Make Your Suits Last With These Cleaning and Storage Tips

how to clean a suit

Every man should invest in a suit. Even if you’re a bit of a counterculture fellow, you’re bound to need at least one suit for weddings, funerals, and other formal events. Once you shell out the bucks for a nice suit (or a dozen), you’ll need to think about cleaning, storage, and maintenance. For help understanding how to clean a suit and how to store clothes, we’ve again reached out to Tony Spear, President and Owner of Este’s Men’s Clothing in Portland, OR.

How to Clean a Suit

Frankly, you don’t really need to clean your suit. Even if you wear the same suit three times a week, you’re best off getting it dry cleaned twice a year, tops. Cleaning your suit more often than that will compromise the fibers and significantly reduce your suit’s lifespan.

You will, however, need to spot clean your suit occasionally. “If you spill something on your suit, just pour on some effervescent soda water and dab it with a clean cotton napkin,” says Tony Spear. “Just soak it, literally soak it — pour the bottle on it. It won’t leave a ring, it won’t hurt anything.”

Some stains are exceedingly simple to get rid of. “Sometimes, if it’s just an ice cream stain, or something that doesn’t penetrate, I let it dry, then take my thumbnail and just scrape it off,” says Spear. “Then I dab it with water or soda water.”

How to Store a Suit

Since your suits will spend most of their lives in your closet, proper storage is key. Spear recommends storing suits on wooden hangers — particularly wishbone hangers. Metal hangers can stretch your suits and leave dimples in the shoulders — definitely not what you want. “It’s best to hang the pants from the cuffs, from the bottoms,” says Spear,” “so the weight of the waistband pulls the wrinkles out more quickly than if you were to hang it from the knee.”

While a garment bag is great for transporting your suit and for short-term storage, you really shouldn’t leave your suit in there for an extended period of time. “Garment bags are petroleum-based,” says Spear. “They have a tendency to ‘bleed’ on the shoulders, causing discoloration.” Still, you want to keep your suit protected from dust and moths, which is why Spear recommends a simple plastic cover that “breathes.”

Cleaning and Storing Shirts

Dress shirts don’t require much special treatment. “When I do my dress shirts, I have them laundered, not dry cleaned,” says Spear. “Laundering is for cotton; dry cleaning is for wool, silk, and the other fabrics.” Spear is not a fan of starch, which has historically been used to help shirts keep their form. “Starch is like dry cleaning wool; it breaks down the fabric, and you go through shirts faster.”

As for storing your shirts, a simple wire hanger is fine, though a wishbone hanger is better. Generally speaking, cotton dress shirts don’t have the same dimpling problem as wool suits. Tony is a big fan of thick wooden hangers, which are great for your suits’ and shirts’ shoulders. However, you should know that they take up considerably more space than typical thin hangers.

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

Cleaning and Storing Ties

Spear claims that he’s never cleaned a tie in his life. Most ties will simply get ruined if you throw them in the washer. Still, even the most cautious men sometimes spill food on their ties. If this happens to you, you’ll want to bring out the ol’ soda water again. “The bubbles treat the stain differently than regular water. Kind of pulls it, loosens it up. Sometimes soda water has a tendency to leave a ring, but you can just put regular water on top of that.”

You don’t have to worry that much about storing ties — simply draping them on a wood hanger will do in a pinch. That said, your ties could slip off the hanger if you don’t hang them just right. For a more stable tie storage option, consider investing in a quality tie rack. There are all sorts of tie racks out there — including racks that screw into the wall, hanger racks, and even electric racks.

Knowing how to clean a suit and how to store clothes can give your wardrobe some serious staying power. A tailored suit is a hefty investment that is especially worth protecting. If you happen to be in the Portland area, you might ask Tony Spear further questions about suit maintenance or visit Este’s Men’s Clothing for a whole new suit.