Suit Cleaning 101: How To Make Your Suit Last
Keeping a suit looking like new requires some suit cleaning standards; it doesn’t stop once you pick up the dry-cleaning. If you don’t know the basics of suit cleaning, we’ll show you the ropes to keep you and your suit lookin’ fresh.
You’re hard at work and hard at play. You’re cranking away, making moves and looking ever so fresh in your newly minted custom suit. With it on, you’re sitting, walking, running, grinding and hustling all day long. And you’re not alone. Your suit is hard at work right there with you; a modern day coat of armor that keeps you shining. But your daily hustle doesn’t just affect you, it affects your suit too. So you’re thinking about parting ways with your suit for a couple of days so it can spend some down time at the dry cleaners for some thorough cleaning.
But should you…?
A suit is a serious investment. Like any investment, you have to respect it, understand it and learn how to properly manage and care for it. We show you a few simple steps on how to extend the life of your trusty companion…
Avoiding the Cleaners
You know not to throw your suit into the washer but there’s nothing that will beat up your suit jacket and wear it out faster than frequently taking it to the dry cleaners. While a trip to the cleaners every once in a while is inevitable, do so only when visible dirt or odor has built up and spot clean the dirty areas rather than have them clean the entire suit jacket. Dry cleaning will expose your suit to harsh chemicals that will eventually take its toll on the fabric. Some cleaners will also not exercise sufficient care during the process and may damage the internal canvassing (this is not a problem for pants which do not contain convassing). So steer clear and only clean your suit jacket when needed.
Like anything that includes toxic chemicals, dry cleaning is best used in moderation.
Certain suit enthusiasts will even go as far as limiting dry cleaning of a suit to as few as once or twice a year. Instead, care for your suit by steam cleaning it and consistently hang it up with some room between it and the next item in your closet (likely another suit) so it can properly air out in between wears.
Also, remember that suit care becomes incrementally more important with fabrics of higher micron number (higher than Super 150s wool). Many people confuse wool of higher micron numbers with higher durability but the opposite is the case. While softer and lusher which results in better drape, wool yarn with higher micron numbers are also finer and more fragile, making them more susceptible to everyday wear and tear; frequent dry cleaning will only exacerbate the issue.
Steaming, NOT Ironing
Using a garment steamer on your suit is one of the best ways to not only free your suit of wrinkles but also deodorize it. Steaming is a more delicate method of rejuvenating the fibers of your suit that will help prolong its life. A good steamer can cost up to $150 but is a small price to pay to keep your suits in tip-top shape over the long run. Avoid steaming the chest area. This area doesn’t get wrinkled much and steaming it may alter the relative shape of the internal canvas. More importantly AVOID use of a regular iron to press your suits, as prolonged and direct contact of an iron on the suit at a high temperature setting may damage the fabric and cause a “shine”. If you must iron, use a press cloth as a barrier to protect the wool.
Always hang your suit up in a well-spaced area when you’re not wearing it. And don’t hang it with one of those flimsy metal hangers that will leave hanger divots in the shoulders. Invest in a proper wooden hanger with a wide-spread contoured shape to preserve the shape and drape of the suit. The hanger should be wide enough to touch the edge of the shoulders and wide enough to fill up a portion of the shoulders. Try to buy hangers made of natural wood as they will help absorb the moisture from the fabric after a long day of wear.
Brushing and Rolling
Dust, loose hair and dandruff can accumulate in your hair over time. You keep it clean and neat with shampoo and brushing. Your suits deserve the same care. Wool is a natural fiber that can hold dust, dirt and lint from the environment which if left untouched, can cause damage to the fabric over time. A suit brush costs less than $20 and giving your suit a brush after each wear along with the occasional application of a lint roller (as needed) will significantly extend its life. Just hang up your jacket and brush downwards (never perpendicular to the fibers) gently and slowly. Start at the shoulders and work your way down.
Give Your Suit a Break
While we all may have been in situations where we need to wear the same suit two days in a row (partying too late and waking up in an apartment that’s not your own, etc.), try not to wear the same suit every day to avoid deterioration. The natural wool fibers of your suit need time to rest and recover, so make sure you rotate your suits evenly throughout the week. Just like you, your favorite custom tailored suit deserves a break from the limelight for some occasional R&R.
A garment bag is your suit’s favorite companion when traveling. Use one that is not only easy to carry, but will adequately protect your suit. Use garment bags that are breathable and light to keep your suit cool during transit.
When Traveling without a Garment Bag
More often than not, it may be impractical to travel with a garment bag for a suit. For those occasions where space is a premium, you’re going to need to know how to properly fold and pack a suit in a way that minimizes wrinkles. You’ll note this is how your suit was folded when it first came out of the Black Lapel box and into your life.
If you’re traveling and don’t have access to a steamer, hang your suit on your bathroom door while you take a hot shower. Don’t like hot showers? Give your suit some steam treatment of its own – just hang up your suit, turn up the hot water in the shower, leave the vent off and close the door. In just a few minutes, your suit should be relaxed and relatively wrinkle-free from the all the hot steam.
For more on how to improve your road game, check out our guide to building the ultimate travel suit.
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