Your dress clothes are some the most expensive items in your closet – they deserve to be treated well. The experts at men’s boutique Paul Fredrick spoke with us on how to make your dress clothes last, how to master ironing, and even what to do in tricky situations like traveling or a summer heat wave. Read their tips below!
SB: Should I dry clean my dress shirts or wash them at home and why?
PF: Washing your dress shirts at home is the better way to go. Unless the shirt is extremely soiled, you’ll get a longer lifespan out of the shirt when it is not subjected to the harsh chemicals and high heat used in most dry cleaners. Washing at home is also the most economical way to care for your dress shirt.
SB: If I’m traveling for business during very hot weather, how do I dress formally without overheating?
PF: Be sure to wear 100% cotton shirts, as they are the most breathable and comfortable. A 100% broadcloth (or poplin) shirt is the most ideal choice. Short-sleeve dress shirts are a good option for very warm temperatures.
SB: What if I’m short on time but need to look presentable? Are there any shortcuts to getting a wrinkle-free shirt?
PF: Your best option is a non-iron shirt. True non-iron shirts can be washed at home, tumble dried on low and removed promptly from the dryer. To remove wrinkles from hanging, place the shirt in the dryer for 10 minutes, and then remove promptly. The heat from the dryer releases the wrinkles in non-iron fabric.
For a regular cotton shirt, you can throw it in the dryer before ironing. The tumbling of the dryer will help loosen some wrinkles, which will shorten the ironing time.
SB: Do I have to take care of wrinkle-resistant shirts in a certain way to maintain the wrinkle-resistant properties?
PF: If your shirt is non-iron, do not dry clean it! Instead, machine wash the shirt on warm with similar colors. When finished, to avoid wrinkles, tumble dry the shirt and remove promptly. To remove wrinkles from hanging, place the shirt in the dryer for 10 minutes, then remove promptly. The heat from the dryer releases the wrinkles in non-iron.
SB: What’s the best way to iron a dress shirt at home so it actually looks crisp and pressed?
PF: For the best ironing results on a regular cotton dress shirt, you need to have an iron with high heat capability (above 1800 watts). The iron should also have a steam function as well. Be sure to also use an ironing board with a good pad and have a water spray bottle handy. The spray bottle along with the steam can be used while ironing to smooth out tough wrinkles.
- You start ironing your collar first. Pop it up and iron each side, point to point.
- Next, iron your cuffs. To iron the cuffs, unbutton them a lay out flat. Do not iron over the actual button.
- Then it’s on to ironing the shirtfront. Iron each side from the shoulder down and maneuver as best as possible around the button side.
- Now, move on to the back of the shirt. It’s best to position one of the sleeve heads into the square edge of the ironing board. This puts the back of the shirt in a prime position to be ironed.
- Sleeves are the last section of the shirt to be ironed.
- The key to ironing sleeves is to be sure the fabric is flat and smooth before applying the iron. Once complete, place the shirt on a hanger for a quick inspection.
SB: How often should I dry-clean my suit? Is it possible to spot clean a suit?
PF: The less frequently you dry clean your suit or sport coat, the better. Once a season is plenty, but if you do get a spot on your garment, take it to the dry cleaner immediately. Your dry cleaner should know which method to use to remove it, depending upon the cause of the stain. When dry cleaning a suit, always have both the jacket and trousers cleaned at the same time to avoid the slight changes in color that dry cleaning can sometimes cause.
Brush your garment with a clothing brush after each wearing. Brush with short quick strokes, first up against the nap then down with the grain of the fabric. There are four types of brushes that you may use to get dirt, dust, and lint off your garment:
- A roller with sticky sheets is best for getting pet hair and lint off your clothes. Keep one of these brushes in your car or office desk for emergency use.
- A wire bristle brush, usually brass, can be used for deeper cleaning.
- Nylon or other bristles are also effective for deep cleaning.
- A raised fabric brush will create static electricity to pick up lint; brush one way to clean your clothes and the brush opposite way to clean the brush. These sometimes come in combination with nylon brushes.
SB: What’s the best way to store a suit I only wear sometimes?
PF: Rest your suit or sport coat for at least one full day between wearing; make sure there is room in your closet for adequate air circulation. Hang your garment on a wooden or plastic contour hanger to retain its shape. You may choose to use a cloth cover, which will provide protection from dust and allow the fabric to breathe.
For long-term storage, keep your garment in a dry, temperature-controlled space. Ideally, you should store your garment in a cedar closet, which along with mothballs will deter cloth-eating moths. Before putting your suit or sport coat in storage, make sure to dry clean it, because moths are attracted to soil, fresh food stains, and sweat residue. Remove the dry cleaner’s plastic and the tissue paper so that moisture will not accumulate on the clothes. A breathable fabric or paper bag is best for long-term storage.
SB: Can I prevent stains from forming on the inside collar of a dress shirt and can I fix it?
PF: A couple of ways to help prevent inside collar stains is to wear an undershirt or use some type of athletic tape inside the collar. To clean the stains, you need to pre-treat the collar area before washing the entire shirt. Some people use shampoo or even dishwashing liquid since the stains are oil based. Remove the collar stays and gently rub in the cleaning solution with hot water. Let the collar sit for 15-20 minutes before laundering the entire shirt.
SB: How can I keep my white shirts as bright possible?
PF: You should start by separating your whites from colors when washing. Pre-treat any stains first before putting them in the washer. Use a generous amount of detergent and hot water. You can also add a minimal amount of bleach.
SB: What’s your favorite go-to-fix for clothes while traveling?
PF: Personally, I like the “Tide to go” pen. It’s small, easy to travel with and helps with most stains.
SB: What’s the best way to pack a suit to prevent creases?
PF: Looking good while traveling is a challenge any modern, well-dressed gentleman will inevitably face in today’s global society, and one that can feel impossible. Wrinkles always seem to find their way into your favorite dress shirt. But don’t lose hope! Whether you’re headed to a week of relaxation or a high-powered investor meeting, we can help keep you looking sharp, even if you just stepped off the plane.
- A Fresh Start – Starting out right goes a long way. Make sure all the clothing you’re planning to bring is clean and pressed before you pack it. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot before you even leave your house.
- Garment Bags Are Your Friend – If you can bring one, a garment bag is the easiest way to keep your clothes looking neat while you travel. You hang them at home, so why change that when you’re on the road? Keeping shirts in separate cleaning bags within the garment bag can help keep them from bunching up and wrinkling, not to mention keep things organized.
- Fold and Roll – Of course, sometimes a garment bag isn’t practical. If you need to pack your clothing in a suitcase, we recommend folding and tightly rolling items. Fold and roll everything you plan to take before selecting your suitcase–that way, you can choose luggage that will be tightly packed. (Loose packing means room for clothes to move around, which leads to wrinkles.) You could also pack folded shirts still in the packaging used by your laundry service.
- Shower With Your Clothes – Well, sort of. When you reach your destination, immediately unpack your clothes and hang them in the bathroom as you’re taking a shower–the steam will help ease out wrinkles.
- Steam Power – Speaking of steam, a travel steamer is a great way to quickly smooth out clothing if the unthinkable happens and wrinkles invade. They’re relatively inexpensive and a good investment for the frequent traveler.