Battiston's Guide to Winter Fabric Care

In our often severe New England winters, your first priority is often to bundle yourself up in warm layers of clothing. But keeping your appearance well-maintained is still important. In fact, you could make the argument that winter layers provide you with more of a canvas to paint your personal style. To look your best, you'll need to treat your winter-weather staples with proper care and cleaning. That means knowing the best treatment for different fabrics. Fortunately, that's why you have us. Check out the tips below for how to handle wool, cashmere and fleece.

Winter Cleaning

Wool

Wool has come to be known as the workhorse of winter clothing. You'll find wool as the primary fabric in most long coats, sweaters, quality men's suits and trousers. It's durable, comfortable, usually not too expensive, and has remarkable insulation abilities to keep you warm.

As a natural fiber, what makes wool remarkable as an insulator is that it is great at keeping you warm - but it can also be really breathable depending on the weave, allowing for "summer wool" suits.

After you're done wearing a wool coat, try to hang it in a place where air can circulate around it, rather than sticking it in the closet. If wool is stuck in a cramped closet with no circulation, any perspiration or body oils can get trapped in the fibers and your coat will start to smell. If your wool coat or sweater gets damp, hang it to air dry at room temperature. But do not hang near a heat source, as this will promote mildew.

Be sure to check the care label when looking to clean wool. Most of the item, wool should be dry cleaned. If wool is washed in water, the fibers can swell up and lead to major shrinkage or distorted shapes.

Dry cleaning is also an alternative if an item's care label recommends hand washing. But if you want to take the time to hand-wash an item yourself, keep in mind that you should only use cool water and mild, bleach-free detergent. Avoid heavy scrubbing. Soak the item for up to five minutes, then rinse thoroughly, but do not wring or twist the garment. Lay flat to dry, away from any heat sources.

Beyond shrinkage or distortion, another problem that can happen if you wash wool is heavy pilling. Pilling is always a threat with wool, not just in cleaning but in everyday wear. Pilling is caused by friction, which can happen simply from mundane things like contact with a seat belt, a purse hanging over your shoulder, crossing your legs while sitting, having your legs brush up against the bottom of a table or desk, or brushing your arms against your sides when you walk. Pilling is bad enough with everyday wear; don't exacerbate the problem by subjecting your garments to the heavy agitation of your washing machine.

Between cleaning, use a fabric brush on wool to remove surface soil. You can save a bit on trips to see us by doing so, since you might be able to get a few wearings in between cleaning the item. But again, be sure to tread lightly so you're not causing a lot of friction, which can start with pills and lead to pulls.

 

Cashmere

If wool is the workhorse of winter wear, then cashmere is the king. Cashmere is actually a form of wool, the softest and most delicate form. It comes from the underbelly of goats in the Himalayas. It's the softest of fabrics, giving a silky, luxurious feel. Cashmere can be quite expensive, as you have to pay for that luxury. And it's incredibly delicate, too. In order to protect your investment and make sure that your cashmere sweaters, scarves and more can last you for years, you should almost always trust cashmere to a professional like us.

The higher the percentage of cashmere, the more delicate it will be. So sometimes a blend of cashmere and other wool will give you the softness and luxury you desire while being easier to maintain. Check the care label at that point, because different blends may require different treatments. In any case, while you can hand-wash cashmere, you almost certainly never want to machine-wash it, and you do not want to use conventional laundry detergent.

Be especially careful when it comes to cashmere and alcohol stains from your personal grooming. Deodorants with aluminum chloride, perfumes and colognes can discolor the material permanently.

As a delicate material, cashmere is especially susceptible to wear-and-tear that results in pilling or, worse, holes. Don't pull at a pill, which can cause the material to unravel. Be vigilant about making sure you've removed any stains from cashmere, and don't put items away for the season without having them cleaned, because the material is just as luxurious to moths as it is to you.

Mohair and angora are distinct fibers from cashmere, but typically have the same cleaning and care requirements.

 

Fleece

Polar fleece is a popular type of outerwear during the fall and winter months. Fleece is lightweight but warm, and when well constructed can offer solid water repellent. Polar fleece is knitted with a brushed or napped finish. But this material and this construction is highly susceptible to pilling, even more so than wool and cashmere.

The care recommendations for fleece are typically to wash rather than dry clean; in fact, the care label on many fleece items will specifically tell you not to dry clean the item. Be aware that you may certainly still bring such items to Battiston's, where they can be wetcleaned (using water) as opposed to dry cleaned (using a chemical solvent). Wetcleaning is not laundering; it uses more sophisticated machines that can treat your items more gently than even the gentle cycle on your washer.

If washing fleece items at home - you should be sure to clean the item at least every six or seven wears, which may translate to every week or two - you should wash the item inside-out and place it in a mesh or net laundry bag. (The net bag keeps your fleece from tangling with other garments, which again means less friction and in turn less pilling.) Use mild detergent, without bleach, since harsher detergents could attack the water-repellent qualities in the material. Let the item air-dry when done.

 

Down

Whether you're talking down coats, vests or jackets, or down comforters or duvets, the process is typically the same. Check the care label on the item. Whether dry cleaning is recommended or not, remember that you can always bring your items to Battiston's for the best cleaning and finishing. Finishing is just as important as cleaning here. Down feathers can flatten and break down in the course of natural wearing, and then feathers can be unevenly dispersed throughout the coat or comforter when an item is washed and dried. We work to make sure the feathers are puffed up and nice and even.

If you're going with the at-home option, here are a couple of things to keep in mind. Inspect the item for any cuts, tears or weak areas. A quilted garment becomes rather heavy when immersed in water or solvent, and those small tears and holes may enlarge as a result. When drying, let the item tumble dry on a low setting for an extended period of time. Throw a couple of (clean) tennis balls in the dryer with the quilted item. That may sound strange if you've never heard that tip before, but it works! The tennis balls smack around the drum and redistribute the feathers in the item by breaking up concentrated clumps, so you don't end up with a lumpy coat or comforter. (Tennis balls are the most common recommendation, but you can use other items to achieve the same result. We've heard of people tossing in a pair of old sneakers with their quilted items. Obviously, the sneakers should be clean, or you're pretty much defeating the purpose of the exercise.)

 

Hats, Gloves & Scarves

Don't forget about these accessories! You may be sure to clean your sweaters every wearing or two, and you may be sure to have your best coat cleaned a couple of times during the winter. But are you forgetting about these other accessories that are coming into contact with body oils and outside surfaces just as much if not more? Think about all of the perspiration, body oil, make-up and perfume coming from your end - and all of the possible germs coming from what these items are coming into contact with in the outside world. We often recommend that you wear scarves to protect your other clothes from body oils and perspiration - but what, then, of the scarves that so nobly acted as a barrier between you and the rest of your wardrobe?

Use the same cleaning processes for these smaller items that you would for larger ones - dry clean or hand-wash wool and cashmere knits, act fast if you find stains, and turn to Battiston's for help. We never want you to sacrifice the health of your garments because you're worried about price, so you can get these items cleaned at a great value.

 

For other winter staples, also check out our sections on Ugg Boot Cleaning ... Leather and Suede Cleaning ... and Fur Cleaning and Storage.

 

When You Need to Clean Wool, Choose Baaaaaaaattiston's