Cashmere vs Wool: What’s the Difference?

cashmere vs wool

When temperatures start to drop, we all like to cozy up with a nice soft sweater. But if your winter wardrobe needs a refresh, there are a number of factors to weigh before deciding on a new knit. For example, will you end up spending a fortune on dry cleaning or—even worse—will your new sweater start to pill so badly after a single wear that you end up looking like a walking pom pom? In other words, how do you know which material to choose? Let’s start by comparing two of the heavy hitters in the world of sweaters: cashmere vs. wool. Read on to find out about some of the key differences between these two prized materials.

Cashmere vs. Wool: What’s the Difference?

Most of us think of wool as being the fluffy stuff that grows on sheep and while this is true, wool can actually come from goats, lambs and alpacas as well. Cashmere, on the other hand, refers to a far more specific animal fiber. This super soft material is actually combed from the undercoat of Kashmir goats, a breed of goat commonly found in the Himalayas. To survive in the freezing cold temperatures of their natural habitat, these special goats grow a down-like coat.

If you’re wondering which material will keep you most comfortable in frigid winter weather, the answer is that both wool and cashmere are plenty warm. That said, because the fibers of cashmere are so much finer than that of wool, cashmere is better at trapping heat without extra weight or bulk. Of course, the thicker fibers of wool do make for a sweater that is more durable, albeit somewhat rougher on the skin. Still, the durability of any given garment depends mostly on the quality of the wool or cashmere, as this can vary in both cases.

So, what do you need to know when caring for your sweater collection? Considering the differences that we’ve described between the two materials, it should come as no surprise that cashmere and wool have different needs in terms of cleaning. The fine fibers of cashmere result in a more delicate garment, and the softness of the material also makes it more prone to pilling—so if you invest in this type of garment, it’s a good idea to snag a special cashmere comb while you’re at it so you can shave off the fuzz that develops. Cashmere can be easily damaged by improper cleaning and actually fares much better when cleaned infrequently. Fortunately, regular washing isn’t necessary with cashmere because it tends not to retain odors as much as wool and generally keeps its shape better. Pro tip: The cashmere experts at State Cashmere suggest hanging a cashmere sweater up in the bathroom while you shower so the steam can clean it. 

Don’t get us wrong, though, wool has its advantages—namely that it’s lower maintenance in the care department than cashmere. Most wool garments can be machine washed as long as they are hung dry, so caring for wool sweaters is fairly straightforward. Finally, wool is a great choice if you want to stay warm without breaking the bank—since a single Kashmir goat does not produce a huge volume of cashmere, garments made of this material tend to be considerably more expensive. 

So, what’s the takeaway? Well, friends, it turns out that cashmere and wool are quite different from one another—but both have their benefits and they’ll both keep you nice and cozy.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...