You have to properly care for your suits, ties, and dress shirts if you want them to last. And really, what’s the point in getting all those nice clothes if they won’t last? Do you still hang your ties from a hook or hanger? Are you getting your shirts starched? Do you take your suits to the dry cleaner regularly? You could be severely reducing the lifespan of your dress clothes.
If you’re still dry cleaning your shirts, you are constantly assaulting them with numerous chemicals that can deteriorate the fabric. Eventually, this causes the shirt to wear out and get that “old” look to it. It could be a little pilling, a slightly faded collar, or any other number of issues. The bottom line is: don’t dry clean.
The ideal method for cleaning a dress shirt is hand washing. For tough stains, you could even try the Oxi Clean and vinegar method. But what are we, made of time? Those hours won’t bill themselves. That means hand-washing is probably out of the question for most of us. One alternative is to put all your dress shirts on a gentle cycle in the wash and hang them dry. This will get them clean and prevent shrinking. But then you will have to iron (or steam, see below) each shirt. That can be a pain.
For me, the best of both worlds is taking the shirt to the dry cleaner, but asking that they launder it instead of dry cleaning it. If you’re willing to cough up the money, you can also ask them to hand press the shirts instead of using the machine.
Another key to elongating the life of your dress shirts is avoiding starch. Although starch may give your shirt a crisp look, the chemicals will deteriorate the fabric of your dress shirt and lead to its early demise.
You aren’t storing the ties while they’re still tied in knots, right? Because that is horrible for them. It will drastically reduce the life of your necktie. The Tie Guide suggests that to untie the tie, you should reverse the tying procedure. That’s probably a good suggestion, although I’m guilty of just pulling the narrow end through the knot.
Most importantly, stop hanging your dress ties. Some websites only direct this advice to knit ties, but I think it applies to all materials. When you hang your tie, the wider end will weigh more than the narrow end. While it’s on a hanger, this weight imbalance can cause the tie to stretch over time. I recently noticed this issue with some of my older ties, and immediately started rolling all of them. As a bonus, the rolled ties are much easier to browse in the morning. That cuts down quite a bit of time when getting ready.
The consensus is that you should only dry clean your suits a few times a year. I try to get mine cleaned about once a season. The chemicals that a dry cleaner uses are harmful to the suit. Over time the suit will wear out and start to get a shiny appearance to it. So it’s best to dry clean the clothes as infrequently as possible. In the interim, hand wash any spots that appear. To hand wash, simply use a mild detergent and warm water.
To get rid of wrinkles between cleanings, I strongly recommend purchasing a steamer. These things are amazing. The steamer I have heats up in about fifteen seconds, and I can usually steam an entire suit before it has to heat up again. This lets me give my suits that freshly pressed look without taking them to the dry cleaners.
Originally published 2012-01-06. Republished 2017-06-09.