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HOW TO CARE FOR SUITS AND SUIT SEPARATES
You just bought the perfect, flattering suit – now what? We say, it’s high time you got into the nitty-gritty and learned how to keep that prized possession clean and well cared for. The pain of keeping your suits and suit separates clean right from the start will help you save money in the long run. Plus, it will ensure you look sharp – not unkempt – when the next wedding or formal event invitation arrives. Think of your suits and their care as an investment in yourself and your future.
When investing in your future, it’s not all stocks and bonds. Whether you are just starting your collection of fine tailored-for-you suits or adding to it, one thing for sure is that you want them to last. Although styles and trends have changed over the years, the basics for getting the greatest return on your investment has stayed the same.
The Basics: At-Home Care
You wouldn’t invest in your dream car only to leave it parked outside in all types of weather nature has to offer (at least, we hope not). So, you shouldn’t start investing in those custom-tailored suits without acquiring the Basic Tools to care for them properly.
Tools You’ll Need
- A Suit Brush or lint roller if you’re in a pinch
- Proper hangers; preferably wooden with shaped ends to fill out the shoulders
A steamer for quick refreshing and touch-ups
- This is your best line of defense in suits that weather the daily grind and the occasional happy hour or formal event.
The Suit Brush (a.k.a. the clothes brush)
Depending on your age, you may have heard of the Suit Brush. This is something that you may have seen on your father’s dresser and never realized its purpose. Regardless, it is an absolute must!
Purpose: to extend the life of your investments, keep you and them always looking sharp; all the while saving you money!
Here’s the basics: Normal maintenance means brushing off the dirt, dust, hair and the occasional spot (of course anything serious regarding a stain should be left to the professionals so be sure to find a well-trusted cleaner). After each wear brush against the fabric to remove any dirt or hair, don’t forget anything that may have gathered in your cuffs, then brush along it to restore the fabrics finish (careful not to brush into any satin parts of your suit).
Before a suit retires to a dark closet it needs to be hung and aired at least a day or two.
After wearing your suit, regardless of the venue it is always a good idea to let it air to properly dry out all the fibers and remove any odors that may be lingering. And trust us: It’s best to have a couple of suits on rotation, so you’re not wearing the same one days in a row.
The Proper Hanger has enough shape and substance to allow your jacket to drape properly while airing out. Wood is the most durable option and can last a lifetime. If storing for any length of time, investing in good quality cedar hangers is the best method of repelling unwanted moths.
The trousers should be hung separately. To get them back into proper shape, start by turning upside-down and aligning the cuffs so the legs hang nicely by their creases. A room with a little airflow is best. If that is just not possible, point a little fan in their direction for a couple days.
Hand Steamer is a great tool for removing those nasty wrinkles anywhere you bend. If you trust yourself with an iron this will certainly do the trick, however extra caution is a must.
Keeping a clean non-colored terry or linen towel between the iron and the suits fabric is extra insurance against burning. The best practice is to place and lift the iron, allowing the heat and steam to remove the wrinkles, instead of rubbing it up and down the garment. Never place an iron over anything that could possibly leave a stain. The iron will just ensure its permanent placement on your beloved suit.
Cleaning Your Suit at Home
Removing Small Stains
When a damp cloth and brush don’t do the trick, don’t give up hope. Keep on hand a cheap, high-proof vodka. In a plastic spray bottle, mix your handy spirit with water in a 3:1 ratio. Spray it liberally on the area in question. Vodka dries odorless, kills bacteria, and will successfully remove smells. It’s always good to test an inconspicuous area first.
Relying on Dry Cleaning
Depending on your generation, you may believe that the best way to care for and clean these tailored pieces is by leaving them with your local dry cleaner. There is no exact science to deciding whether to visit the dry cleaner or not. However, most of us utilize them way too often. In the decision to dry clean, consider:
- Odors — At the very least you should have two different suits allowing you to hang and ‘air out’ the pieces. Everyone is different, so check weekly for suspicious ‘odors’ coming from your separates after they have been AIRED. (we discuss ‘airing your suit’ a little later.)
- Dirt and Stains — When brushing and spot cleaning dirt or stains doesn’t do the trick anymore, time to visit the dry cleaners
How often should you dry clean your suit? If you wear your suit one to two times per week, it only needs to be dry cleaned twice a year.
Dry cleaning should be left as a last resort: Reserved for either a stain that is too much to handle at home, a smell that clearly says it is time for a professional refresher, or the end of its wearing season/wearing rotation. Every dry-cleaning process will break down the suits’ delicate fibers ultimately resulting in a shorter lifespan of looking crisp and neat.
Cleaning a Dress Shirt
We have a whole separate article on the topic! Check your clothing label to find out what fabric your dress shirt is made of, and follow the instructions in our guide about washing dress shirts.
Whether machine or hand-washed, be sure to remove and lay flat as soon as the washing is complete to make sure that it doesn’t get damaged and will retain its shape.
Cleaning Dress Pants
It is only natural for your pants to become stained and soiled before your jackets. However, if you absolutely must dry clean the pants, it is ideal to take the jacket whether it needs it or not. The process involves chemicals that could potentially alter the appearance of the color and fabric. Now you’re left with suit separates that no longer gives you that put together look and confidence when wearing your expensive, personally tailored suit.
Have patience with your pants. Try cleaning a couple times with the above tips for any spots or smells. It will be well worth it for the longevity of your prized possession.
Storage for you suit garments is your final step that must be taken seriously. No matter how well pressed, if it is stored incorrectly your risk of deterioration skyrockets!
Before storing for any period of time, this is where your trusted, well recommended dry cleaner comes into play. Never store your garments with any foreign smells or remnants of food or drink. Even the slightest can bring on pests excited for a healthy snack.
Cloth Storage Bag. One last inexpensive item for maintaining the high-quality standards of your investment is a breathable cloth garment bag. Don’t even waste your time keeping those plastic or heavier canvas bags, they leave no room to breathe.