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How to Clean Cashmere & Other Winter Fabrics

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Dressing for fall means we get to pull out luxe textures and fabrics that we don't get to wear during the rest of the year. Staples like wool, cashmere, leather and more make up every collegiette's fall wardrobe—but they can get pretty expensive to clean. Spilled coffee here, a wine stain there—it happens... and don't even get us started on getting deodorant somewhere where it doesn't belong. But little accidents don't have to mean a hefty dry cleaning bill! With a little extra care, your winter garments can be cleaned right in your dorm room!

Wool

  1. Fill a clean sink with cool to cold water, and add one tablespoon of a gentle detergent—you can use one specially made for wool, like the Wool & Cashmere Shampoo from The Laundress ($19), or mild soaps like a dish soap or baby shampoo. Mix the solution well.
  2. Before tossing your sweater in, make sure you treat any stains with a Stain Solution ($18), otherwise they'll likely stay in your sweater forever!
  3. Turn your sweater inside-out and add it into the mixture. Gently swish it around, so the water is fully absorbed. Then, gently gather parts of the sweater in your hands and squeeze, focusing on areas that may need more cleaning such as the armpit or neck areas. DO NOT pull, twist, scrub or wring the fabric! Doing so will only stretch the wool and make your sweater lose its shape!
  4. Let the sweater sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Drain the water, and turn the cold water in the sink on. Under the running water, squeeze the sweater to get the soapy solution out as much as possible. Again, do not wring the piece—instead, you can gather the sweater into a big ball and squeeze the entire sweater between your hands.
  6. Once the water runs clear, you can turn the running water off and continue to squeeze the sweater to get as much excess water out as you can.
  7. Don't worry if your sweater is still heavy with water at this point! Have a couple of large dry bath towels on hand, and lay them across the floor. Place your sweater over the towel, and then roll the towel up tightly with your sweater inside it. Squeeze the roll to allow the towel to absorb the water from the sweater. Repeat until you've gotten as much water out of the sweater as you can.
  8. Turn your sweater right side out, and place it over a dry towel on a flat surface, and let it sit to dry. Depending on the thickness of your sweater and how much water you were able to squeeze out of it, it can take up to a few days to dry. During this period, you can turn the sweater over and back again so each side gets equal drying time.

Hint: Wool coats and outerwear can be washed using this method as well! You'll just need a large basin or bathtub.

Cashmere

  1. Believe it or not, you can machine wash cashmere! As always, before washing, treat any stains so they don't set in your item. If it's a sweater or a cardigan, turn it inside out and place it in a mesh wash bag ($3.99-$4.99) before putting it in the machine. If it's a scarf or throw, you can just place it directly in the mesh bag. Add in a small amount of gentle soap or detergent—use a cashmere wash, like the one from The Laundress mentioned above, or you can use baby shampoo or a mild detergent like Woolite's Delicates Care ($6.70).
  2. Throw in a few t-shirts in the same or a similar color to help pad your item from being agitated too harshly against the sides of the machine. Use cold water only, and set your machine to the delicates or hand wash cycle. If these settings aren't available, you can follow the same handwash method you would use for wool.
  3. As soon as the cycle is over, take your item out of the machine—you don't want your cashmere to be sitting in a wrinkled, wet ball for too long! Because it's been through a spin cycle, it shouldn't be dripping with water, but if it seems like there is excess water in the item, use the towel-rolling method mentioned above to squeeze out the extra water. 
  4. Lie the sweater down on a flat surface across a dry towel and allow it to dry fully before wearing or hanging it up.

Leather

  1. If your leather jacket is due for a deep cleaning, it's best to take it to a leather specialist! But if you only need to spot clean or do light touch-ups, these are easy to do at home. For simple surface stains, like dirt or something that hasn't been absorbed by the leather, use a damp towel or paper towel (not wet!) and gently wipe (don't scrub) the dirty area clean.
  2. If the stains are more complex or deeper, mix 1 to 2 squirts of a mild dish soap or baby shampoo into a bowl of lukewarm water. It shouldn't be too soapy! Take a clean towel and dip it into your solution. Wring it so it's damp, not wet. Then, gently blot over the area(s) that are soiled. Avoid rubbing—doing so may discolor the jacket or leave unsightly streaks or areas of strange texture on your piece.
  3. If you feel it's necessary, you can clean off any excess soap by taking a clean towel dampened with water only and blot over the areas you cleaned. If the soapy solution was extremely mild, you can skip this step and take a clean, dry towel and blot over these areas to dry them.
  4. Hang the jacket up and let it dry completely! Keep it away from direct sunlight or any heaters in your room.
  5. If the areas you cleaned dry stiff, you will need to get a leather conditioner ($17.95) to help soften it and restore it to its original condition.

Suede

  1. Suede can be tricky, because even water can stain suede items. If the item has been stained by mud, let the mud dry completely before attempting to treat your item—once it's dry, you can take a dry towel or an old toothbrush and gently brush it (in one direction, not back and forth) until the mud has been removed.
  2. If you spill something wet on your suede, try to treat the situation as quickly as possible! Blot excess moisture with a clean paper towel, and then put corn starch or baby powder on the stain immediately and let it sit overnight. The powder should do a fairly good job of drawing the moisture out of your item. Brush the powder off with a toothbrush.
  3. If the stain has already dried, try brushing it the same way you would with dried mud to see if that restores your item at all. If not, try using an eraser to rub against the dried stain. As a last resort, you can dampen a clean towel with some regular white vinegar and gently blot the stain until it looks like it's been worked out. Any time you do use water or a wet substance to treat your suede items, stuff your shoes (or shape your jacket) and allow the item to dry fully; once dry, you can use a brush or dry towel to gently rub the area to help work the suede back to its normal texture and color.
  4. For scuff marks, take a toothbrush or an erase and rub back and forth against the scuff; usually, scuff marks happen because the suede has been pushed towards one direction, so going back and forth against it will help work it back out.

Don't fret the next time you spill a little red wine on your cashmere sweater during holiday parties this upcoming season! With these tips and tricks to take care of tough stains at home, you can stay calm, cool and collected. Have you had luck cleaning any of your winter fabrics at home before, collegiettes?


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