We've all had this happen before - you're getting ready for an important work event and notice a new stain on your favorite suit. Uh oh, not again! Normally you'd take it to the dry cleaner, but money's a little tight this week. What's a professional to do when you need to look sharp but can't swing the dry cleaning bill?
Luckily, you can save some cash and extend the life of your suits by learning how to clean them at home between trips to the cleaner. With a few handy supplies and techniques, even an amateur can freshen up their work wardrobe. In this article, we'll share insider tips on suit care and DIY cleaning so you can keep your suits looking their best. Read on to become a suit cleaning pro!
Prep Your Suit for Washing
Before dunking your suit into sudsy water, take a few preparatory steps. Give the suit a thorough inspection and look for any problem spots or stains. Pretreat these areas with a specially formulated stain remover or dab with vinegar using a clean cloth. This extra effort helps ensure stains don't set further into the fabric.
Always check the care tag too. Most suits can be gently washed at home, but look for the manufacturer's recommendations on water temperature, cleaning products, and drying methods. Some suits may require professional dry cleaning only.
Gather any supplies you'll need:
- Mild liquid laundry detergent or delicate wash
- White vinegar
- Soft towels
- Zippered garment bag
- Stain removal brush or soft-bristle toothbrush
Avoid using hot water, harsh detergents, or excessive force when cleaning suits - this can cause irreversible damage like shrinkage or broken seams. Play it safe with mild, suit-friendly products.
Soak and Swirl - The Wash Process
Fill your bathtub with lukewarm water - not too hot! Add a small amount of mild detergent, about 1-2 tablespoons per gallon of water. White vinegar, about 1⁄4 cup per gallon, helps brighten colors and acts as a fabric softener.
Gently place your suit in the bath, submerging it completely. Allow it to soak for 30-45 minutes so the detergent can loosen stains and dirt. Every so often, swirl the water around lightly to refresh the solution. Be cautious not to agitate the suit roughly.
Once the soak is complete, drain the tub and refill with fresh, clean water for rinsing. You want to rinse away all traces of detergent that could lead to buildup on the fabric over time. Allow a second 30 minute soak in the rinse water.
Dry and Finish Like a Pro
After draining the rinse water, avoid wringing out your suit, which can cause creases or damage seams. Instead, gently press water out between towels. Carefully lift the suit out, smoothing the fabric into shape.
The best way to dry a suit at home is by hanging it on suit hangers or a drying rack. This allows the suit to air dry flat, preventing water spots and wrinkles. Use towels to pat down excess dripping water, then reshape the shoulders and lapels. If needed, insert shoulder pads while the suit is drying.
For faster drying, point a fan towards the suit to circulate air. Depending on fabric thickness, air drying can take 1-2 hours. Avoid direct heat sources like radiators or hairdryers which could scorch delicate fabrics.
Once fully dry, use a garment steamer or iron on a low setting to touch up any wrinkles and creases. Be extra gentle around seams, embroidery, or decorative elements.
Finally, store the freshly cleaned suit in a zippered garment bag until it's time for your next important occasion. The bag protects the fabric and keeps dust away.
When tackling suit cleaning at home, keep these extra tips in mind:
- Be extra gentle when handwashing delicate spots like shoulder pads, lapels, and linings. Use a soft washcloth and mild detergent, taking care not to distort the structure of the suit.
- Limit total soaking time to an hour or less so the fabric doesn't get damaged from overexposure.
- Suits with fancy details like intricate pleats, ruffles or silks often still need professional dry cleaning. When in doubt, play it safe and go to the pros.
- For optimal longevity, get your suits dry cleaned 2-3 times per season. DIY cleaning in between keeps them fresher.
- Spot clean suits right after wearing to prevent stains from setting in. A damp cloth removes dust and debris.
- In cold or humid weather allow 24 hours for drying.
With some handy supplies and a gentle approach, you can keep your suits looking sharp between trips to the cleaner's. Just remember - when uncertain, follow the care label instructions to avoid damage. Use these tips and you'll have your suits lasting season after season!
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