The right cashmere sweater, wool coat, or down jacket can certainly be an investment, yet when it comes to learning how to care for winter clothes, there seems to be a great deal of mystery. Use the machine, don’t use the machine, wash by hand, don’t ever wash at all—it’s beyond confusing.
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In the interest of effectively prolonging the life of your winter clothes, we’ve compiled a handy guide packed with tips including how to wash wool, cashmere, down, and velvet, when you should be washing them, and how to fold or hang ‘em like a pro. Consider this your ultimate source for keeping your winter clothes looking perfect for seasons to come!
1. Despite what it says on the tag, cashmere is best washed by hand in cold water with baby shampoo or Woolite for optimal softness and protection from chemicals (and only about two times a season).
2. Never hold up a wet cashmere sweater by the shoulders, it’ll stretch it out. In fact, keep your cashmere in a lump when you go to pick it up when wet.
3. To dry it quickly, use a salad spinner, which releases excess water in seconds. Don’t have one? Lay it flat to dry, pressing it gently with a towel.
4. Always fold cashmere sweaters in thirds so you don’t get a fold line running down the front of the sweater.
5. Always clean cashmere before storing it for the winter, as moths are attracted to our everyday scents, such as perfume, food, deodorant, and smoke.
6. If you do dry-clean your cashmere, be sure to remove all garments from the protective plastic immediately. Wrap them in tissue paper and place in cedar-scented bags instead.
Wool Coats, Sweaters, and Pants
7. During the winter, treat wool coats with a lint or suede brush after wearing to remove surface soil and lint.
8. Hang wool overcoats on sturdy wood hangers so the weight of the coat doesn’t stretch the shoulder area.
9. Wool coats shouldn’t be hung in a packed-to capacity closet, as breathing helps the material stay crisp.
10. Remove light stains on wool by blotting (not rubbing!) with cold water or club soda using absorbent cloths or paper towel.
11. Wool coats should be dry cleaned at the beginning and at the end of the season. Why at the end? Because moths are attracted to everyday human scents like perfume, smoke, and food.
12. Empty wool coat and pants pockets after every wearing to keep them from sagging or losing shape.
13. If light wool sweaters say hand wash, you can use the machine’s hand-wash or wool cycle with cool water.
14. To actually hand wash, use a mild detergent and lukewarm water and let the item soak for 3 to 5 minutes before rinding in cool water. To dry, gently squeeze the garment and lay it flat.
15. Never use scalding hot water or bleach on wool items.
16. To dry, gently squeeze the garment and lay it flat. Hanging can ruin the clothing’s shape.
17. Allow 24 hours between wearing your wool sweaters or pants, as this allows wrinkles to dissipate and the elasticity of the fabric to bounce back.
Down Jackets, Vests, and Blankets
18. It’s key t0 use a front-loading washer, as a top-loading machine can damage the down item.
19. Use the permanent press cycle on the washer and add the proper amount of soap per directions on the bottle.
20. Don’t add more detergent than necessary— residual soap prevents down items from getting fluffy.
21. If your garment is really dirty, stop the machine mid-wash for a hour or so and simply let it soak.
22. To ensure all residual detergent is rinsed out, run the item through an additional wash cycle with no soap at all.
23. Drying is a slow process because high heat can causes unnecessary wear and tear to down-filled items .
24. However, you need some heat because otherwise, drying will take forever.
25. On a standard dryer, low heat works best for down items.
26. Don’t get frusterated if, after a standard drying cycle, you’re items are still damp: Just start the dryer again on low-heat.
27. Always toss in a few tennis balls to break up clumps.
28. Even with the tennis balls, pull the jacket out of the dryer periodically and manually pull apart the clumps with your fingers.
29. Always read labels, as some velvet fabrics must be dry cleaned, but others—such as crushed velvet—can be machine washed.
30. Never iron velvet, as the fibers will get crushed and the iron will leave an imprint.
31. You can use a steamer to remove mild wrinkles from velvet if you turn the garment inside out.
32. You can also hang wrinkled velvet in a steamy bathroom to remove creases
33. Never fold velvet when storing. Instead, gently stuff items with tissue paper and lay flat inside garment boxes.
34. Velvet gets flattened easily, so never press or blot. If you spill something, shake out moisture and, if it leaves a stain, follow cleaning instructions.