Proper Clothing Care | How to Care for Clothing | Luxury Clothing
Proper Care Will Extend Longevity and Improve Appearance
Sadly for Us, It Will Also Save You Lots of Money!
by Alexander Kabbaz
Let me say at the very outset that I am a fan of Mild and Minimal. When it comes to clothing such as suits, sport jackets, coats and other heavily constructed outerwear, the fewer cleaning cycles they must suffer - and suffer they do - the better. It is important to have a sufficient quantity of clothing in your rotation that garments of all types are worn no more frequently than once weekly. Once monthly is much better. All types - from socks, underwear, shirts, and blouses to suits, coats, dresses, and skirts. The jacket I am wearing in the picture is 15 years old and basically in new condition.
Why? Natural fibers need time to relax and rejuvenate. It's that simple. When at rest, fibers are not stressed or in the process of being abraded and they absorb moisture from the environment. This permits them to return closer to the state they were in when you first purchased the item or, more importantly, to the state they were in before they were harvested.
Your wardrobe, if you stop to consider it, may be one of your larger investments of both money and time. Treating it as such will greatly increase the longevity of quality garments.
The primary reasons garments retain soil are two:
- Chemical nature of certain stains such as tannins from wine which are not normally encountered on socks or underwear
- Wash cycles are too short
Forget about chemical stains. These can be dealt with only by appropriate stain removal processes. There are a few listed in the shirt laundering section below ... but your dry cleaner is probably the better route to follow.
The most prevalent cause of soil retention in the washing process is the second. A cycle that is too short simply will not permit the detergent to act.
The cure is simple. Follow this procedure for all washable garments. Learning how to properly care for your clothing certainly won't harm it!
- Soak! Using a large bowl or tub - or your washer if it's not needed that day - mix your detergent into warm water. Note that I said mix - not pour. It is essential that you agitate the detergent sufficiently that it is not all sitting at the bottom of the water! Let the water cool.
- Put your soiled clothing into the water. Agitate it sufficiently to circulate the detergent/water mix throroughly into the clothing.
- Leave! Go about your business and return the following day. Then, in whatever manner is appropriate, complete the wash cycle. By allowing the clothing to soak overnight you have permitted the detergent sufficient time to release the soil. A 15 minute wash cycle does not do that.
Garment Cleaning ... The Way It Used To Be
Outerwear Care Basics
Here are a few specifics regarding outerwear. Brushing is always better than dry cleaning. If you have been perspiring, do not brush immediately upon undressing. Properly hang the garment, either on a valet or on the correct type of hanger for each item. Suits and coats should be hung on appropriately shaped wooden hangers. They may cost you $8-$20 each ... but you wouldn't park your Mercedes in a tent, would you? Pants should be hung straight, bottoms up, on clamp-type hangers. By clamp I mean the clamp which goes across the entire cuff, not the clothespin type clamps. Those leave indentations in your cuffs. Clamp hangers are also used for skirts, extended as far as possible outward on the waistband. Once the moisture has evaporated, brush lightly with a good clothes brush. Observe the nap. If the garment is properly constructed, you would normally be brushing downward.
In that regard I was asked a question in response to this article: "Does brushing Downward mean as it is worn from top to bottom or when it is clamped in a hanger?" Realizing the gap in my writing, here's the response I sent:
- "Nap" is most commonly known as a velvet-like finish given to certain garments. In reality it exists in many garments, not necessarily as obviously, especially in thicker ones such as woolens used for tailoring suits.
- The natural action of brushing things off one's clothes (when wearing them) is to brush downward and outward. Therefore the nap would normally face downward from the top to the bottom of the garment.
- How can you tell? When you brush with the nap (downward from top to bottom when worn - if properly constructed) the cloth will feel soft and smooth. When you brush against the nap it will feel rougher and possibly even 'prickly'.
Reserve dry cleaning for those times when the garment either has a stain or has been worn sufficiently that it is retaining odor. It is adviseable to ask your cleaner to press trousers on the inside except for the leg crease. This will minimize "shine" which, once present, is never leaving. A very wise idea is to purchase two pairs of trousers or two skirts with each suit. It is the rare jacket which wears as rapidly as the part which is constantly sat upon and, in the case of trousers, undergoes the constant friction of legs rubbing together. This may cost you 20%-25% more initially but will save the 100% cost of prematurely buying a new suit when the jacket is still in good condition.
Follow your instincts. Observe all the myths you have ever heard about laundering. As a matter of sad fact, you can even follow the instructions on most detergents.
In all cases you'll be washing everything as hot as possible. As a proprietor of a top quality clothing shop, you will be doing wonders for my bottom line. Your clothing will be clean and it will have the longevity of a fruit fly. Like I said ... fine by me.
Or you could WASH EVERYTHING IN COLD WATER!
Lousy for us as your order frequency will halve ... great for the longevity of your fine clothing. Put as simply as possible, heat is an anathema to most fibers. It removes their natural moisture. It makes them hard and brittle. In short, it takes the life out of them. Once they are hard and brittle, every time you put them in motion by wearing them, the fibers will develop microscopic breaks. After breaks come pills and after pills come holes.
So quite seriously, try the soaking method I have described above. It will consume no additional time on your part and your clothing will have the life expectancy it should.
A Few Specifics:
Sweaters, Polo Shirts, Underwear, Intimates, Pajamas and Similar Made of:
Silk, Cotton & Cashmere Blend, Cotton & Silk Blend, Silk & Cashmere Blend, Pure Cashmere, ExtraFine Merino, & Linen:
Wash cold in Woolite or similar - unless the maker says "Dry Clean Only" in which case ... Duh! Dry Clean Only! Washing by hand is best but a gentle machine wash is not too bad.
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Socks and Similar Made of:
Silk, Silk & Cashmere Blend, Cashmere & Nylon Blend, Pure Cashmere:
Machine Wash Cold in Original Tide Powdered Detergent.
Blocking to dry is best. An intermittent dryer session without heat isn't the end of the world**.
Also ... see "Blocking Socks" over there on the right. ->
Underwear, Intimates, Pajamas, Cotton Polo Shirts and Similar Made of:
Cotton, Cotton & Lycra, MicroModal
Cotton Lisle, Pima Cotton, or ExtraFine Meirno
Machine Wash Cold in Original Tide Powdered Detergent.
Dry in a dryer without heat on the NO HEAT* or "Fluff" setting.
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Blocking socks is ridiculously easy: Just grab the heel and shake once or twice. The sock will return to its original shape and you can just lay it down flat.
How to Dry In The Dryer with No Heat:
If you use the dryer for Underwear, Intimates, Socks or Pajamas: Tumble Gently on the NO HEAT setting until damp. Remove while still damp and hang or lay flat.
Sweaters, Polo Shirts, Leggings, Tights: Block to dry (see "Blocking" below)
Cotton & Silk Intimates and Intimates with Lace: It is best not to tumble dry these as it can cause the cotton, silk and/or lace to snag. Block to dry - see below.
Why Plastic hangers? Metal hangers eventually lose their protective coating ... assuming they had one in the first place. Once the bare metal is exposed, it will cause rust marks to appear on damp-hung garments. Just listen to Joan Crawford: "No Wire Hangers!"
It's not rocket science.
Let's work backwards from the objective: to lay the garment flat in a shape as close to the shape it is in when it is worn. For garments such as sweaters, undershirts, and camisoles, lay them on their backs with the sleeves outward at the angle which makes the sleeve seam lay flat. For panties, briefs, boxers, leggings, and long underwear, lay them on their backs and smooth them flat. You must make provision for air circulation underneath or they won't dry. The easiest way to do that is to lay them atop a white terrycloth towel. Surfaces such as tables, beds, the back of a sofa, or on the floor if nothing else is available will suffice.
Fine Leggings, An ExtraFine Merino Sweater, and a Lace Camisole all Blocked on Terry Towels for Drying
Once the garment is flat, pull with a slight stretching action to extend body and arms as much as possible. This will reduce shrinkage. If the garment is not completely dry the following day, turn it with the back upwards and leave until dry.