How to Properly Clean and Take Care of a Suit—A Guide
Have you ever wondered how you should clean and care for your suits at home? We know that it can get annoying having to schedule a dry cleaning run every time you need to freshen up your favorite suit, but no one wants to damage their carefully selected wardrobe cornerstones. Luckily, with the right home care, you can not only stretch the time between full washes, but you can also keep your custom-made investment suits looking fantastic. Just as the fit that suits you will make any man look great, caring for your suits in the right way will keep them looking perfect for a lifetime
Today, the expert tailors from the Oliver Wicks team are here to help you! We’ll walk you through how to take care of your suits at home so that you can minimize the frequency of dry cleaning. Soon, you’ll feel as confident about cleaning and caring for your suit as you are wearing it.
There’s a lot you can do day-to-day, as you wear your suit, to avoid damage to its structure.
Needless to say, hang your suit when you take it off, don’t just toss it on a chair or the end of the bed! If you often remove your jacket at work (and you should, to prevent the armholes from stretching unnaturally), take a suit hanger to work with you. Hanging the jacket instead of hooking it on a chair will help maintain its structure and shape over time, especially in the ultra-tailored shoulder area—you will avoid wrinkles too!
Try to rotate your suits daily rather than wearing the same one for lengthy periods. Rotating clean suits allows each to air and dry between wears and reduces wear-and-tear on each. Leaving 24 hours between wears will be enough for a light suit, and a 48-hour break for heavier garments is ideal.
A great-fitting suit is designed to be worn, of course, but avoid activities like sitting on rough, sharp surfaces (like concrete) or surfaces like grass (which can leave stains). Likewise, don’t scuff your suit jacket against doors and walls that could leave marks or snag fibers.
By taking a little care and attention when wearing your suit, you may never need to learn how to wash a suit jacket at all!
Spoiler alert - We do promote home cleaning techniques as an alternative to professional dry cleaning. The purpose of this article is to offer tips on caring for your suit so that you can reduce, not eliminate, the need for dry-cleaning, ideally getting it down to just a few visits per year.
Invest in a soft-bristled suit brush to brush down the shoulders and outer surfaces of your suit after each wear. Even if you only sit at work all day, particles like pollen, dust, and even pet (and human) hair can cling to the quality fabrics of your suit. Not only is that a one-way ticket to ingrained grime, but it can also abrade the fabric strands over time, leading to unsightly pilling and damage.
Brush your suit in the same way you would shave—long downward strokes. While you’ll find nylon bristles on suit brushes, we suggest using one with natural animal hair—like soft boar bristle—this will reduce static and be kinder on the suit fabric, too. If needed, make a second pass with a lint roller.
Just as knowing how to pack suits correctly can spare you from arriving at your travel destination with a wrinkled suit, storing your suits correctly at home will greatly lengthen the time between washes and ensure that they are always ready to wear.
As a heavy and structured garment, suits benefit from being hung correctly. Invest in high-quality and thick wooden or padded hangers. The broader shoulder of these hangers prevents thin wires or narrow wooden dowels from digging into the carefully tailored shoulders of the suit, risking deformation or stretching of the material in the wrong places.
Additionally, wood and light, absorbent fabrics help remove traces of sweat or moisture from a suit, keeping the fabric cleaner and free from mold. Remember, moisture is the enemy of a quality suit! If you can find them, cedar hangers will not only freshen up your suit but also keep moths at bay. Otherwise, you can use cedar blocks suspended from your hangers to keep pests away.
Make sure to correctly hang the suit, too. Ensure the hanger lies across the shoulder seam, supporting the shoulder pads and hanging naturally, as you’d wear it. Trousers should be folded vertically and laid over the trouser bar without creases or wrinkles.
Don’t pack your suits into your wardrobe like sardines in a can, either. Ensure there’s some “breathing room” around each piece. Not only does this prevent any accidental moisture from getting trapped in the garment, but it also prevents your suits from being squeezed out of shape by overpacking.
Ideally, invest in a breathable suit bag for each garment. Avoid plastic or canvas, and look for light cotton or breathable wool flannel. These materials will prevent dust from settling on the shoulders in storage and prevent UV light damage (yes, it can happen in wardrobes over time) from altering the color of the shoulders and other stand-out areas of the suit.
Did you know that steaming a suit, rather than figuring out how to wash one, is the best way to freshen its appearance and keep it looking brand new? So, if you’re wondering how to get wrinkles out of a suit jacket, try steaming it before you jump to a wash. Not only will this give your suit a light clean, but it will also allow the fibers of the suit material to plump up again, disinfect the suit, and remove unsightly wrinkles caused by daily wear.
In fact, it’s better to steam clean suits than to try and press them with an iron—irons run the risk of scorching the fabrics and flattening them over time. If you ever do have to use an iron on your suit, set it to high steam and use a clean, dye-free tea towel or similar barrier between the iron’s surface and the garment. That being said, we do not recommend trying to iron a suit yourself. If light steam doesn’t achieve a good result, it’s time to visit the dry cleaners.
We highly recommend investing in a portable garment steamer, which will let you run the wand over the shoulders and flat planes of the suit effortlessly. They are cheap and endlessly useful.
Can you steam a suit if you don’t have a garment steamer on hand? Yes- you can hang your suit in a steamy bathroom to remove light creasing and freshen its appearance. Be sure to let the suit air out before you put it in the wardrobe, so you don’t risk mold.
Wondering how to clean a suit jacket at home? We recommend you use spot cleaning to treat stains timeously and stretch the time between full washes as much as possible. Simply use an appropriate detergent and lukewarm water. Dab at the spot with a soft sponge, allow it to penetrate, then gently blot to pull as much moisture out as possible. Repeat with clean water.
Never scrub at the fibers, as this can damage them. Simply pat gently with that soft sponge and let the stain lift and clear. Even with a very mild detergent, it’s always advisable to test on a hidden spot to ensure that you will not damage/stain the fabric in any way.
If you like the idea of having a subtle scent on your suit, there’s nothing wrong with wardrobe scents, but most won’t do anything for the actual cleanliness of the suit itself. Opt for undyed, stain-free scent bags that you can loop on a separate hanger rather than having it hang directly against your suit.
The exception to this is cedar blocks. You’ll find everything from literal blocks, which can be placed in a light organza bag to hang, to ones that are specially shaped for hangers. Cedar is a lightly aromatic wood with pest-repellent properties, so they make a fantastic alternative to chemicals like naphthalene mothballs to keep your suits safe in storage—and the scent is light and masculine. Because they come from oily resin in the wood, we recommend hanging these separately from the suit on a different hanger to avoid any chance of stains. As the risk is very low, you can consider cedar hangers if you would prefer, but separate blocks are easier to maintain and swap out and can be refreshed with a little cedar essential oil if needed.
Learning how to travel with a suit and how to pack suits in a suitcase is an art all of its own. We’ve looked at several smart ways to keep your suit pristine in transit in a separate article so that we won’t go into too much depth here. However, with the tools that you’ve already assembled to care for your suit at home—a breathable garment bag, great hangers, and a small garment steamer—you can travel like a pro, so don’t worry about your suit holding you back from an action-packed travel schedule.
Now you know how to care for your suit at home like a pro and minimize the need for trips to the dry cleaners! You also know the tools and techniques that you need to care for it day-to-day, ensuring you can keep washing to a minimum and still look like a million bucks whenever you wear it.
Learning how to care for a quality suit will help you get the most from your wardrobe. Plus, it’s always satisfying to learn a new gentlemanly skill. If you love learning aspects of sartorial dressing like this, why not consider signing up for our weekly newsletter? In addition to news about our latest fabrics and ranges, you will receive tons of helpful tips. You can sign up for free on any of our websites, and you’re sure to enjoy the wealth of information they will bring you.
If you have any questions or concerns about caring for your favorite Oliver Wicks suit or wish to enquire about our tailoring guarantee and services, feel free to reach out to our helpful team (firstname.lastname@example.org) today—we love to hear from you and are always happy to help!