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How to look after your suits

2 August 2008

Many people look after their suits badly. This may seem obvious. After all men hang their suits on pegs, leave them on the floor after a day’s wear and occasionally bundle them into bags. For the most expensive piece of clothing a man owns, it is generally not treated well. But the biggest mistake he makes is dry cleaning his suits too often.

The chemicals in the dry cleaning process damage natural fibres of wool or cotton, thinning and weakening them. Over time the material at stress points such as the crotch and elbows will wear down. Dry cleaning is still the most effective, indeed really the only effective way to get dirt out of these materials. But often the suits simply aren’t dirty.

Any dirt that does accumulate during a day’s wear can easily be brushed off in the evening. Simply hang up your jacket and trousers and brush them a few times with a soft-bristled brush. This removes the specks of dirt before they can get ground into the material through wearing or pressing.

Suits brushed this way after use should only need to be dry-cleaned twice a year. Some enthusiasts recommend only dry cleaning your suit before it is stored away for the season – so once a year – but this rather suggests that they own more suits than the average man, meaning few uses of the suit each week, and only wear a suit for six months of the year, again suggesting less use.

Dry cleaning twice a year should be sufficient for a suit worn once or twice a week. If you wear a suit more often than that, its lifetime is going to be considerably shortened anyway.

Hang your suit up every night and always leave it for a day before wearing again, to let it recover and drape out its wrinkles naturally. Heavier materials and linen should be left for at least two days.

Many recommend steaming your suit in the morning to remove any last wrinkles. This is often impractical, but it is worth doing occasionally. Buy a portable steamer, or use the steam setting on your iron to puff steam into the material while it is hanging up (make sure it is on a low heat as well). You will sometimes see staff in shops doing this to suits on display, to make them appear crisp and fresh.

If the crease on your trousers also softens over a few weeks, this can be steamed back in with an iron, but again make sure it is on a low heat.

That’s pretty much all you need to do. Store the suits with plenty of space between them in a closet, preferably in cloth suit bags to keep moths away (the brushing out of dirt should also make the material less attractive to the little bleeders). And if you are the kind of man that stores seasonal suits away for six months, make sure they are clean and wrinkle-free before you do so.