Trendy tech startups aside, in most professions, business suits are still the expected wardrobe for any up-and-coming business person. Trouble is, they’re pricey. A cheap suit costs several hundred, a moderately priced suit runs $800 or more, and the price of a custom suit is in the thousands. If you’re just starting out, keeping up appearances can get very expensive, and you can’t just toss them in the washing machine. The good news is that, with proper care, you don’t have to dry clean your suits after every wearing.
When to Dry Clean a Suit
If you only wear a suit now and then, store it in a breathable suit bag – not nylon and not plastic dry cleaning bags. Give it some room, don’t pack suits tightly in a dark closet. If you have room, hang clothes a few inches apart to avoid crushing and allow air circulation.
How often you should dry clean a suit depends heavily on your workday, environment, and how many suits you own. People wearing suits can have very different workdays.
For barely worn suits, you may be able to clean the blazer only once or twice a year, more often for the skirt or pants.
- For gently worn suits, a general rule of thumb for cleaning suits is after the sixth wearing for jackets, and the second wearing for pants or skirts.
- For hard worn suits, you’ll need to clean far more frequently.
Cleaning Barely Worn Suits
Samantha is a brand new partner at a small law firm. She arrives at the front door to her office building, parks in a cool, shaded garage, and takes an elevator to her floor. In the elevator, she slips on the suit jacket that’s been hanging on her car seat during her commute.
When she arrives at her desk, she takes the jacket off and hangs it on a suit hanger before settling at her desk. She will only don the jacket during the day if she has a meeting with a partner or an important client.
Her suit jacket is barely worn, and her skirt or pants are not exposed to hard wear, either. When she gets home, her suit won’t have smells associated with sweat, chemicals, pollutants, or smoke.
If she takes off the suit when she gets home and hangs it on a good wooden suit hanger for a good airing, she can wear it many times before calling a dry cleaning service.
Cleaning Gently Worn Suits
Josh is an architect. He parks in a parking garage and walks two blocks to his office. He spends most of his time indoors with his jacket hanging on the back of his chair, but goes out to job sites now and then, and often has lunch at a nearby steakhouse with friends, clients, or partners.
At the end of the day, he hits the gym before heading home. His jacket hangs in the gym locker during his workout, and he folds his pants and puts them in his gym bag. He changes into a casual outfit for the trip home.
Josh’s suit has limited exposure to more pollutants, rain, potential stain opportunities, and perspiration, but it’s still fairly gently worn. It’s more likely to get wrinkled and lose its crisp lines. When he gets home, he needs to start by hanging the suit for an hour for any dampness to dry, then go over it with a lint brush or a sticky lint roller. If it needs freshening up, a steamer will do the trick.
With brushing, spot cleaning, and steaming, Josh might be able to wear the suit jacket six times before dry cleaning.
Cleaning Hard Worn Suits
Michael is a sales engineer. His job is to sell and service software designed for supply chain operations. He travels all over the southern states to sell and install the company’s software and then train clients on how to use it. He spends a lot of time in hotels and a lot of time driving from place to place through the hot, soggy Texas weather. His suits start out fresh and crisp, but if he’s not very careful, he can wind up looking like he got dressed in a dumpster…in the dark.
Michael has been doing this for a while, so he knows what to expect. He packs a portable steamer, a lint brush, a stain kit, and a fabric suit bag. He’s also got our dry cleaning laundry app on his phone. When his suits absolutely must be cleaned, he contacts us.
Michael’s suits are exposed to hard wear. He spends a lot of time outdoors and in a car, eats most of his meals wearing the suit, and has to spruce up using the limited resources available in hotel rooms. He’s got his routine down pat. He sheds the suit as soon as he closes the room door and hangs it near the window. The fading sun and air conditioning fan helps dry out the dampness. Then he brushes the jacket and pants with a lint roller and checks for stains, smells, body oils, and armpit stains. He treats any stains before steaming.
Steaming the suit kills odor-causing germs, leaves the suit smelling fresh and clean, and releases wrinkles. Michael breaks out his travel iron and irons the pants to restore creases and remove any stubborn creases. He usually cleans his suits after every second wearing.
Michael knows he’s hard on suits, but he has to look good. He packs at least three suit jackets and six pairs of pants for a two week trip, along with extra freshly laundered dress shirts and ties.
Tips to Cut Down on Dry Cleaning:
Since I shouldn’t dry clean often, what can I do to avoid having to? No worries, there are some great ways to keep your suits looking and smelling fresh and clean.
- Buy two or three pairs of pants or skirts for every suit jacket – In fact, to extend your wardrobe, buy complementary, not identical. A navy suit jacket looks wonderful with gray or subtle plaid pants or skirt. Equal quality and the same type of fabric will make the pairing look natural, and unlined pants and skirts can usually be laundered and pressed inexpensively.
- Build a suit rotation. With careful care, your dry clean only suit can last for years, and if you buy classic styles instead of trendy, your suits won’t go out of fashion as quickly. Keep your old suits nice and add new suits periodically, and you’ll extend the life of all your suits without spending a mint.
- Wooden suit hangers will help your jackets keep their shape and avoid unsightly creases in your pants or skirts.
- Give your suits with breathing room – hang them at least 2 inches apart on both sides to release moisture and odors.
- If your suit is damp, don’t put it in the closet. Dark + damp + poor air circulation = mold or mildew…and the ruin of your suit. Let your suit dry in a well-ventilated area for at least an hour.
- If you spill something, blot – don’t rub. If it dries with no stain and no stink, no problem. We don’t advise home remedies or DIY dry cleaning products. Suits are expensive! Take it to a pro.
- Keep a suit hanger in your office and hand your jacket properly when you’re not wearing it.
- Steam, don’t iron. A good quality steamer will remove wrinkles without the hazards of ironing.
- Brush your suit after each time you wear it. Brushing with a lint brush will remove hair, skin flakes, and debris before it settles into the fibers. Alternatively, you could use a sticky lint roller.
- Dry clean before storing seasonal suits. Before the heavy wools go to the back of the closet, they should be clean. Otherwise, you may attract moths and other pests looking for the tiny food particles in the fibers.
- Store your suit in a breathable garment bag, never in a plastic bag from the dry-cleaner. Take it out of the plastic bag as soon as you get home.
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