Maintenance – When to dry clean a suit

When to dry clean a suit is a subject that does not get enough attention, but it’s vital you understand the pitfalls and benefits so you can keep your suits in first class condition so you always look your best.

Dry cleaning is a harsh process that should be used sparingly. Why it is called dry cleaning has always baffled me, there is nothing dry about it. Your precious clothes are put into an industrial machine that resembles a huge front loading washing machine with 40-50lbs of other people clothes and are ‘washed’ in a steady stream of liquid solvent. The clothes are then tumble dried in the same machine before preferably being steamed, but more likely pressed into shape.

This process sounds extreme, and rightly so – it really is very harsh on your clothes. Sounds like I am against dry cleaning? Definitely not, there are times when only dry cleaning will do, for example if you are out for the evening and you manage to get a large glass of wine spilt down you. There will be times when only dry cleaning will do, but those times are the exception, not the rule.

So without further ado, here are my top tips when dry cleaning:

  • Never clean your clothes on a schedule, just when they need it (even if your suit hasn’t been cleaned for a few months).
  • Many stains can be spot cleaned or expertly removed without the need to clean the whole garment.
  • Giving your suit a good once over with aclothes brush should be used as your maintenance clean.
    • Brush your suit after each use to remove any light dirt
    • Use a natural hair clothes brush of good quality to ensure it is kind on the fabric
  • After being in a smokey environment, don’t hang your suit in your wardrobe, let it air in a well ventilated room for a couple of days.
    • This protects your other clothes from the smell
    • Most suits are made from natural fibres (wool) which will breathe and release any odour
  • Many suits are sent to the dry cleaners because they are creased, not because they are dirty.
    • Invest in quality hangers to keep the shape of your suit better.
    • Always hang your suit up after use, don’t just throw it on the back of a chair or worse still, the floor.
    • Most dry cleaners will offer a pressing only service – just ask
    • Hang your suit in the bathroom while you shower, the steam will make creases drop out
  • Allow your suit time to rest after each use, leaving at least two days before you next wear it.
  • Dry cleaning can damage your suit so use sparingly
    • Solvents can affect the glues used in low to mid range suit (fused) jackets making it appear uneven or ruffled.
    • The heat from pressing if done excessively or incorrectly can affect the fabric making it shiny.
  • When you get your dry cleaning home, take it out of the plastic bag and put it on your quality hangers
    • The plastic suit bags deteriorate over time and can damage, fade suit fabrics
    • The free wire coat hangers will stretch and misshape your clothes if left for long periods
  • Invest in some quality tools at home and save yourself money and spare your clothes
    • Most steam cleaners come with a fabric attachment which will freshen and remove creases
    • Continuous steam irons (like the Polti) are very similar to those used by professionals
  • When at the dry cleaners, ask their advice first, don’t just hand over your suits without discussion
    • Any reputable dry cleaner will advise against needless cleaning, but most are not consulted

Proper care of your suits will make them last longer, and keep them looking first class for longer. Dry cleaning is misunderstood and over used. Master it and you are sure to look like a modern gentleman.


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