Cotton Clothing Maintenance – Shirts and Trousers
One of the main appeals of cotton clothing is its low maintenance needs. You can throw most cotton items in a conventional washer and dryer and call it a day. Depending on the weave, a delicate cycle or low heat may be necessary. Follow the instructions on the tag and you’ll usually be safe. Since cotton is susceptible to mildew and mold damage, make sure clothes are completely dried before you put them in a drawer. Hang them or leave them flat on a clean, dry surface if they come out of the dryer damp.
Cotton loses its shape easily. If you need cotton clothes to look sharp and fresh (and you do, for proper business attire at the very least), iron them, and use a touch of starch when you want that razor-edged collar look. With dress shirts, be mindful of collar stays. Some manufacturers include small, flat plastic tabs inside the edges of the shirt collar to keep them stiff and straight. You’ll need to remove them before washing the shirt — plastic stays can heat and curl in the dryer, or even melt, damaging the shirt. Metal stays are unlikely to be damaged by washing, but they could theoretically heat enough in the dryer to scorch the shirt, so pull them out just to be safe.
Leather shoes are among the more expensive wardrobe items out there for men. They’re also more dependent on maintenance — cared for regularly, good leather can last a lifetime, but neglected leather gets ruined very quickly.
Care for your shoes (and other leather items) with a series of staggered steps:
- Brush shoes off briskly when you take them off. Keep a rag or a shoe brush by the door (or wherever you store your shoes) to make it easy — if the tool’s right there, you’re much more likely to use it.
- Wipe wet shoes off when you come in. Don’t leave them to air dry, especially near a heat source like a radiator. If you get salt or other sidewalk chemicals on your shoes during the winter, be sure to scrub it off with a damp cloth right away. Salt will permanently crack and stain the leather.
- Every few months (or when you start seeing visible scuffs), clean your shoes, dry them thoroughly, and (once they’re completely dry) polish them.
- Once or twice a year, apply a leather conditioner. Work the conditioner into the leather, wipe off the excess and let it sit for a night. Then wipe it down again and polish over the conditioner. That seals it in and keeps the leather nice and supple.
The difference in lifespan really is impressive, here. If you’re careful with them, well-made leather shoes should be good for a decade or more. If you’re not, they could be permanently warped or stained by the end of a year.
Repairs and Other Maintenance
A single frayed cuff or missing button has the power to make your whole outfit look sloppy. Fix damaged clothing as early as possible — it minimizes the damage, and it reduces your temptation to throw a damaged piece of clothing on because it’s not that bad and probably no one will even notice, right? Most things can be taken care of at a tailor’s shop, or even some dry cleaners. Small repairs will only cost a few bucks. Skilled tailors, while more expensive, can give even a badly damaged piece of clothing a new lease on life.
These are small, somewhat tedious tasks and errands that are easy to put off. Don’t. Your clothing will literally last for decades if you take good care of it, and the savings from that are well worth a bit of inconvenience and up-front expense in the short term.
When you’re done wearing a piece of wool clothing, put it back on its hanger and give it a quick brushing. It may feel excessive, but you’re removing bits of dirt and debris from the wool fibers. Left in the weave, the particles will sever and snap individual fibers, wearing down the overall surface much more quickly. Note that tape or lint rollers are not really a substitute. Lint rollers can’t brush through the wool fibers to clear out things that have slipped into the weave of the fabric itself — and in many cases, if the adhesive is too strong, it actually pulls up and snaps fibers.
Stick to the wool brush. Since wool has a good “memory,” hang your wool clothes on sturdy wool hangers, with a curved shoulder shape for jackets and a wide dowel for trousers. Straight wire hangers will put a crease in jackets and pants. Heavy sweaters should be folded and stored in drawers to prevent stretching.