How to Clean a Suit Jacket

How to Wash and Clean a Suit Jacket

Men’s fashion can be surprisingly complicated. From lapels to cufflinks, the right socks to wrong socks, men’s fashion is filled with subtle details that are hidden to the untrained eye. Unfortunately for men, laundering their formal and business wear can also be an intricate process. A men’s suit is often made of delicate materials like wool and silk that don’t take well to being tossed around in the washing machine with jeans and sweatshirts. Men’s suit jackets are especially delicate, as they often have shoulder pads, delicate detailing, inner pockets, and other elements that make them rather delicate to just stick in the wash. Suit jackets also tend to be on the pricier side, especially for well-made and high-quality suits. You don’t want to be ruining yours anytime soon. Read on for the best tips for cleaning and caring for your suit jacket to ensure it lasts a lifetime.

The Basics of Maintaining Your Suit Jacket

There are some basic practices you can set into place regularly to maintain your suit jacket. Whether this is your first suit ever and it set you back $400, or, it’s a custom-tailored suit that costs $3,000, you want to care for your investment. The two main reasons to properly care for and maintain a suit are so it lasts longer and so you look as good as possible while wearing it. Luckily, care and maintenance of your suits are not too time-consuming or costly. With a few good habits, you’ll be looking great in your suit jacket for years to come. These maintenance, cleaning, and care tips are also applicable to other formal wear such as men’s blazers and dress pants.

The two key points of maintaining your suit jacket are storage and cleaning. The first part is storage. We all have hangers in our closets, but the question is, do we have the right hangers for our suits? The size of hangers can actually damage the shoulders of your suit jacket if the hanger is too small or too large. Hanging your suit jacket on the correct size hanger will protect the structure of the shoulders and allow the jacket to drape correctly while hanging. This will also protect the shape of the entire jacket. If you have broader shoulders, use wider hangers. If you have narrower shoulders, use shorter hangers. You essentially want your suit jacket to still feel like it’s being worn by you, even while it’s in the closet. This rule goes for other delicate garments as well, such as men’s dress shirts. You want to have a wide hanger, not a thin metal one that will also cause creasing and indentations on dress shirts.

Another key part of maintenance is the right storage environment. Now that you’ve switched over to wide hangers, your suit jackets are going to need even more storage space than before. It is important to provide ample space for your suits and jackets to hang in your closet or wardrobe so they drape correctly during storage and don’t become crinkled or misshapen. Packing your suits into the closet too close together can also restrict airflow and cause a buildup of humidity, which in time will damage the fibers.

The last but not least important element of suit storage is to invest in some breathable garment bags. We advise storing all suits and jackets in garment bags to protect them from dust, moths, and dirt. Try to make a habit of storing all suits and jackets this way, including blazers and off-season men’s sports coats. Another great way to keep moths out of your suits is by storing the suits with cedar shavings. Cedar acts as a natural moth repellent, absorbs residual moisture, and also makes your suits smell deliciously and subtly musky. By taking the right steps to maintain and protect your suits, you’re going to ensure they last longer and look great.

How to Clean a Suit at Home

Many people think that suits can only be dry cleaned. This isn’t exactly true. In fact, over-cleaning your suit can cause the fibers to damage and degrade more rapidly. Dry cleaning is a wonderful way to deep clean a suit jacket, but the chemicals typically used by dry cleaners are damaging to the natural fibers of the fabric used in suits. This will decrease the overall appearance and longevity of your suit. Another great tip for suit wearers, especially if wearing a suit to work is a part of your office dress code, is that suits need to rest between wearings. Try to avoid wearing the same suit more than twice in a week to let the fibers adequately rest between wearings. I know, we’re also a little jealous of our well-rested suit jackets.

A useful tool to have around the home to keep your suit in tip-top shape is a horsehair brush. Use a soft-bristled horsehair brush, which is a relatively inexpensive investment to keep your suit jacket looking prime. After each wearing, take a few minutes to brush down your suit jacket and men’s dress pants. This will do a surface level of basic cleaning for your suit by removing lint, dust, and other gunk. Keeping your suits tidy looking is also another convenient deterrent for moths, so it’s good to keep them clean and dust-free.

Another important and useful tool to have on hand to help you clean your suit at home is a steamer and an iron. Using a steamer to get out wrinkles and surface particles is a great basic way to clean your suit jacket. If you don’t have a steamer, you can always hang your jacket in the bathroom with the shower on hot. Steaming can also be good to get out some particle-based stains. If your stain is oil-based, try using talcum powder to draw out some of the oils. An iron is another good tool for straightening out wrinkles and keeping your suit tidy and clean looking.

Step-by-Step Washing Process

Despite these day-to-day maintenance tips, sometimes you just need to wash your suit jacket. A suit should be dry cleaned a few times a year (depending on how often you wear it), but if you feel like attempting this at home yourself, here are some step-by-step tips to help you get your suit jacket to a spick-and-span state.

1. Spot Clean Your Suit

If you have a stain or a spot on your suit, it is possible to clean yourself. How you deal with this stain will depend on what stained your suit jacket. Like a delicate wool men’s sweater, proceed with care. Check the labels first for care instructions and to confirm the material of the suit. First, attempt to clean the stain by blotting with water. Using a clean washcloth or paper towel dipped in cool water, gently dab at the stain. If the stain hasn’t set, then this method may work well enough. Try not to scrub hard, as the harder you scrub, the more set this stain will become. Avoid heat and hot water, especially on wool suit jackets. Heat will cause the stain to set further and also may damage the wool fibers.

Heavier stains may require a cleaning agent. Vinegar and lemon juice are good natural alternatives to the harsher chemical stain removers, but if you have to go the chemical route be sure to test the stain remover in a discreet area of the suit jacket to be sure it doesn’t do any visible damage. What’s most important about stain removal is to be prompt! Don’t wait too long for the stain to set. If all else fails, you can always send it to the dry cleaners for a safe and effective way to remove stains.

2. Wash Your Suit

While it may seem crazy, you can indeed do a home machine wash of your suit jacket. Keep your suit jacket out of the bottom of the laundry hamper and instead pack it carefully in its own delicate washing bag to be washed alone without anything else. Fold and roll your suit jacket to be sure that excess agitation during washing is avoided. If you are also washing dress pants, turn them inside out first. _Never use laundry detergent to wash your suit jacket. You can use a delicate baby shampoo or a specialty wool and cashmere shampoo that is designed to gently cleanse the hair-like fibers of wool. The wash setting should be set to “Wool” or “Delicates” and washed at a cold temperature.

3. Hang Your Suit

Don’t put your suit jacket in the dryer. Instead, carefully unroll the suit jacket, reshape it, and lay it flat on a surface to dry. You can lay a clean towel underneath it to speed up the drying process. Once the suit is dry, you can hang it on a thick hanger to help it regain its shape. While drying, keep it away from any heat sources that may damage the fibers.

4. Steam Your Suit

Once your suit is dry, you can use a steamer to remove wrinkles and creases from the suit jacket that occurred during washing. As instructed above, steaming your suit is the best way to keep it wrinkle-free.

Handwashing & Spot Treatment

While handwashing may seem more logical, it’s actually safer to washer your suit jacket in the machine. This is because you can keep your suit well folded and contained while effectively washing it in the washing machine. In a washing basin, it can be a bit more difficult to wash everything thoroughly without distorting the shape of the men’s jacket. As for spot treatment, read our stain removal section above that covers all you need to know about spot removal at home.

A men’s suit is often an investment that can last a lifetime. With these washing and maintenance tips, you are sure to keep your suit in tip-top shape for years to come. For more men’s formal wear garments, check out Lands’ End and find the perfect dress shirts to match your dapper suit jackets.

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