From leather to cashmere; how to care for 'dry clean only' clothes at home

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Stylist Team
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Not that we want to sound too over-dramatic but much like death and taxes, dry-cleaning is also very much a certainty in life. 

How many times have you guiltily glanced over at a pile of non-machine washables and told yourself you'd do it next week? 

But there is help at hand. We spoke to Julia Dee founder of The Wardrobe Curator on how best to clean your delicate garments at home.


Best products: Cashmere storage bagsknitwear comb, anti-moth drawer sachets, cashmere washing liquid

How to wear and store it

  1. Do not wear the same garment too frequently, you need to allow the garment two or three days’ rest after a day’s wearing.
  2. A silk or Pashmina scarf goes well with cashmere tops and cardigans. Used between your cashmere top/cardigan and your neck, a scarf will also prevent powder or other cosmetics stains. Also it prevents pilling, which is caused by abrasion during regular use, as if you wear a metal necklace or something with a rough surface that rubs against it you will ruin the top.
  3. To avoid piling, it is important not to allow the cashmere garment to rub against rough clothing, metal accessories, bags and belts. To remove pills, just manually pick them off or use our cashmere com. Do not use an electric de bobbler as this can get carried away and make a hole in your knitwear.
  4. Always store them clean. Moths love cashmere but they also love dirt such as skin particles and microscopic spots of food. Use knitwear and cashmere bags if a clean jumper rubs against a dirty one, they will both be vulnerable.
  5. Moths hate dry cleaning fluid so it’s a good idea to get your cashmere garments cleaned before storage.

How to wash it

  1. You don't always need to wash the whole item. Small food stains, for example, you can let dry and then get off using a clothes brush.
  2. If you do, however, soak in sudsy, lukewarm water for five minutes, and then gently ‘squish’ to let the suds soak through the fibres.
  3. A generous capful should be sufficient for several garments.
  4. Rinse in lukewarm water using the same ‘squishing’ action, never wring cashmere, until the water is clear.
  5. Avoid fabric softener as it causes the fibres to stiffen.
  6. Roll the garment in a towel and press to remove excess moisture and speed drying. Lay it flat to dry, out of sunlight.
  7. Re-shape whilst damp, taking special care, as wet cashmere fibres can stretch out of shape. Lakeland have some great knitwear dryers.

Silk and Embellished tops

Best products: acid free tissue paperEcover delicate washing liquid, garment steamer

How to store and repair it

  1. If any buttons have fallen off, zips have broken, hems have fallen down, or clothes have grown too big or too small take them to be altered and repaired. Don't leave anything in the wardrobe that needs something doing to it, chances are it will not be worn.
  2. Use acid free tissue when storing your embellished tops to prevent them from pulling on other garments.

How to wash it

  1. Always hand-wash delicate garments – fine wools, silks and so on – using a specialist hand-washing powder or liquid.
  2. If you don't need to wash it completely and just want to get rid of a couple of stains you can spot wash it. Firstly though, you want to air the garment. After that you need to dampen a microfibre cloth in a solution of detergent made for delicates (such as Ecover mentioned above), and ensure it's been heavily diluted with warm water. Wring out the cloth until it is very slightly damp, then dab the stain until it's lifted. 
  3. If you want / need to wash it in the machine, make sure you check how the embellishments are attached. Are they sewn on? Are they glued on? This will all affect how you wash the garment. For example, you don't want to wash glued items on a warm wash, as the glue could melt. 
  4. For silks, you can use a steamer (they can also work on cashmere and acrylic too). A steamer works by loosening the dirt and then you can brush it off.

Leather bags

Best products: Storage boxes, mild liquid facial or body soap (such as Dove)

How to store it

Store leather bags in breathable storage boxes to avoid leather from drying out and cracking. 

How to clean it

  1. Once you've emptied your purse, wipe out the interior with a dry soft cleaning cloth.
  2. Mix a few drops of liquid soap with about two cups of distilled water, mixing until suds form.
  3. Dip your sponge or soft rag into the soapy water and wring out thoroughly, so that it is barely wet.
  4. Wipe the leather surface of the purse with the damp rag.
  5. Dry thoroughly with the towel and buff it to restore its lustre.
  6. Buff the surface with the forth clean rag to restore lustre.
  7. Treat surface with leather protector/conditioner.



Best products: degreaser for suede

How to store it 

  1. Pack clothes away in a breathable container, in acid free tissue or an old pillowcase or wrapped in a sheet. Don't leave in plastic or exposed to sunlight.
  2. Expandable hangers are good with materials such as suede, leather or delicates, which will be marked by the grips on peg hangers.

How to clean it

  1. First off, rub the surface of the garment with a clean bath towel to bring up the nap (the thick fibres)
  2. You can remove small, dry stains using a clean pencil rubber. 
  3. Stains that are still wet should be blotted using paper towel and then placing a weight on top of that paper, do not use a chemical stain remover for this
  4. If they're particularly stubborn you can use a damp towel and some white wine vinegar. 
  5. Lumps of dirt or scuff marks can be removed using a fingernail file but be very gentle
  6. If they're shoes, then you can brush them with a wire suede brush
  7. Body oil stains on clothing and suede furniture can be attacked with a degreaser leather cleaner made especially for suede.


Expensive wool

Best products: WooliteDr Bronner's Almond Liquid Soap 

How to store it

  1. Avoid damp at all costs (which makes clothes smell) by flat drying woollens. Buy a net framework to stretch across the bath or hang them up on hangers if they are not heavy.
  2. Yes, do read the label, they are surprisingly informative nowadays. The only trouble is, you need a degree in semiotics to understand them, so we’ve translated them for you below.
  3. Do what it says! All garments are wear and clean tested before making it up and companies such as Marks&Spencer are very stringent: if their labels say ‘wash at 40 degrees’, trust them. They don’t want things coming back.
  4. Always hand-wash delicate garments – fine wools, silks and so on – using a specialist hand-washing powder or liquid.
  5. Always hand-wash and rinse woollens at the same temperature.
  6. Ecover or vanish stain remover make a big difference.
  7. Try to dry clothes naturally: tumble drying is not only very expensive, it wears out clothes faster. Best of all is in the open air.
  8. Choose organic and non-biological detergents.
  9. Don’t wash synthetics and cottons.

How to wash it

  1. Hand wash in lukewarm water using laundry liquid. Be sure to dissolve the liquid thoroughly then put the sweater into water. Wash coloured garments separately.
  2. Do not bleach. Squeeze gently, do not twist or wring. Twisting the wet sweater would stretch the shape of your sweater.
  3. Dry flat after removing excess water, away from direct heat and sunlight. Press with damp cloth, using a cool iron, iron from the inside of the garment.

Winter coat

Best products: Garment Storage Bags, Woolite, ceder wood hangers

How to store them

  1. Wash everything before it gets packed away
  2. Pack clothes away in a breathable container, in acid free tissue or an old pillowcase or wrapped in a sheet. Don't leave in plastic or exposed to sunlight.
  3. Refresh your out of date anti moth products, throw them away if they have been in the wardrobe more than a year and re-fill lavender bags. Try the pheromone moth trap, which catches the boys and stops the mating game! See more tips on how to get rid of moths, below. 
  4. Put your furs in cotton garment bags and take them to a furrier for cold storage. This discourages bugs and prolongs the life of the fur. (If it’s been dead for more than 20 years take it to the furrier for re oiling and conditioning).
  5. Hang your coats on cedar wood hangers as they repel moths.

How to wash them 

  1. Fill a large sink or basin with cool water, the coat is particularly big then use the bath
  2. Ensure you've used a wool washing solution such as Woolite to handwash your coat delicately
  3. Wash the coat buy gently moving it around in the bowl, or bath tub, but don't scrub it 
  4. Then leave it to soak for five minutes 
  5. Rinse it out thoroughly using cool water 
  6. Take it out and squeeze it to gentle get rid of excess water. Don't wring or twist the garment
  7. Lay it out on a large towel and then roll it up to soak up any more excess liquid
  8. Unroll it from the towel and lay it flat 
  9. Gently shape the coat and get rid of any wrinkles
  10. Allow it to hang thoroughly before wearing or hanging it up



Best products: Shoe puffs

How to store them

  1. Polish and clean all of your shoes and boots. Take them to the menders and put the boot trees, shoe trees and shoe puffs in to help keep their shape.
  2. Shoes should be repaired, re-soled and re-heeled. Rubber heels and toe tips protect the leather, keep water out and prevent damage.
  3. Get a sheet of cedar wood from a timber merchant and put it on the floor of your wardrobe.
  4. Another great idea is to use the revolving circles that you see in corner cupboards in the kitchen.
  5.  If you can keep them separate from clothing, do so.
  6. Keep them in their boxes with a photo stuck on the front – or, if you’re feeling rich – splash out on see-through breathable shoe boxes with windows.
  7. Use expandable bars and shoe racks, or convert a bookcase.
  8. Shoe trees are incredibly important, more important than regular polishing. They come in wood (the best) and sometimes have a flexible spine. Always buy to your size. Put them straight in and let the shoes cool and take the form of the shoe tree. This stops the wrinkles and helps prolong the life of your shoe.
  9. For slingbacks, you can get spongey shoe trees with handles.
  10. Try not to wear the same shoes everyday – they need a day of rest every so often, too.
  11. For boots, you need a proper, shaped riding boot tree.
  12. When travelling, take your shoes in soft bags.

How to get rid of moths

Clothes moths can cause havoc in your home and feed on your favourite garments. If you have a moth infestation, or have had one in the past, follow these simple moth prevention tips to keep your wardrobe free from clothes moths.

  1. The moth clear-out: Clothes moths like to breed in dark, dusty, undisturbed corners. Therefore the first step in eliminating a moth infestation is to remove everything from your wardrobe and drawers. Wash what can be washed and dry clean everything else (including bedding, drapes and curtains). Vacuum your wardrobe, drawers, carpets, floors and all surrounding areas thoroughly. Then wash inside the wardrobe and drawers with soap and water. This will help kill off any larvae that may be present. TIP – steam is very effective in killing moth larvae. If your home has been troubled with multiple or prolonged moth infestations it may be worth investing in a hand held steamer.
  2.  Keeping it clean: Moths love the food proteins in wool and especially love the food, skin and hair particles we leave behind. Do not put dirty or even once worn clothes back in the wardrobe. This is what clothes moths feed on. TIP - they don't like the taste of dry cleaning fluid so if you are storing out of season clothes, dry-clean them first.
  3. Clothing storage: Put clothes back into the wardrobe clean! Store out of season garments in TWC’s washable and breathable cotton Garment Storage Bags. Avoid storing in plastic as the fabrics need to be able to breathe to prevent mould. For folded items use a Storage Box lined in Acid Free Tissue paper. Don't store your clothes in an overheated or damp attic, cellar or storage unit. Put your storage box in a spare room, on top of a cupboard or better still in a clean cupboard with a firmly shut door. TIP – cashmere, wool and silk are not only delicate fabrics, but are moth favourites. Keep them stored in either our Knitwear and T-Shirt Storage Bag or Cashmere Storage Bag for complete peace of mind.
  4. Moth Repellent Products: Once you have cleaned both your clothes and wardrobes, you must be vigilant in order to cure or prevent a moth infestation. The most effective way to do this is by combining our pheromone Moth Box with a selection of our Anti-moth Products and Natural Moth Repellents; the Moth Box catches the males, and the repellents deter the females. Our Anti-Moth products are varied, easy to use, and smell wonderful.



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Stylist Team