Stains can cause disastrous damage to textiles like cashmere. Not only can certain substances degrade the strength and connective bond between the wool fibers, but remnants of any stain can attract clothes moths and the larvae that thrive on these leftovers.
Spot treatment and stain removal for natural fibers like cashmere wool differ from synthetic materials. The usual household remedies won’t always work, and since you need to act fast when it comes to getting rid of stains on your favorite cashmere garments, knowing what your options are before the worst happens is important.
Common Types of Cashmere Clothing Stains
When you’re evaluating stain removal options, your choices will center around the type of stain you’re attempting to remove from your cashmere clothing. Some solutions can be used for a variety of substances while others are only good for certain types of stains.
- Tannin. A lot of drinks cause stains due to their tannins, such as wine, tea, coffee, beer and natural fruit juices (including tomato juice). Soda drinks and chocolate can fall under this category, as well as many types of watercolor or washable markers and inks. Many fruits, like berries or root vegetables, also have tannins that can stain clothing.
- Dye. While synthetic dyes, like those used in some inks and food products, certainly fall under this category, spots and streaks from grass would also be treated as a dye-based stain. These types of stains can also occur when an article of clothing is washed with cashmere and bleeds its dye into the garment.
- Oil. Some oil-based stains come from natural sources, like animal or plant byproducts such as bacon fat or certain cooking oils. Cosmetic products, such as make-up, creams and body lotions, also produce oily stains. Automotive fluids and paint products may also leave oil-based stains that can prove particularly difficult to remove.
- Protein. Many natural and animal-based byproducts are considered protein stains. This can include foods that do not fall under tannin or oil-based categories, such as eggs or dairy products. Body fluids, such as urine, blood or vomit are also in this category. Animal droppings would also be classified as a protein-based stain.
- Combination. Due to the various ingredients in many prepared foods or manufactured products, a stain can be any combination of the above types. This complicates the stain removal process, and you may need to use more than one removal technique. Examples of products that might leave a combination stain include ketchup, mayonnaise, candle wax, or shoe polish.
Removing Stains from Cashmere Clothes
While there may be a variety of remedies for different types of stains, only a select few will be safe for cashmere garments. Because cashmere is made of short strands of natural wool fibers, it’s highly susceptible to damage when exposed to harsh chemicals or rough treatment. Caring for cashmere requires delicate handling. Scrubbing or bleaching a stain out simply isn’t an option with cashmere.
If you have no other options available to you when a spill or spot occurs, do these two things: stay calm and use cold water. It’s natural to think that hot, soapy water will beat any speck of dirt or debris into submission, but heat is the enemy of cashmere and can even render certain types of stains, like tannin-based ones, permanent fixtures. If you can’t remove the cashmere garment to rinse the stain beneath a stream of cold water, then dampen a napkin or cloth and blot the area carefully. Be careful to keep your blotting gentle and avoid stretching the area since wet cashmere can lose its shape easily.
Scoop solids off
When the accident involves a blob-like splotch of the offending substance, like peanut butter or ketchup, you can minimize the spread of wet and oily byproducts by scraping off the majority of the substance with the back of a knife or the side of a spoon or fork. Even the edge of a credit card or stiff paper would work. Whatever you use, wield it with care and avoid pressing too hard against the fabric as you scoop up the spill. Carry on with a cool water rinse or blot from there.
Wool-safe soaps are best, but if you’re dealing with a stain outside of your own laundry room, then you need to know which alternatives are best. Most unscented dish soaps are pH-neutral, therefore they’re a safe bet when you need a homemade stain remover in a pinch. Regular laundry detergent that’s labeled as gentle for sensitive skin is also a good candidate for pre-treating a stain. Mild baby shampoo or soap is also lifehack-approved for stain removal when you need to act quickly. It’s best to dilute any of these soaps a little and dab onto the spot until it’s fully saturated. Allowing this to soak for a few minutes before rinsing it with clean, cold water increases its effectiveness.
While vinegar won’t help with stains from foreign substances, a cold water rinse with a quarter to three-quarters cup of white distilled vinegar can stifle body odors and the yellowing that happens from perspiration transferring from the body to the garment. This is especially effective in the underarm areas of sweaters where sweat is likely to settle in. You may not notice any staining until you’ve washed the garment or brought it out of storage, so it’s good to get in the habit of incorporating this step any time you hand or machine-wash when caring for your cashmere clothing.
As with detergents, stain removers that are specifically formulated for safe use with cashmere are must-have items for any wool enthusiasts laundry room. The best ones use plant-based, non-toxic ingredients without any petroleum products or artificial colors. If you don’t have a cashmere-safe stain remover on hand, a concentrated amount of your usual wool-friendly detergent can be used to spot-treat prior to washing.
While the harsh solvents found at a dry cleaner’s aren’t always safe for use with cashmere textiles, you may still need the help of a professional if you have a particularly stubborn stain that won’t respond to normal stain removal techniques. You can consult with your dry cleaner about which products they have that pose the least risk of damaging or dulling your favorite cashmere garment.
Washing Cashmere After Stain Removal
If you’ve spot treated your stain and it looks like it’s still there, don’t panic. This is common with many types of stains, especially those from protein or oil-based substances. Many times, a full wash is all that’s necessary when this happens, even if you have to wait awhile before you’re in a place to give your cashmere the attention it needs post-stain.
Even if your stain removal technique is fully successful, you should always hand or machine-wash your cashmere garment as soon as possible after that spot treatment. When you’ve dealt with especially stubborn stains, you will probably find hand-washing is more effective and more controlled than tossing it into the washing machine for a spin. Remember that cashmere responds best to cool water, mild detergent and gentle squeezing to release excess water. Once washed, reshape the garment as it should be and allow it to dry flat.
Knowing your options for stain removal with cashmere clothing allows you to wear your favorite pieces with confidence and keep them looking good as new for as long as you own them.
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