Care & Cleaning of Woolens (Suits): Part 2

Wool lends itself to easy “spot cleaning” without washing the whole item. In the old days, wool suits received little sponge baths (focused on soiled areas) in between full-scale cleanings.  Women would also get their tea pots boiling furiously and aim the steam at the fabric.  (Remember to take care: A burn from steam is worse than  one from hot water. )

According to Permanent Style of London,

Dry cleaning twice a year should be sufficient for a suit worn once or twice a week. … To lengthen the life of your wool suits, put off as long as you can taking them to the dry cleaners where harsh chemical are used in cleaning. 

Black Lapel advises:

[T]here’s nothing that will beat up your suit jacket and wear it out faster than frequently taking it to the dry cleaners.  While a trip to the cleaners every once in a while is inevitable, do so only when visible dirt or odor has built up and spot clean the dirty areas rather than have them clean the entire suit jacket.  Dry cleaning will expose your suit to harsh chemicals that will eventually take its toll on the fabric. 

Instead, use a modern steamer designed for home use!  While they can be rather pricey, I have seen them at discount stores for under $100 or look for one second hand.  Also, brush your wool suit after you wear it as that will remove particles of dirt before they get ground into the fabric.  (Remember those old movies where we saw valets brushing suits?  Check out Jane Austen’s World to read about the life of a valet.)

Now, Black Lapel is writing for a male audience, but what he writes can be safely applied to women’s wool suits, skirts, slacks and dresses.  In fact, as women’s suits tend to have less internal “structure” (what Black Lapel calls “internal canvassing”), suit jackets might be a little easier to steam clean.

Wearing your woolen sweaters over a shirt (on that will absorb odors and moisture) will also help increase the number of times you wear your sweater before you want to wash it.  A woman would be well advised to wear a thin t-shirt under the blouse and thin leggings under her winter suit; wearing two layers will help keep your wool jacket clean.

Remember, if the wool has not been treated to machine washable, it is better able to repel dirt, odor and sweat. You will be able to wear it more a single time.

Hand washing tips next!


About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
This entry was posted in Fibers, Miscellany and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Care & Cleaning of Woolens (Suits): Part 2

  1. So right – thanks for the reminder!


  2. I found a streamer at a discount shop and of course bought it … It ways also good for steaming wrinkles out of clothes!


  3. It’s really made me wonder at the strength of advertising that scares people into thinking the only way they can clean their woolens is via dry cleaning. Or maybe it’s the ease? But it’s pricey AND hard on the clothes!


  4. I guess the people doing the laundy (probably mostly women!) had to clean clothes with really ground in dirt! 🙂


  5. LauraLee says:

    You know: slips and camisoles are not just for modesty. There’s a reason they’re so much easier to launder than that lovely wool outfit.

    Just sayin’.


  6. Northern Narratives says:

    This is very interesting. I like the steamer idea.


  7. HannahDavis says:

    I’m so glad you’re doing these — they’re so interesting and useful!


  8. This was interesting and fun but I feel a little nervous when i see those hand washing implements.
    I look forward to your next post. : )


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