The Ultimate Care Guide To Coat And Jacket Maintenance
Daylight hours are on the wane, leaves have taken on a rich auburn shade and you’re (begrudgingly) pushing your aloha shirts to the back of the wardrobe. Coat season is now well and truly upon us and if you’re dusting off your faithful Barbour or in the market for a new suede bomber or enveloping greatcoat, you’ll want to know how to take care of your wardrobe’s most prized investments. To that end, we spoke with Jeeves of Belgravia, the dry cleaning firm HRH Prince Charles entrusts with his finery. So, if you’re all the gear and no idea, our comprehensive guide will arm you with the knowledge to keep your waxed jackets, louche leathers and cashmere overcoats just as their designers intended.
Dry clean (when necessary)
They say cleanliness is next to godliness, but as with everything, there can be too much of a good thing. While better for preserving your threads than machine washing, dry cleaning too frequently can contribute to fabric wear. And as coats don’t come into direct contact with your skin, it’s best to stick to cleaning them once a season. That said, if one of your coats has suffered a spill or is in need of a refresh, it’s best to take it in sooner rather than later.
“Soiled items should be cleaned as soon as possible,” says Ms Karen Tierney, excellence centre manager at Jeeves of Belgravia. “Stains left for a long period of time can cause permanent damage from oxidisation to the fabric and dyes.”
Leather, fur and suede garments require a specialist cleaning process, so ask your dry cleaner about this and never attempt to remove stains using old-wives tales and home remedies. Turning your outerwear inside out and airing it outdoors after a long wear will help with odour management between dry cleaning sessions.
Cold wash your waterproofs and down
Wool, fur, shearling and leather outerwear is always best left to the hands of a professional cleaner, but there are other styles where a proper ablution is the best way to go. “For your trusty Barbour and other waxed jackets, first remove any loose surface dirt or mud with a soft brush, before washing by hand in cold water – then air dry it to preserve its waterproof coating,” Tierney says. “Never wash it in a machine or with hot water as this can damage the wax coating.”
Needless to say, a waxed jacket should never go near a tumble drier or be dry cleaned as the heat and solvents will compromise the weather-proof coating. “If your coat is in a really bad shape, take it to a wax garment specialist to ensure it is properly taken care of,” Tierney says.
Many down jackets are machine washable and can even be tumble dried, but always check the care label. “Dry down outerwear naturally or tumble on a low heat setting if the label allows. Adding tennis balls to the drum will agitate the down during the cycle and prevent it from clumping,” Tierney says.
Look after the finer details
Like the well-oiled mechanics of a car, your outerwear also needs some TLC to ensure it stays looking and performing as intended. Wool coats can naturally bobble over time. The best way to tackle this is with a de-pilling machine – a small, hand-held device that looks like a shaver, which can also be used on your fuzzy sweaters.
You could go as far as covering buttons before cleaning to protect them from a bashing, but a reputable dry cleaner will address such issues if they arise. Jeeves of Belgravia check for loose threads, seams, holes and damaged or missing buttons when garments come in and repair them as part of its standard cleaning service. “If you notice a seam stretching or splitting then mention it to your cleaner who can get a tailor to strengthen it and check any other common failure points,” Tierney says.
With waterproofs and waxed jackets, if you notice that rain is no longer running off it as it used to and is saturating the fabric, it might be time to recoat it. This needs to be done by a specialist, while other waterproofs can be treated with a spray easily found online or at a haberdasher or dry cleaner.
Take strategic action on spills
Sometimes, despite our best intentions, accidents still happen. So, if you’ve been a bit clumsy with the chianti around your cashmere coat, there are a few strategic measures you can take to offset the damage before it’s handed over to a professional cleaner.
“If you’ve just acquired a spill, take two white paper towels and blot the stain, applying one on either side of the fabric at the stain site,” Tierney says. She advises never to rub the stain or add water to it. “This can cause damage to surface fibres, colour loss and dye migration and ultimately make the stain more difficult to remove.”
Be sure to take the garment to a dry cleaner at the earliest opportunity so the stain doesn’t settle into the fabric. If you end up getting soaked to the bone in your favourite coat, don’t be tempted to apply heat. “Hang it and let it air dry naturally to preserve the integrity of the fabric,” Tierney says. “Make sure it’s dried out entirely before you store it as dampness can cause mildew and mould and also attract moths.”
Be smart with your storage
While it might be temping to hang on to those skinny wire hangers to save on precious rail space, their flimsy construction offers little support to outerwear, so think about broadening your horizons. “Use a sturdy hanger with a shaped shoulder,” Tierney says. “This will reduce distortion and stretching from the weight of the garment.”
If you’re putting outerwear away for the season, garment covers will keep dust and detritus away, but Tierney suggests investing in breathable fabric covers. “This will allow air flow and reduce the risk of mould growth that can arise in certain atmospheric conditions,” she says. Also consider anti-moth sachets to ward off cloth-chomping bugs – lavender sachets and cedar wood hangars are more holistic alternatives.
If you decide to fold bulkier garments to store them, use breathable fabric storage boxes “Never use cardboard boxes as these can discolour fabric,” Tierney says.
Finally, before stowing anything away for the season, clean out your pockets. “Some items can deteriorate and cause damage to fabrics and colours,” Tierney says. And as we all know, there’s nothing worth rediscovering in the pockets of a jacket that’s been languishing in a cupboard for months – unless it’s a long-forgotten bank note, of course.
Illustration by Mr Pete Gamlen