A suit is unlike any other article of clothing you own, so you’ll need to wash your suit differently, too.
Do you need to toss your suit into your hamper after each time you wear it? Nope, it’s not like your T-shirts that start to smell quickly.
And hopefully, you aren’t prone to dripping your food on yourself every time you eat. Thankfully, that can buy you more time before you need to wash it.
So then, when and how do you wash your suit?
Some Suit Jacket Labels Say “Dry Clean Only”
When you realize it may be time to clean your suit, your first step should always be to check its label. It may not always give you the exact cleaning info you seek, but there will likely be clues.
In the instance, your suit jacket instructs you to “dry clean only,” you must follow this directive. If you don’t, you might wind up ruining your garment.
Washing it incorrectly can cause it to shrink, warp, or turn into a gremlin. (Ok, maybe not that last part. But still…pretty bad.)
Determine if Your Suit is Washable with a Quick Test
Not sure if your suit can withstand a washing machine? If your label doesn’t give you clear instructions, don’t just take that as a sign that anything goes.
Instead, do a quick spot test to decide if washing your suit is safe.
Find an inconspicuous spot on your suit jacket to try this test. You don’t want to try this where others can see it if it doesn’t go well.
You only need space that’s about the size of a quarter. Rub a damp Q-tip in that area, then check the end to see any color rubbed off onto the swab.
If you notice some of your suit’s color on the cotton, your suit can only be dry cleaned.
How to Wash Your Suit in the Washing Machine
If your suit passed the spot test, congratulations! But before you begin your chore, press pause.
Washing a suit isn’t at all like washing your jeans and T-shirts; you can’t just toss it in the machine and forget it.
You need to first do a bit of prep and follow a few steps so you can keep your suit in shape through this process.
Properly Fold the Garments
When doing laundry, you probably usually just flap out each garment before you shove it into the washing machine. However, for a suit, you need to do the opposite.
A machine washes clothing using severe churning, which isn’t great for a suit. So you need to minimize the effect of the machine on your suit jacket and pants.
Begin by turning both pieces inside out. Wool fabric becomes felted when it’s agitated, so turning the material toward the inside helps prevent this.
Then, fold your suit down the center, with the sleeves folded into the center.
Next, tightly roll your garment from the bottom up, being mindful not to allow the material to get bunched up. This rolling helps further cut down on movement.
Wash the Suit Jacket and Pants Separately in a Mesh Washing Bag
After you’ve folded and rolled your suit, place each garment in its own mesh laundry bag. This adds another layer of protection because it helps protect the pieces from agitation.
Once you’ve inserted the suit piece, close up the bag. If it’s possible, roll the bag up, as well. You can keep it tightly in place with safety pins.
Use a Gentle Cleaning Agent Appropriate for Your Suit’s Fabric
Your standard laundry detergent is super harsh, but you don’t need something quite so strong for your suit.
Instead, find a cleanser designed specifically for your suit’s fabric. Generally, wool and cashmere have a specific wash.
For any other suit fabrics, soap flakes will suffice. Be sure only to use what you need; generally, one tablespoon per garment is enough.
The Proper Settings for Your Wash Cycle
Cold water is the best for preserving the integrity of your suit’s fabric. Even if your label says to use warm water, washing in cold temperatures can help preserve the life of your cloth.
Use the delicate setting on your washing machine. Your suit might survive a standard setting just fine, but why take the risk?
The gentle cycle will get your suit just as clean and will treat your suit delicately.
How to Dry Your Suit Properly
Never, ever put your suit in the dryer.
Sure, it may be the quickest method to get your clean suit dry, but it’s also a super fast way to ruin it. So instead, it would be best if you air-dry your suit.
When you remove it from the washing machine, lay your suit flat onto a dry towel, then roll it towel from the bottom up. This gently wrings out the excess water, helping your suit air faster.
Next, spread a dry towel on a flat surface and lay your suit on top of it.
Then, using your hands, smooth out the fabric with your hands, working out any bubbles.
Your suit must lay flat; don’t dry it by hanging it up. Gravity will pull it down the wet cloth and stretch it out.
Also, avoid the temptation to dry your suit in front of a heater, fireplace, or even the sun. The heat will cause your fabric to warp and shrink.
Spot Cleaning Your Suits Without Washing
Remember that washing your suit too often is a bad thing; it’s in your suit’s best interest to wash it as infrequently as possible.
So, when you notice an area or two that looks a bit dirty, try spot-cleaning it to extend your wear between washes. Here are some other care techniques that will also help preserve the life of your suit.
Use Detergent or Vinegar
If you spill or splash onto your suit, you don’t need to run right out to wash it. Instead, fix your dirty suit with a wet cloth.
Run a cloth under cold water and add a drop or two of gentle detergent or white vinegar. You don’t need much, but you can always add more later if you think it might help.
Then, dab at your spot until you get that stain off.
It’s essential that you don’t rub because that can break the delicate fibers on your suit, causing damage. Blotting will do the job well enough.
Be sure to do a color test first in a hidden spot.
Hang and Cover Your Suit
Keep your suit hanging after cleaning the spots. Avoid wire hangers, which can cause damage to the shoulders of your suit jacket.
Wooden hangers are better; they are thick and sturdy, which helps retain the natural shape of your jacket.
It’s also wise to keep your suit covered with a cloth bag once it’s dry. It will keep dust and moths away and shield it from any light that may cause color fading.
However, don’t ever use plastic bags since they aren’t breathable. Plastic will retain moisture, harming your suit.
Steam Away Wrinkles
A hot iron is too hard on your suit fabric. But that doesn’t mean you’re condemned to “life in a wrinkled mess”. Instead, use a garment steamer to work out those pesky creases.
Ensure that your steamer is set on the proper level for the type of fabric used to make your suit.
Then, press the steamer to your suit, but don’t use a rubbing motion. Instead, just press and move on to another section.
You can also keep your fabric safe by first covering it with a white cloth.
Brush Your Suit After Every Usage
Invest in a suit brush, and use it after every wearing of your suit. This is a surprisingly simple way to keep your suit clean.
The soft bristles gently lift up dirt and crumbs that can get trapped in your suit’s fibers.
Brushing your suit after each use prevents the soil from setting in and becoming more challenging to remove.
Use gentle downward motions when brushing, working from the top of your suit jacket toward the bottom.
Pay attention to the direction of the fibers, and follow them with your brush. Don’t forget to lift and brush under the jacket collar!
Dry Cleaning Your Suits is Your Last Resort
When all else fails, or if your suit can’t stand up to the rigors of the washing machine, you’ll need to visit the dry cleaner. However, use their services sparingly.
Dry cleaning involves harsh chemicals and can be a damaging process. Too many spins through their cycle can make your suit deteriorate more quickly.
So only take your suit to the dry cleaner when it absolutely cannot be washed at home, and you shouldn’t wear it anymore in its current state.
Your suit should be able to stay clean enough through several wears before you need to think about having it cleaned.
Hi, I’m Alex, and I’ve studied and specialized in styling in Rome. Through my writing, I want to help men dress well and learn the purpose and significance of suits and other formal attire. My final goal is to make men more confident in their wardrobe choice and life in general.