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Suiting Care Guide & Discussion (Cleaning & Storage)

prof.contingency

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Suit care is ever so elusive, with all sorts of old wives tales hanging about.

Over the years, I’ve been quite meticulous about how my suits are cared for – I don’t know why, but I suppose it’s some inner OCD or – to be more kind – my “conscientiousness”. I am sure many of you can relate. Prompted by a friend who asked for advice on how to take care of his suits, I thought I would collate and share my own findings here. I hope you appreciate it.

Please chime in, if there’s anything I’ve missed or with which you disagree. Suit care is as much of an art as it is a science, and all thoughts are welcome.

Snapshot of my addiction:

IMG_20201212_165039_122.jpg


Suit care can be broken down to two major parts: (i) storage and (ii) cleaning.

Part I: Storage

1. Always hang your jackets on a hanger when you are not wearing it. Of course, there are a number of goods reasons (e.g. organisation) for doing so, but in terms of function with respect to your clothing, there are two primary reasons: firstly, it allows your garments to retain a shape that avoids wrinkles and does not produce stress in the wrong areas. In this way, crunching up your jacket and throwing it on a chair is probably not a good idea. The second, often overlooked reason, is that it allows for your garments to ventilate. When a garment is worn, moisture will inevitably be absorbed by the cloth. It is imperative to let the cloth dry by way of ventilation. This is why experts often suggest cycling through your suits to wear.

As for trousers, they can be draped over the trouser bar of the hanger (if it has one), draped over a trouser hanger, or clipped upside down from a trouser clamp. Indeed, some swear by the trouser clamp, as it’s been thought to avoid the horizontal crease in the middle of the trousers. But I personally find that larger diameter trouser bars mitigate this anyways.

Quick tip: When out and about, if it’s not possible to find a hanger for your jacket, don’t be tempted to hang it over the back of your chair. God forbid. This will not do any good to the shoulders. Instead, if you must, fold it in half on the long side and gently place flat somewhere out of danger. And as for trousers, try to keep them on – at least, until you get home.

How to choose a hanger:

As far as I am concerned, there is only two factors here: make sure that your hangers are appropriately shaped and appropriately sized. This means that you are not using a thin shirt hanger on jackets and that the bulb of the hanger is contoured nicely. Secondly, your hanger is neither too wide nor too narrow for your jacket. In either case, damage can be done to the shoulders of the jacket. As a rough guideline, if your jacket size is 40-42, your hangers should be 17-17.5” wide. Kirby Allison has a large range of hangers.

As for material of the hanger, my opinion is that it does not matter for function, as long as the shape is correct. Plastic, rosewood, beechwood, MDF – it’s all the same. However, materials matter greatly for aesthetics, durability, and weight. I have heard from some that wooden hangers should be used as they help absorb moisture from the shoulders of the jacket. They cite Beechwood and Cedar as being most absorbent.

Unlike shoe trees, I am not convinced that wooden hangers help absorb moisture – but I may be mistaken. Cedar is said to be the best, followed by beech wood.

2. Always store in breathable garment bags. They help protect your suits from moths, humidity, and dust. Even the cheaper polyester ones are better than nothing. Pesty moths can damage fabrics, they are particularly drawn to certain fabrics, such as cashmere and silk – and grotesquely, human hair.

Importantly, make sure that the garment bag is breathable. As mentioned, some moisture will inevitably be absorbed by the cloth during wear. It is imperative to be able to air the cloth out to ensure that your suits last as long as they can.

And so, be wary about clear PVC plastic garment bags. Whilst they may keep moths out, the plastic is not breathable at all. Moreover, I find that clear PVC can yellow over time and transfer over to the cloth – yuck!

Part II: Cleaning

1. It’s always a good idea to brush your garments upon returning home.
This removes dust, dirt, and debris.

There are good brushes to be had anywhere. Brushes differ by stiffness of the fibres. More delicate clothing fabrics and/or weaves require softer brushes. For example, a hard bristled brush should never be used on a cashmere hopsack summer jacket – it will just increase the pilling.

2a. Avoid dry-cleaning. The dry cleaning of suits, I would say is a modern (American?) myth that, unfortunately, not everyone is aware. Dry-cleaning does very little for removing human moisture, which is the ordinary reason for cleaning one’s suit. And, the harsh chemicals associated with dry cleaning hurts the fibre’s sheen. Other than a particular bad case of soiling that require harsher chemical attention, there are seldom occasions that call for dry cleaning.

2b. Instead, one should “Sponge and Press”. The damp sponge helps remove human moisture from the cloth and the pressing helps restore the three-dimensional shape that a jacket ought to have. Note that the lapel roll is a function of many things, including the degree of hand padding, construction, as well as the pressing. The issue is that pressing a jacket is a particularly technical skill that is best done by a professional – e.g. a tailor or someone who knows that they are doing.

Simon Crompton has written a very good article on this; and The Armoury HK has a cool video:



Note aside: if anyone has seen North By Northwest, then you might recall the famous Crop Duster Scene. Here, Cary Grant runs through the field in his bespoke gray suit – the only outfit he wears throughout the whole film. But in this attempt to evade danger, he inevitably soils this suit turning it from gray to brown. Miraculously, after a good Sponge and Press at the hotel to which he returns, the suit looks impeccable again.

cary grant.jpg


3. It is permissible to regularly hand-wash your trousers with a gentle cashmere/wool shampoo

Since we wear collared shirts under the jacket, human moisture usually does not get absorbed by the jacket’s cloth. However, the same cannot be said for the trousers. Often, after two or three wears, I can start to feel uncomfortable in trousers.

To clean your trousers, turn your trousers inside out and soak them in luke-warm water with the cashmere/wool wash which has been formulated especially for . Gently massage the garment to release sweat. I previously used products from the Laundress, but I now use Clothes Doctor, as I find it gentler. Air dry (flat) and then press whilst damp.

But if you regularly hand wash your trousers but not your jacket, wouldn’t there be differential aging of the fabric between the two? This is certainly true and somewhat unfortunate. But, on the other hand, I find it incredibly impractical to not wash my trousers. Do you really want to wear sweaty trousers? This is one of those things in life where there is tension between practicality and the unobtainable ideal.

Nonetheless, I find that one way to mitigate this is to have two trousers for every suit, and then alternate them every other wear

Table 1. How often to clean suits?
After every wear:Brush the jacket and trousers after every wear. Start by brushing at the top near the collar and shoulders. Spot clean using a clean damp cloth or sponge if necessary.
After every ten to twenty wears:“Sponge and Press”. (Not too surprisingly, but when I’m in Hong Kong, I tend to sponge and press at a rate closer to the lower end of that range than when I am in London.)
After every forty to sixty wears:Dry clean, if desired.

4. Be careful with steamers

Steamers are often useful for dresses and trousers but be very careful when using with jackets. This is because jackets have a canvas, which are either floating or fused. In the case of a fused canvas, the steam may cause the glue to weaken and cause puckering around the jacket front and lapel.

I don’t believe that this is an issue in non-fused jackets – although opinion seems to be divided. I suspect steam would help loosen some of the debris from the fibres, which when combined with some light brushing, makes for a wonderful cleaning routine. And, once the garment is dried, the cloth should return to its natural crisp feel, without any puckering.

There is, however, so much variability with respect to clothes and construction that I am not sure that the above advice holds true universally. I often find that when people disagree about a subject matter, it is because they aren’t holding the relevant variables fixed. Perhaps, puckering occurs only under XYZ conditions. As to what those conditions are, exactly, I am afraid that I have no answer.
 

breakaway01

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Great post. Very sensible advice all around. My only comment is that I don’t think it’s all that hard to press one’s own jacket lapels at home—that roll comes from the construction. If the lapel is creased then I just lightly dampen and press from the reverse side.
 

prof.contingency

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Great post. Very sensible advice all around. My only comment is that I don’t think it’s all that hard to press one’s own jacket lapels at home—that roll comes from the construction. If the lapel is creased then I just lightly dampen and press from the reverse side.

Thanks for the comment. I think I agree with the comment about the lapel pressing at home -- that doesn't seem to require any specialised equipment.
 

Verve

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There are good brushes to be had anywhere. Brushes differ by stiffness of the fibres. More delicate clothing fabrics and/or weaves require softer brushes. For example, a hard bristled brush should never be used on a cashmere hopsack summer jacket – it will just increase the pilling.
Do you recommend a type of brush (or type of bristle) for your suits? I’ve looked at Kent’s brush with black boar bristles on Amazon and Kent Wang’s horsehair brush that the site recommends for shoes and clothing.
 

breakaway01

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Do you recommend a type of brush (or type of bristle) for your suits? I’ve looked at Kent’s brush with black boar bristles on Amazon and Kent Wang’s horsehair brush that the site recommends for shoes and clothing.
I have the Kent CC2 and CP6 brushes and would recommend them.
 

Verve

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I have the Kent CC2 and CP6 brushes and would recommend them.
Thanks for the recommendation, Breakaway. I was looking at those different Kent brush models after I posted the question, trying to narrow down the options.
 

prof.contingency

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Do you recommend a type of brush (or type of bristle) for your suits? I’ve looked at Kent’s brush with black boar bristles on Amazon and Kent Wang’s horsehair brush that the site recommends for shoes and clothing.

So, I think you mean Kent rather than Kent Wang (as I don't think the latter does garment brushes). Breakaway01 is right; they are a definately solid bet and I have a few.

Apart from the handle's material (wood, horn, plastic), the bristles matter. And, I've noticed that some brushes have dual-bristles. Usually, a softer one on the outside, and a stiffer one in the middle. These dual-bristle brushes are probably good all-rounders.
 
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konoyaro

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Another vote for the CP6 from Kent.
Also, if considering Kent products, check out ordering directly from them as it often seems cheaper than going through Amazon or other stockists.
 

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