How to Clean a Suit: Tips from Gary Flynn and Joe Mueller

how to clean a suit

Every man should invest in a suit. Even if you’re a bit of a counterculture fellow or you don’t use one for work, you’re bound to need one at some point, whether that be for weddings, funerals, or other formal events.

Once you shell out some cash for a nice suit or two, you’ll need to think about cleaning, storage, and maintenance to make sure your investment doesn’t go to waste.

For some tips on understanding how to clean a suit, we’ve reached out to Gary Flynn, CEO at M. Dumas & Sons in Charleston, South Carolina and Joe Mueller at Wildwood & Company in Portland, Oregon.

Today, locals and tourists still consider M. Dumas & Sons a welcoming and historic specialty retailer that has left an everlasting mark on the city’s landscape.

Meanwhile, Mueller grew up in Oregon, in a family where objects of fine art and craftsmanship, and the people who make them, are revered. Today, not much has changed, as Mueller is pushing out some of the classiest custom suits in the Northwest.

How to Clean a Suit

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A major key for Flynn is to make sure to send both the pant and the jacket when the time does come to clean a suit. That way, both pieces will get an equal amount of fading to the fabric. More often than not, the pant will need cleaned before the jacket, but Flynn suggests, again, having them cleaned at the same time anyway.

Mueller suggests you dry-clean a suit only when absolutely necessary; i.e., when it is either stained or there is an odor that refuses to dissipate after hanging the suit outside of the closet.

“The processes and chemicals involved in dry-cleaning are very harsh,” says Mueller. “Dry-cleaning is the most common cause of wear and tear on suits. When you take the suit to the cleaners, they can also wreak havoc on the pressing.”

Related: How To Pack A Suit When You’re Traveling Light

How to Store a Suit

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Mueller’s first rule of thumb when storing a suit is being mindful of the hanger on which it is stored. He recommends a suit hanger with a flared paddle shape at the ends, that fills in the shoulders of the suit to help it retain its shape.

The Hanger Project is probably currently the best option on the market (they have different widths to fit different sizes),” says Mueller. “We’re actually in the process of designing a gorgeous USA-made solid wood hanger through Wildwood & Company, so keep an eye out for that over the next year or so.”

Another consideration is to let the suit “breathe” when it’s stored. For example, hang the suit outside the closet if possible for a day or so after wearing it so that it can air out properly. The last thing you want is a stale smelling get-up.

Rotate Your Suits

When Mueller talks to his clients about rotating suits, he means you should never wear a suit more than one day in a row. Wool is a wonderful and durable material, but the fibers need sufficient time to rest after being exposed to the heat, sweat, weather, and movement throughout the day.

“Inspecting your own suits from time to time is important for catching spot issues before they become unsalvageable problems,” says Mueller. “For example, the crotch of trousers is a frequent spot where fabric can get worn through; if you see that start to happen, try taking the trousers to a skilled alterationist to see if they can reinforce the seam, or determine if a slight alteration to the fit might help the longevity of the garment.”

Cleaning Dress Shirts

pressed and folded shirts

Now for those easy to wrinkle, but all important, dress shirts. One word of advice from Flynn is to have your shirts folded at the cleaners, especially if you travel a lot or will be going on an upcoming trip.

“Cleaners will fold your shirts and then all you need to do is drop them into your suitcase,” says Flynn. “With hanging shirts, you typically end up creasing the shirts when you fold them yourself and you end up creating more work for yourself on the other side with ironing, and after all, isn’t that the main reason you send your shirts to the cleaners? To avoid the ironing?!”

Related: 6 Simple Tips to Keep in Mind When Buying a Suit

Cleaning Ties

For ties, and all items for that matter, finding the right cleaners should be priority number one. Most of the time you don’t need to clean your ties. If there is a stain, try the water or soda water experiment, but you should never have to fully clean a tie.

However, Flynn has a great method, if that issue does arise.

“The proper way to clean a tie,” says Flynn, “is to deconstruct the tie, clean the lining separately from the silk, and then reconstruct the tie. The lining and the silk will react differently to the cleaning process and having them together causes waves in the tie that you can’t correct.”

And for storing your ties, there are all sorts of tie racks out there; including racks that screw into the wall, hanger racks, and even electric rotating racks.

Why is this important? Well, knowing how to clean and store your sensitive material clothing can make your wardrobe last much longer than before. Besides, a tailored suit, nice dress shirts, and fancy ties can be a hefty investment; it is especially worth protecting. If you happen to be in the Charleston area, go and see Gary Flynn at M. Dumas & Sons for a classic fit.

Article originally published November 18, 2016. Updated March 14, 2017 by Bryan Holt.