It’s that time of year again when we rotate our closets–spring and summer favorites come out and think about how to care for and store winter pieces. Unfortunately, we’ve all had the experience of our favorite winter pieces falling victim to the elements, only to emerge less than jaw-dropping come the fall. What’s a fashionista to do? Don’t ditch your designer duds, just learn the rules of storage and care. You—and your wool coats, cashmere sweaters and leather pencil skirts—will thank us later.
The debate is always hotter than hot when it comes to cashmere. Hand wash or dry clean? Hang dry or lay flat? Hang or fold? Despite the back and forth, cashmere is fairly simple to maintain. Rule #1 is skip the wash as long as you can. Unless your cashmere is actually dirty, don’t worry about getting it cleaned— the fabric holds up better with less frequent washings. When you do need to get it clean, hand wash or use a very gentle cycle on your machine. Be sure to use cold water and extra gentle detergent—some people even opt for shampoo because it’s less harsh. Once you’ve given your cashmere a wash, toss it in the dryer for two minutes or less on the lowest temperature, then lay it flat on a towel. After it’s completely dry, fold it to store— hangers can pull on the delicate fibers and stretch your cashmere.
Despite being an “everyday” fabric, wool has its own set of care and storage challenges. For starters, it’s not a myth that moths feed off of sweat and stains, so be sure your wool is completely clean before packing it away come summer. If you don’t want to splurge on dry cleaning, hand washing your wool garments is (typically) totally safe—as always, just check the care label before giving it a soak.
If you’re hand washing, use a delicates-specific rinse—think Woolite, Marseille or Roux Maison. Use lukewarm water and be sure to turn your wool garments inside out before submerging, swishing around and soaking for 10 minutes. When time’s up, rinse twice and press—don’t wring—out the water, then lay wool flat on a dry towel. If it’s truly absorbed too much water, roll the towel/wool combo jelly roll-style and press down firmly, then unfurl and lay out on either a fresh, dry towel or mesh drying rack.
And now to the moths. While moth balls were what your grandmother used to store winter pieces they are, more or less, a thing of the past, it’s good to toss something in your storage bins to keep the bugs out. Try ½-cup dry lavender—toss it along with your wool into airtight plastic bins (wood and cedar are no match for moths, beetles and silverfish) and store.
Leather’s a bit trickier than cashmere and wool as it shouldn’t get wet or dry out, typically. So what do you do when you get dirt, scuff marks or other spots on your leather? Before trying to clean leather, always start with a wrung-out washcloth or sensitive baby wipe. This will very often lift the spot instantly and you can skip the harsh cleaning treatments.
If that doesn’t so the trick, experts are very torn on the best way to wash leather. Tepid water and bar soap (Ivory seems to be the top pick) is a popular go-to for cleaning leather, just remember not to completely submerge your garment unless it’s truly all-over dirty. Olive oil is another popular go to. Followers of this cleaning method rub the oil into the spot or stain with a clean cloth and keep going til it lifts. Afterwards, treat the once-stained area with white vinegar and pat dry with a clean cloth or towel.
Like wool, when it comes to storage leather should be cleaned and conditioned before it’s put away for extended periods. Leather should always be stored in cool, dry spots as humidity can cause molding and heat can lead to drying out and cracking. And if you’re handing leather, make sure to use padded wooden hangers and stuff arms and legs with acidfree paper to keep the shape from shifting.