Cashmere clothing is beautiful, luxurious and highly sought after. Often, a cashmere jumper is the item people reach for when the weather gets cold and they are in search of stylish comfort.
What is cashmere?
Cashmere is a type of wool that comes from two varieties of goat (pashmina and, unsurprisingly, cashmere). It is famed for being incredibly soft and luxurious although it can be quite expensive - with each goat only producing about 200 grams of the material every year.
The cashmere itself is specifically the under-fur of the goat, rather than the coarser outer fur that you see when looking at them. It is grown by the animal to keep it warm in the winter, so can only be harvested once per year. Usually by combing the goat once its fur starts to shed.
From a manufacturing perspective, there are four types of cashmere - each representing a different stage in the material’s harvesting and manufacture. Depending on the type of garment being made, each type has their own strengths and weaknesses.
This is the fibre as soon as it comes from the animal. Either by naturally shedding or being combed. Because it will also contain some of the outer fur, the amount of pure cashmere that you can extract from raw fibres (known as the yield) will be surprisingly low. Sometimes, you can lose up to a third of the weight.
Because the strands have not yet been treated or washed, it is unlikely that your garments will have been made with raw cashmere - unless they are created by an independent maker who is connected directly with a farm.
By the time the fibre reaches this state, it has been washed and sometimes treated. It will also have been separated from the outer hair that often comes away from the goat during the combing or shearing process.
Your cashmere garments are almost certainly made of processed fibres. It is a category of wool that makers further divide into two sub-categories:
Virgin cashmere fibres are ones which have never been used to make anything. They are fresh from the animal (and have been treated) and are now woven or spun to create your garment.
Most expensive cashmere garments are made from virgin fibres because it will not have been previously contaminated by any dyes or potential damage. Whilst this can be seen as an advantage, remember that it is less sustainable to use brand new materials every time you make a piece of clothing, so if you are concerned about the environmental impact of your clothing, you might like to consider avoiding this or opting for a virgin/recycled blend.
Recycled fibres have been previously made into other garments or yarn. They are un-wound to create new yarn or, in some cases, simply upcycled to create a redesigned garment.
This is a more sustainable method than using virgin fibres because it extends the life of the material, meaning that the raw materials and pollution of the animal rearing process need not be repeated.
Can you wash cashmere in the washing machine?
Cashmere can be washed in the washing machine but you need to be careful when doing so. Remember that high temperatures can affect the integrity of the fibres - leading to stretching and your garment losing its shape so stick to lower temperatures.
If your washing machine does not have a particular setting for cashmere, it will likely have an option for woollens. This will also work for your cashmere garments.
It is very important that you don’t wash them with any clothing that contains sharp edges (buttons, zips or rivets for example). These will catch onto the fairly loose fibres of cashmere items and cause them to snag.
In order to look after your garments as well as possible, we always recommend using a more specialist laundry detergent. Our Wool & Silk Wash is perfect for laundering your cashmere without weakening the fibres or fading the colours.
Of course, if you have a little extra time you could always wash your cashmere items by hand. We wrote this article to help you decide on the pros and cons of this from an environmental perspective.
How often should cashmere be washed?
It is tempting to wash your clothing after every wear, however this will significantly shorten its lifespan (and is generally bad for the environment).
Because cashmere is often used to make outerwear and rarely comes into direct contact with the skin, it does not need to be washed any more often than once every three wears
To keep your garments smelling fresh between washes, give them a quick spritz with some Garment Refresher. We mix it by hand using a combination of botanicals and essential oils to refresh the fibres and combat odours.
Does cashmere shrink?
Cashmere clothing shrinks very easily. Particularly if you attempt to dry it in a tumble dryer. That is because the fibres are protein based.
Instead, lay them flat to dry across an airer. Hanging them on a line or clothes horse can cause a stretch mark across the area that is draped across the wire.