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How to Keep a Suit Looking Perfect, No Dry Cleaning Required

Photo: Soroush Karimi (Unsplash)
SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.

Wedding season approaches, and many of you will be packing, and donning, and soiling suits and tuxes. While most people outsource the care of suits to the dry cleaner, there some simple things you can do at home to keep your suits in tip top shape — no dry cleaning required!


Ask a Clean Person and Style Girlfriend are teaming up this month to bring you the latest on what to wear for spring and summer ... and how to care for your new wardrobe acquisitions. This week: wedding wear.

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Spot Treat It

Unless you’ve ended up with a full glass of champagne dumped on your suit, most stains will be on the small side, so spot treating will be the way to go.

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To spot treat a suit, use a white or light-colored cloth that’s been dipped in a small amount of liquid laundry detergent that’s been diluted with water, a stain treatment spray like Shout (which is especially great on food stains) or Wine Away (which I mention specifically since red wine stains and fancy dress events tend to go together like peanut butter and jelly), or even plain old diluted dish soap, and dab at the stain. For the best results, don’t apply stain removers directly to the suit, and work in the direction of the fibers to prevent pilling or felting. Once the stain is gone, give the area several passes with clean water to remove residue from the stain treatment.

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Shout Wipes are also an excellent thing to pack when you’re traveling to a wedding or other suit-wearing event—I always keep a stash in my bag and used one just the other day to successfully remove a drop of dollar-slice grease that dripped onto a just-washed light gray sweatshirt. I kind of live for Shout Wipes, you guys.

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Steam It

Good news for those of you who hate ironing: Suits should not be ironed! Ironing can cause damage to suits, leaving behind shiny patches. So skip it in favor of steaming out wrinkles with a steamer, which will also help to freshen up stale-smelling fabric. Because travel and suit-wearing so often go hand in hand, buying a travel-sized steamer like the Joy Mangano My Little Steamer is a smart choice, but if you do a lot of garment steaming at home, a full-sized steamer is worth the investment, since it makes the job much easier and faster.

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Brush It

This may feel overly fussy (and it kind of is!) but a clothes brush is an inexpensive investment that will really level up your suit care game. It’s exactly what it sounds like it is: A brush that you use to remove dirt, dust, and even dried-on bits of food from your suit. After spot treating and steaming a suit, let it hang for a few minutes to let any lingering moisture evaporate, give it a good brushing, and the suit will be ready to be put away.

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Store It

Suits, especially ones that you don’t wear very often, should be given a little extra love when it comes to storing them. They’re heavy garments, therefore they’re best hung from a heavy duty hanger. A good wooden suit hanger will help to keep the shoulders of a suit jacket from getting damaged, and keep the pants from getting those horizontal creases that less sturdy wire hangers can cause. Hang the pants first, then hang the jacket and button it up, which will help it to keep its shape while not in use.

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When it comes to traveling with a suit, a garment bag is the best way to pack. If you know you have a lot of travel that requires packing a suit, it’s well worth the (not especially spend-y) investment.

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If you don’t have a garment bag, or simply don’t want to carry more than one piece of luggage just to accommodate your suit, here’s the way to fold a suit jacket for packing purposes:

  • Lay the jacket opening side up on a flat surface.
  • Fasten the buttons and fold the jacket in half lengthwise.
  • Fold the sleeves over the body of the jacket at the seams.
  • Starting at the hem, roll the jacket up.

Voila! The suit jacket won’t take up a lot of space in your bag when folded that way, and will come out ready to wear.

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About the author

Jolie Kerr

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and the host of the podcast Ask a Clean Person