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How to increase the lifespan of your clothes

A couple of years ago I took my favourite wool coat to the dry cleaners before storing it for the summer. Whilst that is a sensible thing to do in general on this occasion it turned out to be a disaster. The cleaner shrunk my coat by at least two sizes and then tried to cover up his mistake. A lengthy battle for compensation began…

I was perplexed as to why this had happened. It is not something we expect when we are getting expert help. Having spent some time researching likely causes I finally came to the conclusion that the cleaner hadn’t ensured the coat was completely dry before starting the cleaning process. You might wonder why I was taking a wet coat to be cleaned – I wasn’t. So here is the thing about wool: it can hold up to 40% of its own weight in moisture without feeling wet! The residual moisture in my coat is what caused it to shrink during the cleaning process – something that most dry cleaners check for.

Why am I telling you this story you might wonder? I wanted to illustrate how important it is to understand a little bit about the fibres of your clothes and how taking some small steps can help make your favourite clothes last longer.

So here are my top tips for increasing the life of your wool suits and coats:

  1. Empty all pockets when you get home. Take out keys, tissues, etc so that the fibres  can relax back into their original shape. Constantly having weight in your pockets will create lumps and bumps in your clothing that will be difficult to remove.
  2. Don’t wear a suit two days in a row. As mentioned above wool has some amazing properties and is a great material to wear. Allowing your wool suit to ‘breathe’ in between wears will increase its lifespan and help it maintain its shape and quality. By not wearing it for a day any residual heat and moisture can dissipate – keeping it fresh for longer.
  3. Invest in a clothes brush. Before you hang up your suit or coat for the day give it a quick brush down removing any hair and small dust or dirt particles. This will prevent the dirt working its way into the fibres where it will not only dull the look of the cloth over time, but will also make it a magnet for moths.
  4. Make sure there is space between garments on your clothing rail. Giving your clothes room to breathe will again allow moisture to escape, reducing the risk of creating conditions for moths to thrive. If your wardrobe is bursting with clothes I would recommend a wardrobe clear out session. Enlist the help of a stylist if the task seems too daunting. You’ll be amazed at the results!
  5. Have your suit dry-cleaned as little as possible. I am of course not advocating wearing anything that is dirty, but there are other ways of looking after your tailoring than taking it to be cleaned. Try removing small stains by spot cleaning them with a cloth and water. Wool naturally repels water, so try to do this as soon as the stain occurs and before it has been absorbed. You can also ask your dry cleaner to spot clean your suit and give it a good steam  rather than a full clean.
  6. Freshen up your tailoring while you have a shower. Another amazing feature of wool is that it has self cleaning properties. Hang up your suit or coat in the bathroom while you shower. Make sure you move it to a dry location afterwards and let it air out for a day.
  7. Storage. Do have your suits and coats dry cleaned before storing them for the season. As mentioned above removing and dirt particles will discourage moths from attacking your clothes. Cloth garment bags are best – storage in plastic will create a hot and humid environment again attracting pests.
  8. Hangers. Invest in good quality hangers that are not wider than the shoulders of the garment you are hanging. Most run-of-the-mill hangers come in a width of 42cm. Fine for menswear, but far too wide for women’s jackets and dresses. Try to find hangers with a width of 38cm and your sleeves will thank you.

Do let me know if you have any tips to add and feel free to share this post.

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