How To Clean & Care For Your Suit

Photo: The Woolmark Company

There are guys out there who drop crazy amounts of money on custom suits and then – brace yourself for this one – treat them like a pair of jeans. Were talking folding them in drawers, tossing them into crumpled piles in corners and even sending them through the washing machine (you scoff, but we swear we’ve seen it happen). But then there are those who know how to clean a suit like a pro.

How To Clean A Suit

Listen up, gentlemen: looking impressive in a suit does not begin and end with spending a lot of money at the tailor. That’s part of the process, sure, but there’s still work to be done once you’ve brought that baby home. If you want your suit to last, you have to take care of it. It’s kind of like a girlfriend – if you want it to stick around for a while, you’ve got to give it some time, attention and TLC. Except girlfriend maintenance tends to be a lot more expensive than suit maintenance has to be.

The Basics

Your normal clothing care process is simple. Step one: Wear it. Step two: Wash it. Step three: Repeat. Your first inclination, after trotting out your suit for several days at the office or a few evenings on the town, is probably to have it dry cleaned. Don’t.

Dry cleaning your suits frequently can actually reduce their lifespan due to the chemical process involved. Save the dry cleaning for stains or other major emergencies, and even then have them spot clean only the affected areas if possible. The rest of the time, man up and care for your suit yourself.

These are the tips and essential tools you’ll need to make sure your suit stays looking as good as the day you bought it.

Remember, NEVER wash your suit. Ever, despite what idiots tell you.

Tools For Cleaning A Suit

After you’ve shelled out on a spectacular suit, here’s what you’ll need to keep it looking fresh:

Buy A Suit Brush

Brushing your suit after every outing is the best way to ensure that it stays in top form. The fabric of a suit loses its integrity over time as dirt and unseen particles build up. A decent suit brush will help you prolong its life. A suit brush looks much like your hair brush, with a wooden or plastic body/handle and bristles made from either synthetic material or real animal hair. Natural animal hair is your best bet, to ensure that the bristles aren’t so coarse that they damage your suit. Apply your shaving strategy and brush downwards only.

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Invest In Quality Suit Hangers

No wire hangers, ever. You should feel ashamed for even letting the thought cross your mind. The right hanger helps maintain the shape of your jacket, thereby extending the length of its life, and helps smooth out any wrinkles sustained during wear. The cost can vary greatly, so just look for something with wide shoulders made from wood that fits your budget. If you wear your suit to work and take off your jacket during the day, it doesn’t hurt to have a second hanger at the office so you can avoid throwing it over the back of a chair.

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Get A Cloth Suit Bag

Your suit may have come with a plastic or canvas bag, but ditch it as soon as you’ve brought it home. A cloth bag is the way to go, because it encourages greater air flow and allows your suit to breathe. A bag also protects against moths and wrinkles. Wait a day or so after wearing your suit to put it into a bag, and make sure your closet isn’t packed so tightly that air can’t reach it.

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Essential Tips For Cleaning & Caring For Your Suit

With the basic tools in hand, you’re ready to get down to the nitty gritty of actually tending to your dapper dress-up clothes. Work hard, play hard, care hard. Here’s how to extend the life of your faithful sartorial companion:

#1 Cleaning Your Suit

Have we made it clear yet that your suit should rarely be banished to the dry cleaners? Some especially dedicated suit enthusiasts will only dry clean their suits once or twice a year. Base your dry cleaning habits on your suit’s fabric. Fabrics of higher micron numbers (higher than Super 150s wool) are richer and softer, but also finer and more fragile. Dry clean these as infrequently as possible. After a big night hang your suit outside and use a damp cloth to clean any spots.

#2 Never Iron Your Suit, Steam It

A good steamer isn’t cheap, but it’s a worthwhile investment. Steaming your suit is a delicate method of removing wrinkles and odours and won’t damage the fibres. Avoid using a regular iron to press your suits as the high temperature may cause damage. Also avoid steaming the chest area, which may disrupt the shape of the internal canvas.

#3 Learn To Brush & Roll

Wool has a tendency to accumulate dust, dirt and lint from the environment with wear. Brush your suit after each outing, beginning at the shoulders and working your way down. Always brush gently and slowly, and never perpendicular to the fibres. Use a lint roller as needed to keep everything looking spiffy.

#4 Hang IT Correctly 

Hang your suit when you’re not wearing it. As we’ve already noted, you should never use flimsy metal hangers and should take care hang your suit in a space where it isn’t cramped up against other clothes. The right hanger will have a contoured shape that matches the shape and drape of your jacket, will be wide enough to touch each edge of the shoulders and will be made of a natural wood that helps absorb moisture from fabric.

#5 Pack It Well When Travelling

A garment bag is a must if you’re a serious traveller with a suit. Look for one that is easy to carry, light and breathable. If a garment bag is totally out of the question, learn how to properly fold and pack a suit in a way that minimises wrinkles and offers maximum protection.

#6 Protecting Your Suit

One of the best things you can do for your suit is let it take regular holidays. In the same way that your muscles need to rest after a serious workout, your suit needs time to recuperate after it’s been worn. Try to avoid wearing the same suit multiple days in a row to avoid deterioration (unless you’re walk-of-shame-ing straight into office, in which case sport yesterday’s clothes with pride). Rotate through your tailored wardrobe regularly so that each suit has ample time for a little R&R.