How To

How to Clean a Suit (And Make It Last)

Words | William Phung

Tremendously useful tips by the professionals of M.J. Bale in how to look after and care for your suits- and make them last!

A men's suit is an investment – but if you take proper care of it, you'll get years and years of wear. At M.J. Bale, we've had customers who have passed on their favourite pieces to the next generation! After all, a double-breasted suit will never go out of style. With a little maintenance, you can make your suit last much longer.

Here are eight ways to clean and care for your suit:

  1. Brush it down after each use

  2. Spot clean with a damp cloth

  3. Dry clean your suit sparingly

  4. Hang it on thick wooden hangers

  5. Let your suit breathe

  6. Steam your suit

  7. Pack your suit smartly

  8. Rotate your suits

#1 Brush it down after each use

Even if you're just sitting in an office all day, your suit collects dirt and dust. If you don't do anything about it, that grime will settle into the fibres of your suit, and the fabric will pill and lose its integrity over time. Enter: A suit brush. We suggest buying a soft-bristled brush made with natural animal hair (as opposed to synthetic material), as they're less coarse. Brush in the same way you shave, with sweeping, downward strokes. Start at the shoulders and work your way down.

Pro tip: If your suit picked up fluff or hair during the day, give it a once-over with a
lint roller, too.

#2 Spot clean with a damp cloth

No matter how careful you are, stains are inevitable. When you spill food or wine on your suit, spring into action with a spot clean. Gently dab the spot with a damp cloth or unscented baby wipes. If you can't shift the stain after a few tries, hand it over to the professionals.

Pro tip: Never throw your suit into the washing machine. It'll lose its shape.

#3 Dry clean your suit sparingly

Think about it: Your suit is thrown into a huge washing drum at high heat and pumped with chemicals. After that (harrowing) experience, it's air-dried and patted down with a pressing machine or heavy iron, which can damage the canvas. As you can imagine, all of this does more harm than good. There's only so many dry cleaning sessions your suit can stand before it falls apart. Our advice? Only dry clean your suit once or twice a year, before you retire it for the season. (This will also help to deter moths when you store it). If the suit's smelling a little ripe between cleans, air it out for at least a day before deciding if it needs to go to the dry cleaners.

Pro tip: Go to organic dry cleaners when you can say no to starch. If you're just taking it in for a stubborn stain, ask them to spot clean the affected area. Both your suit and wallet will thank you.

#4 Hang it on thick wooden hangers

Have you ever thought about why we use wooden shoe hangers? The wood helps to absorb any moisture that built up in the canvas and lining of your suit. Moisture can wear down the delicate fibres of your suit, which is one reason to ditch the wire hangers you get from the dry cleaners! Here's another: wire hangers can damage your suit. A wide, wooden hanger with round edges will support the shoulder pads, smooth out any wrinkles, and help your suit to retain its shape. Cedar is a natural moth repellent, so it's our pick -but plastic hangers are fine, too.

Pro tip: Don't sling your suit over your office chair, either. Keep another coat hanger at work, and you'll save your suit's silhouette.

#5 Let your suit breathe

Store your suit in a breathable cupboard – not one that's so packed you can barely squeeze it in. For extra protection, pop it in a lightweight cloth garment bag. It will keep your suit clean and dust-free, and stop moths from doing their dirty work. Plastic and canvas trap moisture and gases, while cloth bags promote airflow and allow any creases to fall out naturally. Wool flannel is a breathable fabric, but these simple tricks will cut down on your trips to the dry cleaners.

Pro tip: While we're talking wrinkles, try to take your M.J. Bale men's suit jacket off when you sit down – especially in the car. Whenever you sit with your jacket on, you're stretching the armholes and back seams, which can wear it out faster.

#6 Steam your suit

Put down the iron, gentlemen. Suits look best when pressed, but the heat of the iron can scorch the fibres of your suit. A handheld steamer works just as well. It'll relax any wrinkles and freshen up the odour without burning the fibres. You can also steam the shoulders and chest of your suit, and it won't change their shape. Until you get your hands on a steamer, embrace the shower. Drape the jacket and pants over separate hangers, turn on the hot water for 30 minutes and let the steam do its thing.

Pro tip: Stuck with an iron? Use a tea towel as a barrier, and don't press too hard.

#7 Pack your suit smartly

If you're a carry-on guy and a garment bag is out of the question, don't stress. To protect your suit en route, we swear by this strategy. Flip the jacket inside out, and press the shoulders together, making sure the seams and lapels line up. Then, loosely roll from the bottom up. Do the same for the M.J. Bale men's suit trousers . Doing so will minimise wrinkles and prevent any dust that may be in your luggage from sticking to your suit. When you arrive at your destination, hang up the suit and do the shower steam.

Pro tip: Another way to get more mileage out of your suit is to leave the external pockets stitched up. That way, your keys and wallet won't bend it out of shape.

#8 Rotate your suits

Your suit will last longer if you don't wear it every day. Wear each suit twice a week (max), and then give the fibres time to rest and relax. Just like your muscles after a tough workout, your suit needs a little R&R. The rule of thumb is: 24 hours for lighter suits, and 48 hours for heavier suits. Before stashing your suit in the wardrobe, follow the tips above: brush it, dab it, hang it, and bag it. If you've been wearing it in a smoky or smelly environment, hang it up outside for a few hours to air out any odours.

Pro tip: Build a collection of suits in neutral colours that you can mix and match. Not sure about the best colours for suits? Check out our guide to choosing suit colours.

Find an M.J. Bale store near you

The in-store team are well-versed on suits, from business suits for men to wedding suits for men. Whether you're shopping for work or a special occasion, drop into your local M.J. Bale store to find the perfect suit. Buying a suit is a significant purchase, so we're more than happy to share our cleaning and caring tips to help you get the best return on your investment.