Take the right steps, and clothes will look as sharp as the day you brought them home.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- So you've cleaned out your closet from ascots to zoot suits. You've begun to think twice about each new purchase. There's space on your hangers and wiggle room in your drawers.
And now: Time for a brush-up on caring for the things that matter, so they'll always look as sharp as the day you brought them home.
The first rule: Dry-clean. As expensive and hard on the environment as it is, professional care is key if a garment calls for it. Hand-washing usually doesn't work as well, and neither do those DIY dry-clean products (they don't let you immerse fabrics in a solvent the way professionals can).
But dry-cleaning is only part of the equation. The rest is up to you, and it all starts with your washer and dryer:
UWash clothes only when they need it. If they aren't dirty or smelly, let them air out for a few hours and save the wear and tear on the fabric. Who'll notice?
Check labels for washing instructions. When the tag on a garment says, "Wash in cold water" or, "Lay flat to dry," it isn't joking. This is no time for experimentation.
USeparate loads into light colors, dark colors, bright colors and towels. It's best to wash delicate and heavy fabrics separately. Murphy's Law of Bright Colors: They'll probably bleed, so use cool water.
UAlways measure detergent: Too little and the dirt hangs on; too much and your clothes will be sticky and dull.
UTurn clothes inside out before laundering to fight fading. Make sure all zippers are zipped so they don't snag anything else.
UDon't over-dry. It weakens and wrinkles the fabric.
UDon't dry bras, good underwear or anything Spandex. Hand wash it in lukewarm water and delicate-fabric wash.
UNever wring out hand-dry items -- roll them in a towel to soak up excess water, then dry them flat.
UAlways iron linen when it's damp.
UWipe leather shoes and boots with a damp cloth and polish them regularly. Fix scuff marks with a cream polish one shade lighter than the shoe color.
UIf your leather footwear gets wet, don't leave it to air-dry. Use a soft cloth.
UStain- and water-resistant sprays keep dirt and water off your shoes.
In the closet
Never leave dry-cleaning in a plastic bag -- it traps the chemicals. Gwen Adams, manager of Tripp's Fine Cleaners in Columbia, recommends cloth bags.
"Plastic generates heat, which creates moisture, which yellows clothes," she said. "And if you're going to store something for any length of time, you shouldn't have metal touching the clothes -- pins can rust and leave stains."
Clothes do better when they get a day's rest -- make sure to rotate and air out your shoes and jackets. Shoe trees are a good idea, too. Also:
UDust is the enemy. Brush off the things you don't wear often.
UDon't pin anything to your shirts. It weakens the fabric and may create a bigger hole than you expect.
UWrap cashmere, silk and wool sweaters loosely in white tissue paper. In the summer, put them in cloth bags sealed with cedar chips to keep moths away. Or use an anti-moth spray.
UClean clothes before you store them -- the longer a stain of any type remains, the harder it will be to get out. Stains such as mustard, tomato and ink may spell the end of your garment.
UHang leather in a well-ventilated area so it won't dry out.
USet leather bags on a shelf. Hanging them by the handles can ruin the shape.
UReplace soles and heels when they grind down or the edges become uneven.