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SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? [Email her.](mailto:joliekerr@gmail.com)  

How do you get peanut butter out of cashmere? Asking for a sloppy friend (ok ok it’s me.)


Easy as peanut butter pie! Cashmere has a reputation for being difficult to clean but, quite frankly, that’s unfair — cashmere, as long as you know a few basics, is easy to spot treat, which is what we’re going to do here, and easy to wash, which I’m going to detour to talk about because otherwise this column would be, like, three sentences long.

How to Spot Treat a Sweater 

Let’s start with the spot treating instructions: When faced with a blob-like spill, like peanut butter or jelly or mayo or ketchup or whatever other weird stuff you’re spilling on your sweaters, start by using a butter knife or the side of the spoon to lift the PB off the sweater. Then, wet the stained area with cool running water and massage a tiny amount of dish soap (yup!) into the stain using your fingers. Dish soap cuts grease (peanut butter is oily!) really well, is totally safe to use on cashmere, and is great at taking our a whole host of other stains. Then, rinse the area free of soap and let the sweater dry flat.

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Generally speaking, dry cleaning, despite what most care tags would have you believe, isn’t the best option for cleaning cashmere, wool, angora, etc. The chemicals they use will strip those fibers of the natural oils that make them so attractive-looking, so it’s better to spot clean yourself whenever possible.

Sweaters — yes even the fancy cashmere ones! — can be washed either by hand or in the machine. The choice to hand-wash versus machine wash really comes down to how delicate the sweater is; if it’s got embellishments like beading, or if it’s especially fine, stick with hand-washing. Otherwise, machine washing is A-OK.

How to Machine Wash a Sweater

Machine washing is probably going to be the right choice for washing most of your sweaters, just for the ease of operations. But there are some ways in which sweaters differ from other kinds of launderable items in terms of how they like to be machine washed. These are the things you need to know:

  1. Use cold water.
  2. Select the delicate cycle, which is sometimes labeled “slow/slow” or “hand wash,” because the slower cycle will expose the sweater to less agitation, which is good because over-handling sweaters will cause their fibers to fray and break, causing pilling and felting, which will make the sweaters look old and worn out.
  3. Put the sweater into a protective mesh washing bag, which will cut down on the amount of friction the sweater is exposed to in the wash. For sweaters, you’ll want the large or extra-large sized bags.
  4. Be thoughtful about what else is going into the load. It’s best to wash sweaters and other delicate items of clothing with similar items to, you guessed it, cut back on friction. Avoid laundering delicates with heavy, bulky items like jeans, sweatshirts, and towels.
  5. Always air dry sweaters flat, since hanging sweaters to dry can cause stretching, and even using the no-heat setting on the dryer can expose the sweater to unnecessary friction. A mesh sweater drying rack will help to speed up drying time by increasing the airflow the sweater is exposed to.

How to Hand-Wash a Sweater

If you feel up to it, though, you should really try your, um, hand at hand-washing. It’s super easy! Especially if you use a no-rinse detergent (yup! Those exist.) And very definitely the best option for your sweaters. Here’s how:

  1. Fill the space you’re using — like the kitchen sink or an especially roomy bathroom sink — with cold water and a small amount of a no-rinse detergent like Soak Wash or Eucalan.
  2. Put the sweater in the detergent solution and, using your hands, submerge it and swirl it around so that the soap can fully penetrate the fibers. Then, allow the sweater to soak in the detergent solution for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Next, drain the wash water and, while the sweater is still in the sink, bear down using your hands to push excess water out. Don’t wring it, though! Wringing a sweater will put undue stress on the fibers, causing them to stretch or fray.
  4. Just like with machine-washing, sweaters should be air dried flat after you’ve hand-washed them, but there’s one extra step that’s super helpful to take: Lay the sweater on a towel and roll it up like a burrito. That will squeeze out a lot of water, leaving the sweater only barely damp and helping to speed up drying time.

Post-washing and drying, if the sweater looks a little pill-y or matted, the Gleener is a great tool for removing pills and lint from sweaters, leaving them looking almost-new.