Even though spring has finally sprung in most parts of the country, I’ve been thinking about fall. In particular, the moment when the temperatures drops enough to justify a cozy cashmere sweater and I get to unearth my winter treasures from out of storage. I used to pull them out of the closet with a mix of excitement and dread: did moths or beetles dine on my pricey pink cardigan over the summer?
I’ve lost enough good money on moth-eaten clothes to learn a good lesson: it’s worth it to take some time now when the weather is nice to put away your winter wardrobe right. With the following tips, you’ll see how little time and cash it actually takes to protect your cold-weather clothing, saving you money and heartache.
Why It’s Worth the Time
Even if you think your cold-weather clothing is clean enough to survive several months, any tiny amount of perspiration, oil or food residue can turn your coats and sweaters into an insect all-you-can-eat buffet. The larvae of moths, carpet beetles and silverfish love to dine on your wool and cotton clothing while you’re enjoying the warmer weather. The result: unsightly holes that may force you to toss away significant winter wardrobe investments.
Remember: although you may not see any insects in your home, it’s easy to carry larvae in on your clothing or your pets. Regular vacuuming helps, but even if you’re Martha Stewart there’s a possibility that there are enough bugs around to cause damage. Assume they’re there (shudder).
Wash or Dry Clean?
No question: all woolen coats should go out to the dry cleaner at the end of the season. For other items, wash them per the label instructions. There’s no fancy “final winter wash” required.
That said, I used to send all of my cashmere sweaters to the dry cleaner, but in addition to being really expensive, the sweaters always came back not quite right. They would lose a bit of their softness, their plushness, their cashmerey-ness that made me invest in them in the first place. Yes, the label said “hand-wash only,” but who has the time for that?
Then I discovered Eucalan. I throw a sweater or two in the sink with a capful of the stuff (it comes in several fragrance — try the lavender scent, which also helps to deter bugs), let it sit for about a half-hour, then roll it up in a clean towel. (Never wring out your cashmere: it will damage the fibers.)
Since I live in a small New York City apartment, the next part can be tricky: lay the sweater flat to dry. So I found this ingenious sweater dryer, which hangs from the shower curtain rod. Voila! I’m a hand-washing maestro!
When your coats come back from the dry cleaner, get rid of the flimsy plastic wrap they come in right away. (Actually, you should do it for all of your dry cleaning; the plastic can trap moisture and residual dry cleaning chemicals). Cotton garment bags are inexpensive and a great way to protect coats and jackets as they hang in the closet over the summer.
Anything foldable, like sweaters, should be stored in boxes. If you’re only storing them for the summer, plastic storage bins are perfectly fine. For longer-term storage, consider something that allows air to circulate, like a canvas storage box.
Create a Faux Cedar Closet
Mothballs do what they say they do: deter moths. However, I loathe the smell of the things and always worry about the chemicals. Cedar also does the trick, but alas, I lack a cedar closet (I also lack a washer/dryer and a dishwasher, but that’s another story). It’s easy to mimic a cedar closet, however, with an inexpensive set of cedar storage accessories and a bottle of this amazing cedar spray. I vacuum any closets or shelves where the clothes will be stored, then mist the area with the cedar spray. All of the cedar blocks and sachets get an additional cedar-spray oomph before I throw them in the clothing storage boxes and the bottom of any garment bags. It’s an easy, all-natural bug deterrent and it smells great.
Don’t Forget the Shoes!
Before you put expensive leather and suede boots away for the season, inspect them for any damage or cracking. Use a soft shoe brush to remove any dirt and/or residual salt and wipe them down with a leather cleaner and conditioner. If you’re having the local shoe repair shop do this for you, check to see if the heels and tips of the boots need additional reinforcement with rubber taps.
After my boots are spruced up, I use boot shapers to prevent the leather from creasing if the shaft flops over. Stuffing them with newspaper is another good option. I never bother keeping the boxes my boots come in, so I store them in cheap pillowcases. Works just as well, and takes up a lot less space.
Refreshing Stored Clothing
Fast forward to when summer’s over, and it’s time to throw on that cozy sweater! If you’ve taken the time to store them right, you shouldn’t have any unwelcome surprises when you take them back out. However, after a few months of storage, your clothing may smell a bit musty, or a bit too cedar-y. Remove everything from the storage container and give it a chance to air out, ideally outside. Alternatively, a quick once-over with a clothing steamer will also perk up heavier wool and cotton clothing. Febreze also helps, or you can make your own by combining two parts water and one part fabric softener in a spray bottle.