Can You Shrink Cashmere Sweaters?

Cashmere sweaters can be shrunk in hot water.

Photo: Andrew Olney/Photodisc/Getty Images

The good news: Your man surprised you with a sexy cashmere sweater for your birthday. The bad news: it's just a touch too big and the store doesn't have any left in your size for an exchange. What to do? Shrinking the sweater is a possibility, though clothing experts disagree on the method to use and whether to go with hot or cold water. The one thing the experts do agree on is that after an attempt at shrink doctoring, your cashmere sweater is never going to be the same, so approach with caution.

In the Washing Machine

The self-proclaimed serial clothes shrinker who writes for Alterations Needed, a site dedicated to helping petite women find clothes that fit their small frames, regularly uses her washer and dryer to shrink shirts, including cashmere sweaters. She's received good results from washing the sweaters in cold water on the delicate cycle and then drying them on medium heat, checking on the amount of shrinkage every few minutes. However, she cautions that the method isn't foolproof -- some sweaters shrink too quickly.


If throwing your beloved cashmere into the washing machine makes you nervous, you can hand wash it instead. Fill a bathtub, large basin or sink with medium-warm to hot water, add a delicate soap like Woolite and carefully swish the sweater around in the water. Roll the sweater in a towel to remove excess water, and place it in a dryer set to the highest heat setting. Check the sweater periodically to make sure it doesn't shrink too much. The Budget Fashionista warns that this method will certainly make your cashmere sweater shrink, but this method may also distort the sweater's shape and cover the fine hairs with unsightly pills. If you're trying to shrink the sweater only a little bit, lay the washed sweater out to dry on a towel instead of putting it in the dryer.

Expert Advice

No amount of underground cashmere sweater-shrinking tips changes the opinion of clothing experts. Dry Cleaning & Laundry Institute textile analyst Chris Allbrooks told the Chicago Tribune that it's impossible to shrink a cashmere sweater without inflicting irreparable damage to it. According to Allsbrook, you won't be able to control how much the sweater shrinks once it comes into contact with hot water, regardless of how careful you are. Additionally, the look and feel of the goat hair, fibers and wool that the cashmere is made of will never be the same.

Cashmere Care Tips

Whether or not your attempt at shrinkage works, it's important to know the correct way to care for new cashmere sweaters that you absolutely do not want to accidentally shrink. Turn the sweater inside out, and place it in a large mesh laundry bag. Wash the sweater in cold water in a washing machine set to the delicate cycle, or hand wash your sweater in a large basin or sink. Either way, use a mild detergent like Woolite, following the instructions on the bottle for the amount needed. If you're hand washing, be careful not to rub or wring the sweater -- just swish the water gently around the sweater. Rinse by draining the water out of the basin and refilling with clean cold water. Roll up the sweater in a large towel, and then lay out the sweater flat on a clean towel to dry, away from sunlight and any heat sources.

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