Reader Kimberlee has a question: “I purchased a J. Crew cashmere sweater this winter in black. How can I make sure that I don’t get little moth holes in it this summer, without making it smell like moth balls? Susan, help me!”
I’m here, Kimberlee. And I have the answer.
You’ll need three things to protect your sweater from the moths: baby shampoo, cedar blocks, and a storage container. You can find all three at Target.
Iris Stor-n-Slide boxes, $99 for a set of six, Target
Ready? Here’s what you do.
Wash your sweater. Any random food stains are like a wee buffet for the bugs, and body oils can stain the fibers. Fill a clean sink with cold water; add a wee bit of baby shampoo (I like Johnson’s Baby’s lavender variety) and immerse the sweater. Gently squeeze the water through the sweater and soak for about ten minutes. Drain the sink and carefully rinse the sweater until the water runs clear. Squeeze out the excess (do not wring, though, or you run the risk of stretching the fibers). Lay a clean towel on the counter or table and lay the sweater out flat on top of it; roll the whole thing up, like a burrito, and squeeze the rest of the water out. Dry flat (I lay mine on a towel on the top of the dryer). Done!
And yes, I know the label says dry clean, but do not ever dry clean cashmere; the chemicals will dry out the fibers in the sweater and cause them to break. In the long run, your dry cleaned cashmere sweater will wear out faster than the one you’ve washed in the baby shampoo. Plus washing the sweater makes it soft (and delicious smelling) and prevents pilling. I typically wash a new sweater before I wear it (or at least after the first wearing because who can resist putting a new sweater on RIGHT NOW? Not me).
Once your sweater is clean and dry, store it in an airtight box; a plastic box is just fine, although you’re welcome to invest in a cool fabric version if you prefer. It doesn’t really matter. Toss the cedar blocks in the box to ward off the moths — if you like, put them in a linen or cotton bag to prevent any possibility of staining the sweater during the off season.
And you’re done! When you unpack in the spring, your sweater will be bug-free and smell like a cedar forest (or like a clean hamster cage — but still, better than mothballs).
I don’t actually store my sweaters; instead, mine live all year in a hanging padded shelf in my closet, with cedar blocks stuck in between them. So far this has worked just fine.