Winter coats are one of the most neglected items in our wardrobe; consider, for a moment, when was the last time you cleaned your winter coat? Though it is easy to forget to tend to these important garments, winter coats do need to be cleaned. Regular care will keep winter coats looking their best, and ensure they last for many winters to come.
We consulted experts who explained the best ways to clean winter outerwear from wool and wool blend overcoats to parkas and puffer vests, as well as fleece jackets and performance outerwear.
How to clean fleece jackets and performance outerwear
Corey Simpson, a public relations manager for Patagonia, says “We recommend spot cleaning, when possible, but generally suggest that gear is washed in cold water and line dried.”
Eucalan is a gentle detergent designed specifically to be safe for use on wool.
To spot treat fleece, follow these steps:
- Step 1: Using a damp rag, dab a small amount of gentle detergent onto the stain.
- Step 2: Blot the stain until it’s gone, taking care not to scrub at the fabric, as friction can cause the fleece to pill.
- Step 3: When the stain is gone, gently dab the area with a cloth dipped in clean water to remove residual detergent.
Tide’s fragrance- and dye-free liquid laundry detergent is as effective as it is gentle.
Simpson recommends using a fragrance- and dye-free detergent when washing fleece. “If you are using a standard detergent, be sure to give the jacket an extra rinse cycle to ensure a residue-free garment,” he says. Residue from excess detergent can lend a dingy appearance to fleece, and rescue its softness.
Dryer balls are a fabric softener alternative for use with textiles like fleece that should not be exposed to dryer sheets.
Fleece can be air dried flat, or dried in the dryer on the lowest heat setting. “Also, if drying a garment do not use a fabric softener sheet. Generally, we don’t recommend using fabric conditioners or softeners on our products,” Simpson says. Dryer balls, which help to speed up drying time and lend softness to garments, are a smart alternative when laundering textiles like fleece or terry cloth that should not be exposed to liquid fabric softener or dryer sheets.
How to clean parkas and puffer vests
A representative for The North Face says, “Periodic cleaning of down jackets is essential to maintaining maximum loft and ensuring the long life of the product. Though it is possible to wash your own down product, we recommend that you have your jacket professionally cleaned by a service that specializes in cleaning down.”
While professional cleaning is recommended by some experts, laundering a down- or synthetic-filled puffer coat or vest in the machine will be the best option for most people. If your jacket has a natural down filling, a detergent formulated for use on down is a smart choice (like Nikwax). Fragrance- and dye-free detergents are also fine for this purpose. Wash the jacket in cold water, using the delicate cycle.
It’s a bit counterintuitive because of their heft and bulk, but filled winter coats should be dried on low heat. Use dryer balls to increase airflow in the drum, which will help to speed up drying time, and to fluff up and redistribute the fill evenly in the jacket. Plastic dryer balls are best for people who are allergic to wool.
Makeup removing wipes aren’t just for your face! In between washing, when stains appear on the collar and cuffs of winter coats, use a gentle makeup removing wipe to clean buildup from body soils like skin and sebum, as well as from grooming products like makeup and hair products.
The importance of using the right hangers for your clothing cannot be overstated! When it comes to hanging lightweight but bulky parkas and puffer vests, slim non-slip hangers are a great choice because they help to keep the slippery material from sliding off the hanger and landing in a heap on the floor.
Wayne Edelman, president of Meurice Garment Care, says, “Wool coats should be dry cleaned by a professional when they get visibly soiled, or at minimum at the end of the season.” While some wool items, like sweaters, can be washed by hand, Edelman cautions against washing wool winter coats, specifically, because “the wool can be wet cleaned but rayon acetate linings commonly in wool coats used cannot.” In between professional cleanings, keep wool winter coats in good condition by using a combination of brushing, spot treating stains and steaming.
A clothing brush will keep wool winter coats looking good — and in good condition! — all winter long. Working from the collar down, give the wool a vigorous brushing to remove soils like dirt, road salt, hair, lint, etc.
To refresh a wool coat that’s developed pills or that just looks a little weather-beaten, use a fabric shaver to remove pills and restore the nap. This Gleener fabric shavers is one of the best on the market.
Baby wipes can be used to clean dingy collars and cuffs, or to quickly remove any stains, since they are gentle and low-moisture, and therefore safe to use on wool.
Avoid damage to wool winter coats by storing them on sturdy hangers when not in use.
When it comes to storing a wool winter coat, Edelman has two important pieces of advice. “Hang the coat on a sturdy wooden or plastic form fitting hanger when not wearing,” he says. And, when coming in from the snow, sleet or rain, be aware that the coat needs to dry before it is put away. “If wet,” Edelman says, “allow it to dry with good air circulation. Do not put it in a closet while wet.”