How To Care For Your Winter Wardrobe

A winter wardrobe undoubtedly contains some of your very favorite things to wear. Soft, beautiful sweaters, fluffy scarves, fur vests, and classy leather boots. Not only do some of these items require special handling, but harsh weather like rain, mud, and snow can create additional care and cleaning issues. To keep all your winter clothes and accessories in good shape and ready to wear, here are some tips from Tailored Living® for maintaining everything in your winter closet.

Leather jackets, boots, gloves, and purses

Leather is a year-round favorite for men and women, but especially in the wintertime when its warmth and durability make it a top choice. For any smooth leather, some general maintenance rules apply to keep it clean and like new.

  • Condition and waterproof leather boots, shoes, jackets, gloves, and purses before first use. This provides ‘insurance” against future problems.
  • Leather conditioners protect the surface from drying, cracking, stains, and water damage. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for sprays or creams and let them dry completely.
  • Always dry leather with an absorbent cloth as soon as possible if it gets wet from rain or snow.
  • Spot clean leather after each wearing to remove stains. This ensures your item will be ready next time you want to wear it.
  • Use leather cleaner to remove any dirt, stains, salt residue (on boots and shoes), or grease and then apply conditioner to a clean surface. Use a soft damp cloth or a soft bristle shoe brush to clean all seams or textured surfaces.
  • Test any new product on a hidden section first to be sure it won’t darken the leather (underneath a collar or an inside seam).
  • Cover scuffs and scratches with a matching color leather polish. Buff and reapply conditioner.

Suede or nubuck care follows the same rules as smooth leather but requires specialty products designed just for them.

  • Spot clean stains with a suede cleaner or eraser and brush to restore the nap.
  • Waterproof your suede items with conditioner formulated for suede.
  • Brush regularly along the grain of the material to prevent matting and to remove dirt.


Sweaters and scarves of all kinds

Two staples in winter wardrobes for everyone are sweaters and scarves. Casual, dressy, and layered, we love the feel of sweaters and scarves in wool, cotton, cashmere, mohair, silk, chunky knit, acrylic, and washable blends. The key to safely cleaning delicate scarves and sweaters is … gentle. Gentle cycle if they are machine washable, gentle detergent, gentle handling if handwashing, no wringing and twisting, and no high heat to dry. Always read the manufacturer’s care label so you don’t shrink, fade, or stretch out a special winter garment.

Handwashing guidelines:

  • Use a mild, neutral-pH shampoo or delicate wash detergent like Woolite® for optimal softness.
  • Only cold or cool water and let soak for three to five minutes; gently squeeze rather than agitate the garment in the water. Rinse in clear water and squeeze out water, do not wring.
  • To dry, roll up in a towel and gently press the water out. Lay flat to air-dry, do not use heat of any kind, such as a clothes dryer or hairdryer. Heat can melt delicate fibers.
  • Don’t hang sweaters when wet, the water weight can stretch out the shoulders and ruin the shape.

Specific care tips for wool, silk, and cashmere

  • If your light wool sweaters or scarves say “hand-wash” on the care instructions tag, you can use your washing machine’s delicate or wool cycle with cold water.
  • Remove light stains on wool by blotting (not rubbing!) with cold water or club soda using a white, lint-free cloth.
  • While dry-cleaning is fine for basic silk pieces, your silk items will last longer with careful handwashing in cool or cold water with a tiny bit of mild detergent as described above.
  • Wash items labeled “washable silk” in the washing machine on the gentle cycle in a mesh lingerie bag. Lay flat to dry and iron while still damp with a pressing cloth.
  • To prevent color loss when handwashing silk, add up to three tablespoons of white vinegar for every two quarts of water.
  • Cashmere is best washed by hand in cold water, but if you have “washable” cashmere, always use a mesh lingerie bag and wash on gentle/delicate cycle. Lay flat to dry.
  • Fold sweaters in thirds so you don’t get a fold line running down the front of the sweater.
  • To keep sweaters looking their very best, see Easy Way to Remove Pills and Fuzz from Cashmere & Wool Sweaters.
  • Scarves should be washed in a mesh bag and air-dried by lying flat or folded over a clothes hanger. Untangle any fringe and smooth the scarf to avoid wrinkles.

The must-have winter coats and vests

Winter coats and vests come in myriad styles and fabrics from fur to microfiber and down filled. A winter coat is usually a financial investment so, in many cases, dry cleaning is a wise choice. Some coats require “dry clean only” and for others, even if they are “washable,” washing them is a risk because of lining materials that can shrink, buttons, buckles and belts that can come loose, and the sheer size of long coats and big puffy items that are hard to manage in home washing machines. Before you buy a coat, check the care label so you’ll know what to expect.

General care guidelines for winter coats:

  • Never pile up wet coats or jackets. Hang them immediately when you remove them, either on sturdy hangers or coatracks where there is plenty of room to air-dry.
  • Spot clean after wearing to remove any dirt, salt residue, or stains before they can set in the fabric.
  • Use lint rollers and suede brushes to surface clean your coats between washings or dry cleaning.

Suggested care for specific types of coats

  • Dry cleaning is best for wool coats.
  • Real fur should always be cleaned by a professional furrier.
  • Down (feather) filled coats or vests can be hand-washed or machine washed in a front loading washer, not an agitator style, in cold water on gentle cycle with a special detergent such as Nitwax Down Wash or Grangers Down Wash Kit. Tumble dry on low heat using wool dryer balls to speed up drying time, break down clumps, and fluff up the feathers.
  • Fleece coats, jackets, and vests should only be washed with fleece or other non-lint producing garments. Use cool water on a permanent press cycle. Air-dry or tumble dry on low heat and remove while slightly damp and hang until completely dry.
  • Faux fur coats, like wool, are best dry cleaned. If the care label says washable and you’re willing to risk DIY, handwash with gentle detergent in cool water. Fully submerge and let soak for 15 minutes, gently swishing through the water. No wringing or agitation. Rinse in clear water, gently squeezing out the water until no trace of suds remains. Air-dry on a rack or on a padded hanger. It could take 24 to 48 hours to dry. Brush lightly to remove any matting.
  • Vinyl and waterproof coats (plastic raincoats) can be washed in cold water with a mild detergent on a gentle cycle. Hang to air-dry; never place in a dryer.

The perfect closet for your winter wardrobe

Taking good care of your winter wardrobe is easier with a custom closet to protect and display your clothes and accessories, so everything is ready at a moment’s notice. Hanging space will eliminate wrinkles, shelves can organize shoes, boots, purses, and folded sweaters, and velvet-lined jewelry drawers will keep your baubles untarnished. Call 866-712-3404 today to schedule a free, in-home consultation or go online to to find a designer near you and discuss all your closet needs, as well as organizational and storage challenges in any area of your home.