At times, we purchase clothes that are either oversize or undersized. When clothes are oversized, we depend on the fabric’s ability to shrink to reduce the size of the clothing to the ideal size. If your clothing is made of expensive fabrics such as cashmere, you are likely to ponder, does cashmere shrink?
As one of the specialty hair fibers, cashmere has a low shrink parameter meaning that it will not shrink quickly (a lot of heat and agitation will be required). Cashmere fibers are made of protein, and each strand of the fiber has scales that act as a coating. The fibers are also coated with lanolin, a specific type of wax. This wax safeguards cashmere and makes it tough to shrink cashmere.
Present-day cashmere fabrics are appealing and expensive. However, even though garment manufacturers treat cashmere to ensure that the fabric does not shrink quickly, washing and drying cashmere wrongly can shrink it. In this article, we look at cashmere shrinking in great detail.
What is Cashmere?
Cashmere is a specific type of wool that is made from Kashmir goats. For many years, cashmere has been famous for its softness and elegance. It is used to make different clothing products such as scarves and sweaters.
Cashmere is made from seven different processes, as explained below.
Step 1: Shaving – Cashmere goats are shaved, and the fur is collected.
Step 2: Cleaning – The fur/wool from cashmere goats is cleaned.
Step 3: Combing – The wool fibers are combed and then carded.
Step 4: Spinning – The carded fibers are put through a spinning machine. In this machine, the fibers are twisted to create the yarn.
Step 5: Cleaning and dyeing the yarn – The yard is cleaned, and when needed, dye is also applied in this phase.
Step 6: Weaving – Finished cashmere yarn is woven into a fabric.
Step 7: Special treatment – Before cashmere fabric leaves the manufacturer, the material is treated as per the client’s specification.
Most cashmere is mainly produced in the mountain plateaus, East Asian Steppe, and some desserts. Due to the scarcity of fur used to make cashmere fabric, cashmere has been among the most expensive and luxurious natural textiles for many years.
Pros of Cashmere
Very soft which makes it have a luxury feel.
High insulation values – 8 times more than normal wool.
Considering the warmth that it gives, it is lightweight.
It resists wrinkles.
Has a beautiful drape mainly because of the lightweight and resistance to wrinkles.
Resistant to fire.
Cons of Cashmere
It is expensive making it unaffordable to many people.
It is delicate thus requiring a lot care.
Challenging to remove stains.
To ensure the cons of cashmere are complemented and the strengths fully exploited, cashmere is blended with other fabrics. For example, cotton-cashmere blends make it possible to reduce the price of cashmere while at the same time ensuring that the material is easy to dye.
A wool cashmere blend is commonly used in socks, sweaters, and shirts. In this blend, the percentage of wool is usually high. The clothes are, however, durable and have a soft feel. In addition, the price is also lower, unlike what would be the case if the cloth was made from 100% cashmere.
Does 100% Cashmere Shrink?
When subjected to a lot of heat and agitation, cashmere can shrink. For example, if you wash cashmere in the wrong wash cycle with a high heat setting, your cashmere clothing will shrink. To ensure that you do not unintentionally shrink your cashmere, you should always wash your cashmere garment as per the care label.
When cashmere fabric is introduced to any heat in the washing machine or the dryer, the heat tightens the contact among the cashmere fibers. As a result, your cashmere fabric shrinks.
100% cashmere will therefore shrink if put in boiling water that has agitation in it. Leaving 100% cashmere in water will shrink and damage the fabric for a long time. It would help if you had some agitation/movement to shrink cashmere without damaging it in hot water.
Why Does Cashmere Shrink?
For any fabric, whether natural or synthetic, different reasons contribute to the fabric shrinking. The four leading causes of shrinking in fabrics are; fiber structure, extra moisture, heat, and movement or agitation.
When cashmere fibers are subjected to a lot of heat and agitation, which are present in the washing machine, the fibers shrink. This is because cashmere fibers comprise protein scales. When these protein scales are under high heat and movement, they expand. The expansion makes the scales clasp each other, joining the fibers. As cashmere gets close to each other, shrinking happens.
To minimize shrinkage in cashmere, garment manufacturers preshrunk cashmere clothing during the manufacturing process. However, the preshrunk feature does not usually last many washes since every time your cashmere is washed; the feature fades away.
Thus, if you don’t want to shrink your cashmere clothing, avoid washing it in cashmere regularly. Moreover, it would help if you also considered handwashing cashmere since you will avert any shrinking risk when you handwashing cashmere.
How Much Does Cashmere Shrink?
When you put cashmere fabric in hot water and agitate it, various factors will determine how much the cashmere fabric will shrink. Specifically, high water temperatures and intense agitation will have high shrink.
As a specialty hair fiber with proteins, cashmere will usually shrink anything between 0.1% to 0.5% when washed in normal conditions – this shrink is negligible and hard to notice. However, when exposed to heat, moisture, and agitation, cashmere can shrink up to 2%.
If you own a cashmere blend, the shrink percentage will also be determined by the other fabric blended with cashmere. For example, if the blend has 25% cashmere and 75% a highly shrinkable material, then the blend will have a high shrink percentage.
Does Cashmere Shrink When Dry Cleaned?
Various fabrics are supposed to be dry cleaned because no water is used in dry cleaning. Thus, when many materials that are susceptible to shrinking are dry cleaned, the probability of the fabric shrinking is significantly reduced.
When dry cleaned, cashmere can shrink even though the shrink is negligible and hard to notice or have a significant difference. However, note that the fabric will become fluffier and lustrous if cashmere is regularly dry cleaned. Therefore, instead of dry cleaning, I advise you to handwash the fabric and dry it on a flat surface.
A liquid solvent is used in dry cleaning instead of water and bleach. As a specialty hair fiber, cashmere fiber can be easily damaged by the liquid solvent used during dry cleaning if you don’t use a solvent that is specifically meant for cashmere. To avoid such risks, you just hand should wash your cashmere clothing.
Does Cashmere Shrink When Washed?
Yes, cashmere can shrink when washed with the wrong settings. For instance, if you wash cashmere with high water temperatures and use the fastest spin speed in the washing machine, you will not only shrink cashmere but damage it.
When washed, always wash and dry cashmere on a wool or delicate cycle to avoid shrinking cashmere. A mild detergent or shampoo labeled cashmere shampoo should also be used.
If handwashing, wash cashmere in lukewarm water that is no more than 860F. Before washing cashmere clothing, make sure that your clothing has been turned inside out to make sure that you preserve the softness of the fabric.
The detergent or soap used when washing cashmere should be enzyme-free. Cashmere fibers have proteins. When you wash the fabric with detergents containing enzymes, you will damage the proteins in cashmere fabric, resulting in your cashmere fabric shrinking more.
Apart from that, the soap and detergents containing enzymes can make holes in the cashmere fabric.
If your cashmere care label is written ‘superwash,’ implying your fabric has been treated explicitly to ensure that it will not shrink when washed in the washing machine.
Superwash cashmere is usually coated or has points of the scales removed. Therefore, the scales cannot quickly catch each other even when exposed to heat, moisture, and agitation. That is what prevents shrinkage.
Does Cashmere Shrink In Dryer?
Yes, cashmere can shrink in the dryer. This is because cashmere fibers have protein scales. The mixture of heat and agitation as cashmere fabric is tossed in the dryer makes the scale enlarge and clasp on each other. As a result, cashmere protein fibers get close to each other, causing cashmere to shrink.
The fabric can still shrink if cashmere has explicitly been treated to make it machine washable. Even if you use a drying cycle with the lowest heat and spin setting, heat in the dryer and agitation of cashmere fabric is likely to make cashmere fabric shrink.
If your cashmere fabric has been coated with a protective coating, that coating is not adequate to protect your cashmere from shrinking. The coating is mainly meant to protect your material from friction caused by the movement in the machine. However, there is nothing to protect Cashmere fabric from the heat in the dryer.
As the coating fades with washing, your cashmere fabric will eventually be susceptible to shrink if you do not take care when washing and drying it.
If you want to dry your cashmere clothing and you don’t want to have any shrinkage, you should air dry cashmere. After you have washed the fabric, softly squeeze out any water left on the garment with a towel. You should then reshape the cashmere garment to its size and leave it to dry on a flat surface.
How Do You Shrink Cashmere?
Sometimes, you might have to shrink cashmere so that the cashmere clothing can fit you well. For example, you have probably just noted that your cashmere sweater is becoming oversized after losing weight. The good news is that you can be able to shrink cashmere. Here is the process you should use to shrink your cashmere clothing.
What you will require
Wash basin enough to submerge cashmere cloth in the basis with water.
Warm water – not more than 860F.
Mild detergent or soap that is enzyme free.
Flat drying surface.
Process of a shrinking cashmere garment
Step 1: Pour warm water into the washbasin.
Step 2: Handwash the cashmere garment.
Step 3: Rinse the garment.
Step 4: Put the hot water in the washbasin.
Step 5: Put the cashmere garment in hot water and make sure that it is fully immersed in the water.
Step 6: Agitate the garment in hot water and let it stay in water for 10 minutes.
Step 7: After 10 minutes, rinse cashmere fabric in cold water.
Step 8: Remove the cashmere garment from the wash basis and use a towel to absorb extra water. Make sure that you do not twist cashmere clothing as you could ruin it.
Step 9: Leave the cashmere garment to dry on a flat surface. If you still need cashmere to shrink further, repeat the process.
Can Cashmere Be Washed?
Yes, cashmere can be washed. You can wash cashmere with a washing machine or by hand. However, to protect your cashmere from shrinking and damage that could happen if the wrong washing machine settings are used, it is always wise that you handwash cashmere.
To wash cashmere with a machine, you will need to use a mild detergent or a shampoo. It would help if you never used bleach. Before loading cashmere in the washing machine, make sure that you read the fabric’s care tag. Then, use wool setting wash cycle and gentle dry in the dryer.
To handwash cashmere, use lukewarm water whose temperature does not exceed 860F. You should use a mild detergent or shampoo. Rinse the fabric with warm water and dry it on a flat surface.
Does Cotton Cashmere Shrink?
The cotton-cashmere blend comprises two natural fibers. As natural fibers are susceptible to shrinking, the cotton-cashmere blend will shrink. However, the blend will shrink if exposed to high heat and moisture.
Thus, you can shrink a cotton-cashmere shrink by washing it in hot water settings and drying it in a high-temperature dryer setting. However, be careful since agitation in the washing machine and dryer could damage your cotton-cashmere shrink.
How Do You Fix Shrinked Cashmere – Unshrinking Cashmere?
If you intentionally or unintentionally shrink your cashmere garment, you can be able to fix the cashmere. For example, if you wrongly washed the cashmere sweater and it shrank, you can use any of the unshrink methods to fix the sweater. The two methods that you can use to unshrink cashmere are discussed below.
Method 1: Unshrinking Cashmere Gently After Washing With Cold Water
Step 1: Handwash cashmere garment
Handwash cashmere garment that you want to unshrink with cold water. Use a mild detergent or shampoo with no enzyme. It would help if you never washed the garment with hot water since hot water will shrink the garment further.
Step 2: Rinse cashmere fabric with cold water
After washing the fabric, rinse it with cold water. Remove surplus water from the cashmere fabric by lightly pressing it with your hands.
Step 3: Place the cashmere fabric on a craft table
After rinsing your cashmere garment, place the garment on a craft table. Ensure that the craft table is big enough to accommodate the entire cashmere garment and give you good working space.
Step 4: Slowly and moderately pull the fabric
Moderately pull and stretch the fabric in the opposite direction with your hands. When pulling and stretching cashmere, protein fibers that make up the fabric will relax and attempt to get back to their original size – unshrink.
Since cashmere is delicate and you don’t want to damage the fabric by making holes, be patient when pulling and stretching the fabric. When pulling and stretching the cashmere fabric, you also need to maintain consistency on the fabric you are stretching.
After stretching and pulling the fabric to the size and shape you believe is ideal, leave the fabric to dry on a dry surface for a few days. Once the cloth is dry, try it out to find whether you have the size you want. If not, repeat the process.
Method 2: Unshrinking Cashmere By Tracing It With Another Garment That Is Of The Preferred Size
Step 1: Get a garment similar to the size that you want to unshrink your cashmere cloth.
Look for a garment of similar size and shape to the garment you want to unshrink. For example, if you wish to unshrink a cashmere sweater, you will look for another sweater with the size and shape you want to achieve by unshrinking the fabric. The sweater doesn’t need to be a cashmere sweater.
Step 2: Handwash the cashmere fabric you want to unshrink
Handwash the cashmere fabric that you wish to unshrink. By washing cashmere fabric, fibers that make the fabric will be relaxed and make the unshrinking process effective.
Step 3: Rinse the cashmere garment and remove any excess water
Gently squeeze any extra water into the cashmere garment. Be careful when pressing the garment so that you don’t stretch it.
Step 4: Place the garment to trace from on the craft table
Put the apparel that you want to trace from on the craft table.
Step 5: Put the cashmere garment on top of the garment you want to trace from
Place the cashmere garment that you want to unshrink on the top of the garment to guide you on the shape and size you will unshrink.
Step 6: Gently stretch the cashmere garment to have an equal size with the clothing you are tracing from
With your hands, gently stretch the fabric to match the size of the clothing you are tracing.
Step 7: Dry stretched cashmere garment on a flat surface
Place the stretched garment on a flat surface so it can dry. Place clean items on top of your cashmere fabric to ensure that the fabric retails its unshrunk size until it is dry.
If you still want to unshrink cashmere further, you can repeat the process.
Cashmere is among the most expensive fabrics in the world. When you buy a cashmere garment, you have to take good care of the garment or damage the fabric. To avoid shrinking cashmere, you should always hand wash the fabric.
If you have to use a washing machine, a gentle wash cycle with the lowest water temperature and spin should be used. To dry the fabric, a delicate dry cycle should be used.
If you want to shrink cashmere, wash the fabric in a hot water cycle and dry it with a hot, dry cycle. However, high spin speed should be avoided since the agitation inside the machine could damage the fabric.
Khan et al. (2019). Performance of specialty hair fibers blended wool fabrics.
Travel Wrap. Guide to washing & caring for your cashmere.