Do you think the only way to freshen up your overcoat is to take it to the cleaners? You might be surprised to learn that many coats can be cleaned just as well at home. With a little care, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do it yourself and save on expensive dry cleaning bills.
That doesn’t mean your overcoat can go in the washing machine, though. The story will be different for each individual coat, so study the care label thoroughly for instructions. Here are some top tips on how to clean your winter coat.
How to clean wool coats
If the label on your woolen coat says it must be dry cleaned, take notice – there’s a good reason why. Even if the wool exterior of your coat is washable, its lining and the internal structure that maintains its shape may be vulnerable.
If your woolen coat is suitable for hand washing, the bathtub is a great place to do it. Before you start, give the tub a good rinse and fill it with warm water – hot water will shrink the fibers – and mix in some specialist wool detergent. Lay your coat in the water which will begin to release the dirt. Gently swirl the coat around, but be sure to resist rubbing the surfaces together as this will cause the wool to felt.
Leaving the coat in the tub, drain the dirty water and give it a good rinse. Then, starting at the shoulders, slowly lift up your wet coat, gently squeezing the water out as you progress from top to bottom. Never use force to twist the fabric or you’ll spoil its shape.
Spread out a large towel, lay your coat on top and roll them together like a giant jelly roll. When that towel has soaked up as much water as it can, lie your coat out on a new one. Leave it to rest flat in a well-ventilated room for a couple of days, away from direct heat that could shrink the wool. Flip it over from time to time so it dries evenly. To avoid stretching it out of shape, wait until your wool coat is fully dry before hanging it on a coat-hanger.
How to clean wax jackets
Some waxed coats can be washed at a low temperature in a machine, but it could ruin the oil and wax finish on others. Study the care label and follow instructions diligently.
If your wax jacket can’t be washed in a machine, you can still give it some TLC. Simply brush off any obvious dirt from the surface with a sturdy clothes brush and use a moist cleaning cloth to wipe it down.
Re-waxing your jacket from time to time will smarten up its appearance, improve its water resistance and extend its life. It’s not difficult to do. Buy a can of wax dressing and sit it in a bowl of boiled water. This turns the waxy product to a runny liquid that’s easier to apply.
Cover a table with a protective cloth and lay out your jacket, front side down. Use one sponge to dab wax all over the surface of your coat, and another sponge to wipe away the excess. Turn your jacket over and apply wax to the front, sides and sleeves. When you’re happy you’ve covered the entire thing, hang it to dry in a warm room for a few hours, or – if you can’t wait that long – use a hairdryer to speed up the process. Mop up any surplus wax that seeps out of the fibers.
How to clean down jackets
It’s possible to machine wash and tumble dry most down or quilted jackets to revive their good looks and warm filling, but do remember to check the care label.
Real down is fragile and some detergents are too harsh, so look for a product made specifically for washing feathers. It’s best to use your machine’s gentlest wash setting and then spin your jacket on the longest cycle to remove as much water as possible.
Line drying isn’t the best option – you don’t want your down to stay damp, with feathers sticking together and getting stinky. It’s better to pop your jacket in the tumble drier, set to the lowest temperature, until it’s bone dry. Throw a couple of clean tennis balls in with it too – they help to break up the wet clumps of down and make it extra puffy.
Water resistant jackets
Be cautious when cleaning shower-proof jackets like car coats and parkas that are treated with a water resistant coating. Always take a good look at the care label before putting them in the washing machine, and check whether they need a special detergent.
Tumble drying a water resistant coat could be damaging, especially on a high setting. Heat not only melts some hi-tech fabrics, it can also damage the heat-welded seams.
Whatever kind of winter coat you have, cleaning it is simply a matter of reading the label, heeding the symbols and taking time to do the job properly. And if you have any doubts, take the safe option and pay a professional dry cleaner to do it for you.