As the weather gets warmer and the summer months draw near, we eventually fold and store our sweaters for several months until evenings get cool again and the leaves begin to turn, announcing yet another change of seasons. If just like me you favor wool and cashmere fibers over synthetics, it is essential that you store knitwear properly so you can enjoy your sweaters for seasons to come. In the next paragraphs, we will discuss several natural methods to care for your knits and ensure you will face no unpleasant surprises next time you want to wear your favorite cashmere cardigan or merino wool turtleneck.
The Little Moth that Loves to Feed on Your Favorite Sweaters
Do you ever reach into your closet for your favorite cashmere sweater only to find that is riddled with holes? Well, the culprit is a little unremarkable clothes moth, about a quarter of an inch in length, scientifically named “Tineola Bisselliella”. Its larvae (caterpillars) are a serious pest that prefers wool, but can also devour other natural fibers such as silk. The moths lay their eggs in dark, snug spaces and in close proximity to sources of food for their offspring, such as in drawers or closets. The larvae are especially attracted to fabric that has bodily fluid on it like sweat, or food residue. Once hatched and left unbothered, these minuscule veracious eaters can inflict serious damage, and as it turns out, they often have a knack for selecting our most favorite pieces to feast on.
Best Practices for Storing Your Cashmere and Wool Sweaters
First and foremost, wash your sweaters before storing them. Make sure you check the care label and if the only option is dry cleaning, follow the recommendations. I prefer washing over dry cleaning as it is less toxic and a better environmental choice. While I don’t recommend washing sweaters too often, at the end of the season and for the reasons explained earlier, it is important to remove all traces of fluids and food.
Place your similar color sweaters in a mesh bag, and select the gentle cycle on your wash machine settings with cold water. Use a gentle detergent, ideally a wool or cashmere shampoo such as the one offered by The Laundress. This gentle product has conditioner benefits and helps protect cashmere and wool from becoming too dry. Once the wash cycle is over, remove the sweaters promptly, lay each one individually on an absorbent towel and reshape by pulling gently on the seams, neckband, armholes, and hem. You can roll each sweater in the towel to remove excess moisture. Finally, lay flat and allow to air-dry fully. Once your sweaters are dry, gently remove any pilling using a cashmere comb that is gentle and unlikely to snag the material.
You can choose to store your sweaters in airtight bins or garment boxes. I personally prefer to keep them on shelves in my closet so they can breathe and air out. Because moth larvae are not fond of cotton, satchels made from the fabric can be great for holding sweaters. Do not use mothball products. Not only do they smell repulsive, but they are full of chemicals and they are not as effective as they once were thought to be. Instead, choose one or more of the natural options listed below that have been proven for centuries to be effective.
Cedar closet accessories are available in a range of formats from satchels, to planks, hanger rings, etc. Relatively inexpensive, this fragrant wood repels moths and silverfish. The drawback is that the wood becomes less effective as time goes on, and it is recommended to replace the pieces about once a year. Cedar essential oil can be used to sprinkle the wood pieces and extend their useful life. Additionally, cedar wool & cashmere fabric spray is a great way to refresh your sweaters and provide additional pest protection without staining or leaving any overpowering smells. I recommend The Laundress Wool & Cashmere spray which I have been using it for several seasons, or the cashmere and wool care kit from The Clothes Doctor.
Natural, dry lavender sachets are another effective way to keep moths and silverfish at bay. If you love lavender as much as I do, this method will delight your senses every time you enter your closet or open a drawer. The fragrance will fade over time, so to reactivate, massage the sachet and the dry content will revive. I absolutely love the ones from Dot and Army as they are super chic and made in the USA. Lavender essential oil can also be used to sprinkle on dry lavender sachets to enhance the fragrance and extend their useful life.
Lastly, simply airing your sweaters by placing them outside for a day ensures any possible larvae dry out from the heat. This simple technique is effective and has been practiced for centuries all around the world. One word of caution: do not leave your colorful wool and cashmere sweaters in direct sunlight as it may cause discoloration.
How to Mend Sweaters
If you do find some of your sweaters have been ravaged by pesky moths, wash it to eliminate any eggs or larvae and consider ways to mend it. Cashmere and wool are precious fibers that require a lot of resources to produce, so instead of discarding, consider some creative ways to mend and extend the life of a damaged sweater. Knitwear is a bit more complex to mend as the fabric can unravel further, so each individual stitch around each hole has to be secured.
There are some great YouTube tutorials that can be followed to learn how to mend knitwear. Additionally, if you prefer a professional service, we recommend Without a Trace in the US and the Clothes Doctor if you are in UK and Europe. For Santicler products, you can always contact us and send photos to assess the damage. We are happy to offer a quote to fix your garment.
In conclusion, treat your cashmere and wool pieces with love and they will last a lifetime. Quality products made from premium materials will only get better with wear: the hand will become softer, the knit loftier, and the cashmere will pill less. Given the strain our limitless consumption puts on the environment, it is up to each of us to ensure we purchase better clothes, we care for them and wear them longer.
Thank you for reading, Monica