IT HAPPENED. A greasy sauce spot. Right on the middle front of the Norah Gaughan Sand Waves Poncho that I wear All. The. Time. . . Oooohhhh Noooooo, I blurted out loud when I realized.
My ‘Oooohhhh. Noooooo.’ wasn’t fear that I couldn’t get the spot out; it was just that now there was another task to add to my to-do list. And it wasn't even a very tedious or time consuming task—just another task. However, I've decided to make lemonade out of lemons, as they say, and use the greasy spot to talk about caring for and washing cashmere garments, as well as share my favorite trick at removing grease stains out of anything from cashmere to those cotton t-shirts where the stains aren’t discovered until after being set in the dryer.
When knitting with our yarn, we say that your making isn’t complete until you’ve washed your garment the first time. Washing allows the stitches to even out and the yarn to bloom. The transformation is exciting, and the garment just continues to soften with wear. I like to use a mild hair shampoo to wash my cashmere garments. Shampoo is designed for our hair—a protein fiber. Cashmere is also a protein (animal) fiber.
To wash, I fill a basin with coolish, maybe room temperature water and a little shampoo and then immerse the garment for a bit of a soak. How long? Maybe 10-15 minutes. . .but I’ve also become side-tracked in the process and left a garment soaking for much longer. I drain the sink and then slosh the garment in a basinful of rinse water, perhaps going through a couple of rinse waters, to ensure that the soap is completely removed. I gently press out the extra water and then roll the garment in a towel to remove as much excess water as possible. Finally, I lay the garment flat to dry. If it’s a garment that needs heavy blocking (as with the points on our Archa Shawl by Nim Teasdale, for example), I’ll do that at this point. Otherwise, if it’s a garment that’s less fussy, I’ll just lay it flat into the desired dimensions and let it dry.
I don’t wash my cashmere a lot after that first time as I tend to wear many of the garments year-round and cashmere really doesn’t need to be washed often. If I’m going to store the cashmere for any length of time, I’ll inspect it, air it out, brush it off, and wash it if needed before storing it in a zippered cotton bag. I know that moths and other cashmere-loving creatures are drawn to human odors and dead skin cells (a bit gross, I know), so those steps help prevent against an infestation. I even put a bit of tape over the end of the zipper to keep those little cashmere eaters barred from having an unintended entrance to the storage bag.
Now for that greasy spot. My go-to greasy-spot remover is simply a little diluted dish soap, gently worked into the spot. For this spot, I let the soap sit for about 15 minutes before rinsing the area thoroughly and pressing out the excess water. I hung the poncho outside over a chair to let the wet region dry; I didn’t wash the entire garment. It didn’t need it.
The next day, I couldn’t find the spot. (I forgot to mark the stain with a pin to know its exact location.) If the spot had remained, I would have repeated the process, possibly adding a sprinkling of baking soda on top of the diluted dish soap to further draw out the greasy residue. In the case of t-shirts and other items that have sailed through the dryer with unnoticed grease stains, I’ve used the same method to remove the spots. The heartier the fabric, the more likely I am not to dilute the dish soap as I apply it to the stain. So far, it’s worked for me every time.
The moral of this story? Wear your cashmere garments frequently without worrying about dirt and stains because our yarn was milled to be worn. You can wash the cashmere, remove stains from it, and enjoy the fact that you have made a garment meant to last.
Until next time,