Okay, the instructions on our garments are there for a reason, at least when it comes to most of them: To prevent us from causing damage to our clothes at home.
When you have a cashmere that says dry clean only, and you decide to wash it at home, you can end up destroying the fibers, distorting them, and even causing them to shrink. If your fabric comes with a special finishing, you might end up removing it, and if there’s a specific way that the weaves or the knits were done, you can as well end up undoing them.
That’s why whenever you have a cashmere or any garment at home that says “dry clean only”, so long it’s delicate, it’s best to take it to the dry cleaners.
Below we discuss the reasons why your cashmere is slapped with the dry clean only tag, why dry cleaning is the option that manufacturers resort to, and what the best way is to clean cashmere that can be washed at home.
Why Your Cashmere Says Dry Clean Only
Let’s get something straight, if your cashmere says “dry clean only”, then it’s actually a pretty serious warning. Cashmere is not a fabric to joke with as it’s sensitive (though not delicate), so you must take any warnings issued out on it very seriously.
Any cashmere cloth that has the dry clean only tag on it has it placed there for one of the three reasons discussed below (or a combination of some of them or all of them).
It’s 100% cashmere
100% percent cashmere is the most fragile any cashmere can ever be. In this state, you cannot subject the material to temperatures greater than 30°C and at the same time agitate it, because it will shrink.
You cannot also scrub on the surface too much otherwise the fibers will break and give a fuzzy appearance to the affected spots.
It’s finished differently
One popular reason why manufacturers slap the “dry clean only” tag on cashmere products is because the specific product may have a special kind of finishing on it that should not be messed with, should the desire to protect the integrity and appearance of the fabric exist.
It may be that this finishing can be destroyed by the agitation provided by your hands or even the washer, the detergent, and even by the temperature of home laundry be it hot or cold.
Because of this, the manufacturer must opt for a much safer alternative that can preserve the finishing better, which happens to be dry cleaning.
In dry cleaning, clothes aren’t tossed as roughly as they are in the washer, and the dry cleaning solvent works to pull out dirt and soil from clothes rather than soak into fibers and make fabrics heavy.
Cashmere, which is exactly like wool, absorbs water many times its weight and that’s why washing it in the washer will always cause inevitable minor distortions that will become evident and pronounced with time.
It’s woven or knitted differently
Nowadays, different methods are employed in weaving and knitting clothes. And with cashmere, there’s no exception. When you have a cashmere that is woven and knitted in a slightly complicated fashion, then washing it in the washing machine can actually undo all of it.
That’s why dry cleaning may be the best alternative because it’s way gentle on fabrics compared to hand or machine washing.
Can you hand wash cashmere in the first place?
So we’ve been talking about hand washing cashmere that says “dry clean only”. But can you actually hand wash cashmere in the first place?
Some cashmere can be washed by hand, but the best way to wash all cashmere that can be washed at home is in the washer.
The reason is simple, when you wash clothes by hand, you’re not applying an even agitation on all parts of the cloth, and as a result, you can end up wrapping some sides which will end up messing the entire shape of the fabric. In the washer however, though not perfect, nearly equal amounts of agitation is applied on clothes. And the evenness can even be improved by stuffing in more cashmere or wool clothes to wash together.
When washing cashmere by hand, it’s advised to rely more on soaking than agitating. Therefore, you should soak the cashmere in a solution of cashmere cleaner and water for no longer than 10 minutes.
Then, move the cashmere in the water to release soiling and rinse in a fresh water. Roll it up into a ball and squeeze it against the inside walls of the bucket to release moisture. Then place it flat on a clean towel and roll it up to extract the remaining moisture.
Now lay the cashmere flat on a drying rack or on a new fresh towel positioned in a shaded area that is well ventilated.
Make sure to reshape the fabric before it fully dries out to keep it in shape.
How different is dry cleaning to hand washing?
Dry cleaning, despite the bad rap, is generally a much safer and gentler alternative to hand or machine washing. This is because the dry cleaning solvent targets stains and soil as opposed to penetrating deep into fibers (soaking) the way water does. This makes it suitable for use on fibers that do not like being soaked in water for a long duration.
When these types of fibers are soaked for long, their fibers are damaged at micro level, until it translates to a macro level. The reason for the damage is because the fibers absorb water and swell, which shows up on fabrics as a change of shape after a long time.
You should never attempt to wash a cashmere garment that says “dry clean only” by hand or even the washer. There’s a reason why that care label is there, and you should always follow the instructions by talking it to the dry cleaners.
If however, you happen to have a cashmere cloth that can be washed at home, it’s best to use the washer instead of hand. The washing machine applies a pretty even agitation on every part of the clothes which means there won’t be any distortion at the end of the day. You also end up releasing stains and soils far more effectively and efficiently than when washing by hand.