The plush and fine Ladakhi Cashmere, which we see put to use for making sweaters and luxury wraps is hands down the most exquisite fibre ever. Handwoven by masters of the art, products made from Cashmere are a result of superlative skills and an artistic bent of mind.
Origin of the luxury fibre
In Kashmir, Cashmere was discovered in the 15th century by Syed Ali Hamdani, whose visit to Kashmir changed the valley completely. He brought with him nearly 700 craftsmen, who trained the local people in making a number of crafts and art forms. He was an advocate of women empowerment, and hence trained even those women who hadn't even stepped out of their houses. Women now earned on their own, and gradually the economy became stable, in fact flourishing.
In Kashmir, Cashmere was processed to craft Pashmina shawls. These shawls were royal and were only afforded, worn, and highly patronized by royalty all over the world. Not only in the valley but with time Cashmere began to be traded to Europe, especially France and Scotland, who set up their own factories to process Cashmere. These factories produced high-quality Cashmere wraps, as well as sweaters, and a few accessories like socks and handkerchiefs.
Where it came from?
Cashmere is acquired from the arid hills and snowy mountain peaks of the Himalayan range, where the Changthangi goat is found. The goat survives on the grasslands of the region where the temperature dips to -40 degrees. As a defense mechanism, nature bestows a soft, warm fleece on the goat, which grows on its underbelly, backbone area, neck, and ears. But in summers, the goat naturally sheds this wool, as well as the herders comb off some.
The fine wool is collected and processed to be transformed into Pashmina shawls, which are the epitome of luxury. This is because of the super soft and fine wool used to craft them.
Characteristics of this fine wool
- The wool is extremely warm. It survives the goat in the harshest temperatures ever. For humans too, Cashmere wraps and shawls are comfortably warm, and perfect for chilly seasons.
- The Cashmere fibre is exceptionally fine. The spun yarn has a diameter of 12-16 microns, which makes it four times finer than human hair.
- The fibre is extremely lightweight. A full sized Shawl of 200*100 cms measurement is below 400 grams weight. As such it is perfect to wear to formal, semi formal, wedding and casual occasions.
- The products made from Cashmere are delicate. As such they have to be cared about a lot. If these wraps are treated harshly, they might even tear.
- Cashmere products are heavenly soft, and not itchy like many of their wool counterparts.
- One goat produces just 150 grams (4 to 6 ounces) of Cashmere. This makes it a total of 3 or 4 goats whose wool is enough to make a wrap
Being such delicate and sensitive, Cashmere products need a delicate treatment and immense care. While this might be effortlessly possible for some, the problem arises when it gets dirty or stained, and has to be washed. How do you wash Cashmere? Can you hand wash Cashmere? If yes, how do you hand wash Cashmere or any delicate wool variant? Let's find answers to these questions, and guide women on how to care for their precious pieces of clothing
How do you wash Cashmere?
Cashmere is gossamer fine, and hence dainty. While washing or cleaning Cashmere, one has to remain careful. Otherwise, this expensive treasure will be lost forever.
The best way to wash Cashmere is to dry clean it. Simply contact your nearest dry cleaners and hand over this precious beauty to them. Dry cleaning extends the life of this product.
If however dry cleaners or laundries are not available or are not free around your area, then you might have to take responsibility for yourself. Washing Cashmere at home is possible, but how?
Also read: Does Cashmere shrink?
Can you hand wash Cashmere?
Hand washing it at home is the next best alternative to dry cleaning. However if its label reads “Dry clean only”, then you might have to look for dry cleaners all around your living place. If that is not the case, washing Cashmere at home manually can give them a fresh look.
How to Hand wash Cashmere?
Follow these simple steps to hand wash Cashmere at home. You will need a washtub, Cashmere shampoo, and tepid water. If you don't have a Cashmere shampoo, you can use baby shampoo or conditioner.
- Fill the wash tub with lukewarm water
- Pour Cashmere shampoo in it, and give it a whirl
- Soak your wrap/sweater into this mixture. Swirl it. Let it soak for 30 minutes
- After 30 minutes, take the product out
- Do not wring it, as it may lose its shape. Simply make a ball of it in your hands and squeeze.
- Rinse it with cold water, and gently squeeze it in your hands again.
- Your wrap is now clean
Drying it with caution
Now that your Cashmere is clean, it needs to be dried. Do not use dryers to dry this dainty product. Dryers tend to shrink delicate wools. Do not hang your wraps to dry them. That will just pull it towards the ground and deform it. Do not place it in direct sunlight. This will affect its colour. Wet Cashmere is the most vulnerable. Instead, follow the steps below:
- Lay down a dry and clean towel on the floor or any flat area
- Place your wrap flat on this towel
- Roll the towel gently, along with the wrap, and watch it absorb all the excess water out of it
- Unroll the towel, and replace it with with a new, dry one
- Place the wrap over the new towel, and let it air dry
- If you live in cooler regions, your wrap might take days together to dry. But let it dry naturally, Do not use radiators or strong sunlight to quickly dry it. Let it take its time.
- Do not use iron on your Cashmere to reduce wrinkles. Instead use a steamer to smoothen your wraps.
Can you machine wash Cashmere?
There is a possibility that you didn't have enough time or any other reason for not being to hand wash Cashmere. In these emergency situations, one can wash a Cashmere product in the washing machine. But taking necessary precautions is the key.
Here is how to do it
- Place your Cashmere product in a mesh bag to prevent any snagging
- Choose the most gentle settings for washing and spinning (low spin, hand wash setting)
- Make sure you are using cool water for washing
- Pour Cashmere shampoo or a mild baby shampoo in the soap compartment
- As soon as the cycle completes, immediately take the wrap out to prevent creasing or wrinkles
How to remove stain from Cashmere?
- Pour some liquid stain remover onto a paper towel or your own finger
- Gently dab the place, gently rub it with your finger.
- Now wash it under room temperature water, and let it dry naturally.
- You don't need to wash the entire wrap for a little spot.
- If the stain is too much, or too harsh that you know you can't handle it, hand it over to your nearest laundry for a more professional approach.
It is essential to wash your Cashmere every season once or twice. Do not wash it after every use. That might cause pilling or an early withering of the same. When summer is near and you plan to pack your Cashmere, wash it first, and then store it in a clean, moth-free, and dry place in your wardrobe.