere is going to be fashionable and expensive…which makes it totally depressing when something happens to your expensive wardrobe item. Do cashmere sweaters shrink? Do you know how to prevent this horrible thing from happening to your costly cashmere?

Does Cashmere Shrink?

Cashmere is a type of wool. It’s a super fancy and high-end type of wool but it is still prone to all the negatives of any other type of wool. Cashmere can form pills (little fuzzy balls) and it can shrink. However, as long as you properly care for your cashmere this won’t happen.

Person outside wearing cashmere sweater

Cashmere is made from the hairs of specific types of goats living in a specific region in Asia. The relative scarcity of the goats makes cashmere wool more expensive than other types of wool. Sheep, for example, are found all over the world so sheep’s wool is less expensive than cashmere. However, all wool is prone to shrinking, pilling and other problems. So once you learn how to care for one type of wool, you can care for them all.

What Causes Cashmere to Shrink?

Like any other natural fiber, cashmere will shrink in the presence of heat. The same way cotton, linen and all wools will shrink if you wash them in hot water or dry them in a hot dryer, cashmere fibers will shrink when exposed to heat. The fabric actually warps and tightens up, which causes the sweater to shrink. This shrinkage may be uniform or it may not be, resulting in a sweater that is not only shrunken but also misshapen.

Preventing Shrinkage

Keep cashmere from shrinking by washing it properly. Cashmere should be washed by hand in lukewarm to cool water with delicate detergent. It’s best to use a detergent that is specially formulated for wool but you can also use baby shampoo if you’re hand-washing the wool. Wash the sweater inside-out and don’t be rough with it. Don’t rub, twist, pull or tug the material too harshly. Use a gentle hand to keep the wool fibers undamaged.

If you have to machine wash cashmere, do it on the gentle cycle and do not put it in the dryer. Cashmere should be laid out flat on a towel to dry. Do not hang up your cashmere sweater, as this can cause it to stretch out while the fibers are wet. This is just as bad as having a sweater shrink!

What if Your Cashmere Shrinks?

If it’s too late and your cashmere sweater has already shrunk on you, don’t despair. You can attempt to save the sweater. Either way, the sweater is ruined so you might as well try to save it before you get rid of it.

Wearing a cashmere sweater fashion pose

First, gently tug on the sweater. Is there any stretch or “give” to the material? If so, you can attempt to stretch out the sweater and make it fit again. If the sweater is too tight to stretch, it’s time to start thinking about creative ways to re-purpose the sweater or perhaps think of something to give the garment away to.

Saving Shrunken Cashmere

Goodthreads Men's Lightweight Merino Wool Crewneck Sweater, Charcoal, Medium

Assemble your tools. You will need liquid fabric softener, baby shampoo, a large bucket, a foam board that is a little bigger than the sweater and stainless steel pins. You can find most of this stuff at a fabric store, hobby store or online.

First, wash the sweater by hand in cold water with your baby shampoo for about 10 minutes. Rinse the sweater with clean water and then let it soak for about two hours in cold water. Press the sweater between two clean towels using gentle pressure to remove excess water.

Lay the cashmere sweater out on the foam board. Gently, carefully and slowly stretch the cashmere all over. Stretch the sleeves, the neck, every part of the sweater. Use the pins to hold the sweater in place all stretched out. Pay careful attention to the shape. If your sweater is misshapen as it is laying there, it will be misshapen when you put it on your body.

Allow the sweater to dry this way for several hours before removing the pins. Now, try on your sweater and see if the shrinkage has been fixed.

The Last Effort

Cashmeren Men's Basic V-Neck Sweater 100% Pure Cashmere Long Sleeve Pullover (Black, Large)

If this method fails, you can make another attempt to stretch out shrunken cashmere. Add two tablespoons of white vinegar to a large tub of cool water. Let the sweater soak in this solution for 30 minutes.

Once removed from the vinegar water, gently press the sweater between two towels to remove moisture and then very gently tug and pull on the edges of the sweater all the way around to stretch out the wool. Place a heavy object on the sweater or pin it into place in order to maintain this stretched-out form.

Leave the sweater stretched like this for 24 hours and then rinse it thoroughly in cold water. Let it dry completely before you check to see if the shrinkage has now been corrected.

Do Cashmere Sweaters Shrink?

Cashmere is a type of wool. And while it’s fancy and high-end wool that costs a lot of money, it’s still wool. The material will shrink when exposed to hot water or hot air. You can sometimes stretch out shrunken wool, so don’t give up on your cashmere. Try to save it when you can and when you can’t, either turn it into something else or give it to a friend who will love it. And next time, remember not to use heat on your wool!


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