Breaking News: Waxed Cotton Jackets are Waxy
I recently ruined a brand new leather jacket, which taught me a thing or two about storage and cleaning. First, waxed cotton jackets are apparently waxy – waxy enough that you don’t want to store them uncovered and pressed up against other garments. If you do, the waxes and oils can stain other clothes. Like the sleeves above, which are connected to a lambskin leather jacket I just bought last winter, and then stupidly stored next to my Barbour Bedale. After finding the damage, I sent the jacket to RAVE FabriCARE – the best dry cleaner I know of – and asked what could be done. I learned a few things.
First, leather jackets are hard to clean. Much harder than wool sport coats. So when you’re choosing a leather jacket, think about the overall design. Something with a rugged sensibility, such as jackets from RRL or Schott, might still look fine (if not better) with a stain or two. Something from Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren Purple Label, or any of the high-end Italian brands, on the other hand, will not.
Similarly, think about the color and material. Suede is harder to clean than regular leather, and light colored materials will be harder to upkeep than anything dark. Black, of course, is the easiest to maintain.
Second, leather can react to dry cleaning in unpredictable ways. Sometimes the color can fade or bleed; sometimes the leather can lose its suppleness; sometimes the garment can shrink. Always bring your jacket to a specialist who knows what they’re doing (not someone who will just dump your jacket off at a local plant), and before dry cleaning, see if the company you’re working with can apply a topical treatment first to remove the stain. Maybe you can avoid the dry cleaning process altogether. 
Lastly, garment bags aren’t just for suits or sport coats. Waxed cotton jackets should also be bagged, particularly if you’re storing them next to other clothes. Breathable ones made from natural materials will be best – not just because waxed cotton can get a bit musty, but also because cheap synthetic materials can degrade and let off a gas that can damage clothes. RAVE FabriCARE sells some for a reasonable price of $9/ piece.
As for my jacket, RAVE applied a topical cleaner, which reduced the visibility of the staining by about 50%. We decided to save the dry cleaning for later. Meanwhile, all my waxed cotton and oilcloth jackets from now on will be bagged.   

Breaking News: Waxed Cotton Jackets are Waxy

I recently ruined a brand new leather jacket, which taught me a thing or two about storage and cleaning. First, waxed cotton jackets are apparently waxy – waxy enough that you don’t want to store them uncovered and pressed up against other garments. If you do, the waxes and oils can stain other clothes. Like the sleeves above, which are connected to a lambskin leather jacket I just bought last winter, and then stupidly stored next to my Barbour Bedale. After finding the damage, I sent the jacket to RAVE FabriCARE – the best dry cleaner I know of – and asked what could be done. I learned a few things.

First, leather jackets are hard to clean. Much harder than wool sport coats. So when you’re choosing a leather jacket, think about the overall design. Something with a rugged sensibility, such as jackets from RRL or Schott, might still look fine (if not better) with a stain or two. Something from Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren Purple Label, or any of the high-end Italian brands, on the other hand, will not.

Similarly, think about the color and material. Suede is harder to clean than regular leather, and light colored materials will be harder to upkeep than anything dark. Black, of course, is the easiest to maintain.

Second, leather can react to dry cleaning in unpredictable ways. Sometimes the color can fade or bleed; sometimes the leather can lose its suppleness; sometimes the garment can shrink. Always bring your jacket to a specialist who knows what they’re doing (not someone who will just dump your jacket off at a local plant), and before dry cleaning, see if the company you’re working with can apply a topical treatment first to remove the stain. Maybe you can avoid the dry cleaning process altogether. 

Lastly, garment bags aren’t just for suits or sport coats. Waxed cotton jackets should also be bagged, particularly if you’re storing them next to other clothes. Breathable ones made from natural materials will be best – not just because waxed cotton can get a bit musty, but also because cheap synthetic materials can degrade and let off a gas that can damage clothes. RAVE FabriCARE sells some for a reasonable price of $9/ piece.

As for my jacket, RAVE applied a topical cleaner, which reduced the visibility of the staining by about 50%. We decided to save the dry cleaning for later. Meanwhile, all my waxed cotton and oilcloth jackets from now on will be bagged.   

The Most Important Step in Storage
Every time we transition into fall or spring, I pack away the clothes I know I won’t be wearing for a while. Sweaters go into plastic bins; out-of-season shoes are moved to the back of the closet; and last season’s sport coats and outerwear are placed into garment bags and hung in a hallway closet. This not only makes room in my main closets, but it also helps protect things that won’t be worn for six months.
This only works, however, if the clothes are cleaned beforehand. The reason why we use things such as plastic bins and garment bags, of course, is because we want to protect our wools and cashmeres from moths. However, it’s not actually moths that eat our clothes; it’s their larvae. An adult moth can lay up to 200 eggs per cycle, and have a few cycles in its short lifespan. Thus, if you have a moth problem, you most likely have eggs embedded into the fibers of your clothes. If you store these clothes away with eggs in them, you might find them six months later with holes.
So, before you store anything away, I recommend doing a few things:
Dry clean anything that’s made with animal hair (wool, cashmere, camelhair, angora, etc). This is especially important if you own anything that was bought second hand. We have a useful guide on how to find a good dry cleaner, in case you don’t already have someone you rely on.
Wash any cottons or synthetic materials. Moths usually ignore these fibers, but if you’re storing stuff away, you don’t know what might have eggs.
 Vacuum the floor and shelves. This will remove any eggs and larvae that might be living in your closet. Pay particular attention to the nooks, crannies, and corners where things might be hiding.
Once you’re done cleaning and packing, you can throw a few cedar balls or satchels in with your clothes. Some argue these aren’t much of a deterrent, but they’re better than nothing. Dried lavender is also sometimes used as an alternative, but there’s not much evidence that it’s as effective as cedar. 
All of this can take a bit of time and money. I spend about a full day packing things away, and admittedly, pay a lot in dry cleaning. However, since you have to clean things anyway, you might as well do it when it counts the most. Imagine how you’d feel if you open up that garment bag six months from now and see a hole in your favorite sport coat. 
(Photo via My Messings)

The Most Important Step in Storage

Every time we transition into fall or spring, I pack away the clothes I know I won’t be wearing for a while. Sweaters go into plastic bins; out-of-season shoes are moved to the back of the closet; and last season’s sport coats and outerwear are placed into garment bags and hung in a hallway closet. This not only makes room in my main closets, but it also helps protect things that won’t be worn for six months.

This only works, however, if the clothes are cleaned beforehand. The reason why we use things such as plastic bins and garment bags, of course, is because we want to protect our wools and cashmeres from moths. However, it’s not actually moths that eat our clothes; it’s their larvae. An adult moth can lay up to 200 eggs per cycle, and have a few cycles in its short lifespan. Thus, if you have a moth problem, you most likely have eggs embedded into the fibers of your clothes. If you store these clothes away with eggs in them, you might find them six months later with holes.

So, before you store anything away, I recommend doing a few things:

  • Dry clean anything that’s made with animal hair (wool, cashmere, camelhair, angora, etc). This is especially important if you own anything that was bought second hand. We have a useful guide on how to find a good dry cleaner, in case you don’t already have someone you rely on.
  • Wash any cottons or synthetic materials. Moths usually ignore these fibers, but if you’re storing stuff away, you don’t know what might have eggs.
  •  Vacuum the floor and shelves. This will remove any eggs and larvae that might be living in your closet. Pay particular attention to the nooks, crannies, and corners where things might be hiding.
  • Once you’re done cleaning and packing, you can throw a few cedar balls or satchels in with your clothes. Some argue these aren’t much of a deterrent, but they’re better than nothing. Dried lavender is also sometimes used as an alternative, but there’s not much evidence that it’s as effective as cedar. 

All of this can take a bit of time and money. I spend about a full day packing things away, and admittedly, pay a lot in dry cleaning. However, since you have to clean things anyway, you might as well do it when it counts the most. Imagine how you’d feel if you open up that garment bag six months from now and see a hole in your favorite sport coat. 

(Photo via My Messings)

Finding a Good Dry Cleaner
With the amount of information online about clothing construction and quality, there’s surprisingly little about how to find a good dry cleaner. The quality of your cleaner, however, can really affect the life of your garments. Take your clothes to a bad operation and they can set in stains, ruin the nap on fabrics, and even take the shape out of a well-made jacket. It’s worthwhile then to figure out how to tell a good dry cleaning job from a bad one.
There are essentially two types of dry cleaning businesses. The first is known as a dry store, where the store essentially acts as a drop-off point for some remotely located central plant. For every central plant, there might be five to twenty of these “satellite” shops located throughout various neighborhoods. The second is what’s known as a package plant, where a business has their own equipment on-site, which means they actually do the dry cleaning themselves.
So how can you tell the quality of these cleaners’ work? Well, roughly speaking, a dry store is more likely to have lower quality service. Their aim typically is to control costs, increase efficiency, and turn things around as quickly as possible. If you see a really small shop with no machines besides a conveyer behind the counter, and they’re charging you $8 to clean a suit with next day service, the chances are, you’re clothes aren’t getting much consideration.
Package plants, on the other hand, tend to have better service, but you can’t assume this just because they own their own equipment. It’s useful to know a bit about the dry cleaning process so you know what things to look for and what questions to ask. For example:
Dry cleaning is good for taking out oil-based stains (such as those from lotions, salad dressings, and pizza drippings) but it can potentially set in water-based stains (such as those from juice, coffee, or even perspiration). A good dry cleaner will thus identify the types of stains you have and pre-treat them accordingly, so that damage isn’t set in through the cleaning process itself. Make sure your cleaner has a technician that does this.
Some dry cleaners also re-use their cleaning fluids, which means dirt from previous loads can be redeposited. Ask your cleaner if they use freshly purified or freshly distilled fluids with every run.
If you’re having garments pressed, you may also want to enquire if the job is done by hand or machine (though, from my experience, many places that do a machine press will still say they do it by hand). The problem with a machine press is that they’re often just blowing hot steam through a garment, which can take the shape out of a high-quality suit and ruin the seams on a low-quality jacket.
Finally, when you get your garments back, feel the fabrics. Do they feel soft, as you remember them, or a bit stiff? Many cleaners will use what’s known in the trade as sizing, which stiffens a fabric a bit so that it’s easier to press. Great for efficiency, but bad if you want to maintain the soft hand and beautiful nap on a something such as high-quality flannel wool.
Now, I’m wary of advising people to go into operations and interrogate professionals as though they know more about the business than the people running the shop. What I am advising, however, is that people learn a bit about how dry cleaning is done, just as they should learn a little about how shoes and suits are made. That way, they know what are the right questions to ask and be able to interpret answers.
For what it’s worth, the best dry cleaner I know of is RAVE FabriCARE, who is located in Arizona, but can take clothes by mail. Their prices aren’t cheap, but if you have something you really care about, or something heavily soiled, they’re certainly worth considering. Stu, who runs that operation, sat down with me last year to really explain the cleaning process, and he runs a blog where you can find much of this same information. Take the time to read through a few of his posts. They’re quite informative and can go a long way in helping you find the right cleaner for your needs. 
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Finding a Good Dry Cleaner

With the amount of information online about clothing construction and quality, there’s surprisingly little about how to find a good dry cleaner. The quality of your cleaner, however, can really affect the life of your garments. Take your clothes to a bad operation and they can set in stains, ruin the nap on fabrics, and even take the shape out of a well-made jacket. It’s worthwhile then to figure out how to tell a good dry cleaning job from a bad one.

There are essentially two types of dry cleaning businesses. The first is known as a dry store, where the store essentially acts as a drop-off point for some remotely located central plant. For every central plant, there might be five to twenty of these “satellite” shops located throughout various neighborhoods. The second is what’s known as a package plant, where a business has their own equipment on-site, which means they actually do the dry cleaning themselves.

So how can you tell the quality of these cleaners’ work? Well, roughly speaking, a dry store is more likely to have lower quality service. Their aim typically is to control costs, increase efficiency, and turn things around as quickly as possible. If you see a really small shop with no machines besides a conveyer behind the counter, and they’re charging you $8 to clean a suit with next day service, the chances are, you’re clothes aren’t getting much consideration.

Package plants, on the other hand, tend to have better service, but you can’t assume this just because they own their own equipment. It’s useful to know a bit about the dry cleaning process so you know what things to look for and what questions to ask. For example:

  • Dry cleaning is good for taking out oil-based stains (such as those from lotions, salad dressings, and pizza drippings) but it can potentially set in water-based stains (such as those from juice, coffee, or even perspiration). A good dry cleaner will thus identify the types of stains you have and pre-treat them accordingly, so that damage isn’t set in through the cleaning process itself. Make sure your cleaner has a technician that does this.
  • Some dry cleaners also re-use their cleaning fluids, which means dirt from previous loads can be redeposited. Ask your cleaner if they use freshly purified or freshly distilled fluids with every run.
  • If you’re having garments pressed, you may also want to enquire if the job is done by hand or machine (though, from my experience, many places that do a machine press will still say they do it by hand). The problem with a machine press is that they’re often just blowing hot steam through a garment, which can take the shape out of a high-quality suit and ruin the seams on a low-quality jacket.
  • Finally, when you get your garments back, feel the fabrics. Do they feel soft, as you remember them, or a bit stiff? Many cleaners will use what’s known in the trade as sizing, which stiffens a fabric a bit so that it’s easier to press. Great for efficiency, but bad if you want to maintain the soft hand and beautiful nap on a something such as high-quality flannel wool.

Now, I’m wary of advising people to go into operations and interrogate professionals as though they know more about the business than the people running the shop. What I am advising, however, is that people learn a bit about how dry cleaning is done, just as they should learn a little about how shoes and suits are made. That way, they know what are the right questions to ask and be able to interpret answers.

For what it’s worth, the best dry cleaner I know of is RAVE FabriCARE, who is located in Arizona, but can take clothes by mail. Their prices aren’t cheap, but if you have something you really care about, or something heavily soiled, they’re certainly worth considering. Stu, who runs that operation, sat down with me last year to really explain the cleaning process, and he runs a blog where you can find much of this same information. Take the time to read through a few of his posts. They’re quite informative and can go a long way in helping you find the right cleaner for your needs. 

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Dealing with Stains
Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow and you, or someone you know, will likely spill something on their best clothes, I thought I’d cover how to deal with stains.
First, note that I’m not a textile or cleaning expert. The best cleaner I know of in the United States is RAVE FabriCARE. They cleaned Jesse’s suit after he poured Lifeway Kefir all over it, and did an excellent job. Last year, just around this time, they published a post on how to deal with Thanksgiving stains. Their advice? Don’t listen to people around you. They’re likely just rehashing things that are a mixture of folklore, old wives tales, and hazy memories about something they heard a few years back. Instead, just gently blot the spill or splatter with a cotton towel or napkin. Don’t rub; don’t scrub; just blot. Then leave it alone and bring it to a quality cleaner. They don’t say who, but I’ll say it for them: RAVE FabriCARE likely to be considerably better than any professional cleaner near you (many of which are just drop off points for the same low-quality, mass cleaning companies). So, if you have something nice, send it to them.
There are good reasons to not treat things at home. Certain stains require certain cleaning methods, and if you apply the wrong one, you can set in the damage. If you insist on laundering at home, however, I thought I’d reprint the following advice from the ninth edition of J.J. Pizzuto’s Fabric Science, a textbook popularly used for textile classes in fashion and design schools. Obviously, before you take any of this advice below, consult with the care label on your garments and directions on your cleaning products.
Candle wax, paraffin: Freeze and scrape; place between paper towels or tissues and press with warm iron; place face down on paper towels and sponge with cleaning fluid or rubbing alcohol; wash.
Chocolate, cocoa: Soak in club soda or cool water with enzyme presoak; sponge with cleaning fluid and later with detergent; launder in hot water
Coffee, tea: Soak with enzyme presoak or oxygen bleach; rub with detergent; wash in hot water.
Egg: If dried, scrape with a dull knife; soak in cool water with enzyme presoak; rub with detergent; launder in hot water.
Fruits, juices: Soak with enzyme presoak; wash. If stain remains, cover with paste of oxygen bleach and a few drops of ammonia for 15 to 20 minutes. Can also try white vinegar; wash as hot as possible.
Gravy: Scrape with a dull knife; soak in enzyme presoak; treat with detergent paste and later cleaning fluid; hot wash with bleach if safe.
Grease, oil, or margarine: Scrape off all excess or apply absorbent powder (talcum or cornstarch) and brush off; pretreat with strong detergent; rinse; sponge with cleaning fluid; hot wash with extra detergent; bleach if safe.
Ice cream: Soak in enzyme presoak; rinse; rub with detergent; rinse and let dry; sponge with cleaning fluid if needed; rinse; hot wash with bleach if safe.
Milk: Soak in enzyme presoak; rinse; rub with detergent; launder.
Mustard: Spray with prewash or rub with bar soap or liquid detergent; rinse; soak in hot water and detergent; launder with bleach if safe.
Peanut butter: Saturate with mineral oil to dislodge oil particles from fibers; blot; apply cleaning fluid and blot between absorbent mats; rinse and launder.
Soft drinks: Dampen with cool water and rubbing alcohol or enzyme presoak; launder with bleach if safe; stain may appear later as a yellow area.
Tomato products: Sponge with cold water; rub with detergent; launder in hot water with bleach if safe.
Wine: Same as for fruits; sprinkle a red wine spill immediately with salt (my own note: I’ve had good luck soaking red wine spills in white wine, but I can’t say there’s any science to it)
For more stain solutions, you can check out University of Illinois Extensions’ Guide, which I posted about last year. 
(Photo by 13th Street Studio)

Dealing with Stains

Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow and you, or someone you know, will likely spill something on their best clothes, I thought I’d cover how to deal with stains.

First, note that I’m not a textile or cleaning expert. The best cleaner I know of in the United States is RAVE FabriCARE. They cleaned Jesse’s suit after he poured Lifeway Kefir all over it, and did an excellent job. Last year, just around this time, they published a post on how to deal with Thanksgiving stains. Their advice? Don’t listen to people around you. They’re likely just rehashing things that are a mixture of folklore, old wives tales, and hazy memories about something they heard a few years back. Instead, just gently blot the spill or splatter with a cotton towel or napkin. Don’t rub; don’t scrub; just blot. Then leave it alone and bring it to a quality cleaner. They don’t say who, but I’ll say it for them: RAVE FabriCARE likely to be considerably better than any professional cleaner near you (many of which are just drop off points for the same low-quality, mass cleaning companies). So, if you have something nice, send it to them.

There are good reasons to not treat things at home. Certain stains require certain cleaning methods, and if you apply the wrong one, you can set in the damage. If you insist on laundering at home, however, I thought I’d reprint the following advice from the ninth edition of J.J. Pizzuto’s Fabric Science, a textbook popularly used for textile classes in fashion and design schools. Obviously, before you take any of this advice below, consult with the care label on your garments and directions on your cleaning products.

  • Candle wax, paraffin: Freeze and scrape; place between paper towels or tissues and press with warm iron; place face down on paper towels and sponge with cleaning fluid or rubbing alcohol; wash.
  • Chocolate, cocoa: Soak in club soda or cool water with enzyme presoak; sponge with cleaning fluid and later with detergent; launder in hot water
  • Coffee, tea: Soak with enzyme presoak or oxygen bleach; rub with detergent; wash in hot water.
  • Egg: If dried, scrape with a dull knife; soak in cool water with enzyme presoak; rub with detergent; launder in hot water.
  • Fruits, juices: Soak with enzyme presoak; wash. If stain remains, cover with paste of oxygen bleach and a few drops of ammonia for 15 to 20 minutes. Can also try white vinegar; wash as hot as possible.
  • Gravy: Scrape with a dull knife; soak in enzyme presoak; treat with detergent paste and later cleaning fluid; hot wash with bleach if safe.
  • Grease, oil, or margarine: Scrape off all excess or apply absorbent powder (talcum or cornstarch) and brush off; pretreat with strong detergent; rinse; sponge with cleaning fluid; hot wash with extra detergent; bleach if safe.
  • Ice cream: Soak in enzyme presoak; rinse; rub with detergent; rinse and let dry; sponge with cleaning fluid if needed; rinse; hot wash with bleach if safe.
  • Milk: Soak in enzyme presoak; rinse; rub with detergent; launder.
  • Mustard: Spray with prewash or rub with bar soap or liquid detergent; rinse; soak in hot water and detergent; launder with bleach if safe.
  • Peanut butter: Saturate with mineral oil to dislodge oil particles from fibers; blot; apply cleaning fluid and blot between absorbent mats; rinse and launder.
  • Soft drinks: Dampen with cool water and rubbing alcohol or enzyme presoak; launder with bleach if safe; stain may appear later as a yellow area.
  • Tomato products: Sponge with cold water; rub with detergent; launder in hot water with bleach if safe.
  • Wine: Same as for fruits; sprinkle a red wine spill immediately with salt (my own note: I’ve had good luck soaking red wine spills in white wine, but I can’t say there’s any science to it)

For more stain solutions, you can check out University of Illinois Extensions’ Guide, which I posted about last year

(Photo by 13th Street Studio)

Q and Answer: Can I Get Bedbugs From Used Clothes on eBay?
Dwight asks: What is the risk of getting bedbugs from an eBay purchase and what are the proper steps to mitigate them?
The risk of getting bedbugs from an eBay or other second-hand clothing purchase is very small, but it’s not zero. It’s increased a bit if you’re shopping somewhere where bedbugs are more widespread, like New York City. Bedbugs prefer the regular blood meals that bedding provides, so they don’t travel much via clothing, but they can go without eating for quite a long time. If they end up in clothes, they can hang out for up to a year, waiting for snacking conditions to improve.
Luckily, if you’re concerned about bedbugs, it’s very simple to kill them.
Bedbugs can’t live in temperatures over about 115 degrees. So, if you want to kill any bedbugs that might be hiding out on a garment, just put it in the drier on hot for a few minutes. Expert recommend 15 or 20 to be safe, but say that even five or ten should do it. Dry cleaning will also kill bed bugs, so if you have a dry clean only garment, there’s no need to put it in the laundry.
Of course, cleaning second-hand clothes is good practice anyway. While some second-hand stores and vendors dry-clean clothing, some don’t, and dry-cleaning or laundering your new-old clothes will also eliminate the risk of bringing another terrifying pest into your home: clothing moths.

Q and Answer: Can I Get Bedbugs From Used Clothes on eBay?

Dwight asks: What is the risk of getting bedbugs from an eBay purchase and what are the proper steps to mitigate them?

The risk of getting bedbugs from an eBay or other second-hand clothing purchase is very small, but it’s not zero. It’s increased a bit if you’re shopping somewhere where bedbugs are more widespread, like New York City. Bedbugs prefer the regular blood meals that bedding provides, so they don’t travel much via clothing, but they can go without eating for quite a long time. If they end up in clothes, they can hang out for up to a year, waiting for snacking conditions to improve.

Luckily, if you’re concerned about bedbugs, it’s very simple to kill them.

Bedbugs can’t live in temperatures over about 115 degrees. So, if you want to kill any bedbugs that might be hiding out on a garment, just put it in the drier on hot for a few minutes. Expert recommend 15 or 20 to be safe, but say that even five or ten should do it. Dry cleaning will also kill bed bugs, so if you have a dry clean only garment, there’s no need to put it in the laundry.

Of course, cleaning second-hand clothes is good practice anyway. While some second-hand stores and vendors dry-clean clothing, some don’t, and dry-cleaning or laundering your new-old clothes will also eliminate the risk of bringing another terrifying pest into your home: clothing moths.

The Great Kefir Clean-Up

When we planned our ad spot for Lifeway Kefir, we expected to find some clothes for me to wear at a thrift shop, or maybe at Uniqlo. We figured we could afford to drop a hundred bucks, maybe two hundred, to make the commercial memorable, then discard the ruined clothes afterward. It was a decent plan.

It turned out that we were so busy shooting, we didn’t have time to buy me a set of clothes, and I couldn’t bear to pour kefir over one of the three coats I’d brought with me on the trip. Luckily, I’m the same size as our director, Ben, and he swore up and down that this blue Dolce & Gabbana suit was one he basically never wore. He even brought his girlfriend in as a witness to confirm that he never wore it. So I suited up, and doused myself in kefir. We only got one shot, but we made it count, and then we got a bunch of towels and cleaned up Ben’s apartment’s floor.

When we were done, the suit was soaked in kefir. Like a wet rag.

That’s when I had an idea. Stu Bloom runs Rave Fabricare, which I guess you might call an artisanal dry cleaner. My friend Will from A Suitable Wardrobe had recommended them, and Stu’s always inserting himself into conversations about cleaning on the big menswear boards. A few months ago, my mom bought some Hermes scarves with some nasty soil, and I sent her to Stu - who got them clean post-haste. My mom considered it a miracle, and she made good money on the scarves. I emailed Stu: was he up to the challenge of a kefir-soaked suit?

His answer was: “Absolutely.”

We put the suit in a garbage bag, and stuffed it in a Priority Mail box, and sent it off to Arizona. Well, to be honest, we let it sit on Ben’s kitchen floor for a week, because we forgot to give Ben’s girlfriend Rave’s address. Then she sent it off to Arizona.

By the time it got there, as you can see, it was absolutely foul. Since it had been balled up in a garbage bag in a cool dark place for a week, it was rife with fungus. Absolutely rank and nasty. Even Stu wasn’t sure if there was anything he could do, but he got to work.

Then, about a week ago, a package showed up at Ben’s door. He emailed me immediately: “HOLY COW! JESSE! IT LOOKS BETTER THAN IT DID BEFORE WE RUINED IT!”

Stu’s service is expensive - he took this one as a personal challenge, but the average price for a dry-cleaned item using their highest level of service is about $20, so I’m guessing he might have charged us $40 or $50 for what he did for Ben’s suit. A hand-finished laundered shirt is $6.75. That said, the dry cleaning business is such a disaster that I dry clean my suits and coats about once a season at most. It’s nearly impossible to find someone who will do it with any care at all. Stu’s passionate about cleaning, and in many circumstances (like when $300 worth of suit is on the line) that’s worth the cost.

You can check out even more pictures of the grizzly situation and the remarkable result at Rave’s blog.

A Three-Step Process to Finding Good Tailors and Dry Cleaners
I’m moving to Moscow for a few months, and being that it’s my first time there, I’ll have to find a new tailor and dry cleaner. When I was young, I used to worry about having to find a new barber when I travelled. The whole idea of having a new person cut my hair just seemed frightening. What if they chop my hair to uneven bits? I’ve learned, however, that hair grows back. Clothes that you’ve painstakingly poured a lot of time and money into, on the other hand, will never be restored once they’re ruined. That’s why it’s important to find good tailors and dry cleaners - one exchange with a bad one could ruin your favorite garments forever. 
So I’ve developed a kind of system to finding good tailors and dry cleaners in a new area. Perhaps it will be useful for you as well, whether you’ve arrived in a new place or you’re still trying to find someone reliable. Here’s my three-step process:
1. Find the local consensus: The first step is to call the very best upscale stores and hotels in the area. For stores, this can be high-end boutiques such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus; independent fine menswear stores that sell brands you respect; and internationally known brand stores such as Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, or Zegna. For hotels, this can include the Four Seasons, St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, etc. Just check your Zagat Survey for the five-star operations. 
Ask the managers of these places which tailors and dry cleaners they send their work to. Hotels will obviously have dry cleaners they depend on, but menswear stores will often also have a dry cleaner that they send soiled garments to. They will most certainly at least have tailors they work with for alterations. Try to identify a consensus among these recommendations. You’re likely to spot at least two or three that everyone goes to. These will be your candidates.
2. Ask questions and identify quality operations: Call up your candidates and ask them questions about the job you’re looking to have done. Unfortunately, you have to know a little bit about tailoring and dry cleaning in order to know what are the right questions to ask. It’s beyond the scope of this article to cover these subjects, but you should search the archives of StyleForum to get a sense of the processes behind whatever you want done. Ask them about some of these technical details. A good tailor or dry cleaner should be able to discuss these things with you competently. 
Additionally, for dry cleaners, look for places that do the work on-site and, ideally, offer hand ironing. The second part is particularly critical if you have high-end suits, otherwise your nice rolling lapels may come back incorrectly pressed. 
Note that while you can often find a very skilled alterations tailor who is affordable, good dry cleaning never comes cheap. If someone tells you they only charge $25 to clean a suit and $5 to launder a shirt, and you can pick it up in just a few days, you’d be a fool to hand over your garments. 
3. Give them your worst: Everyone has low-end, ill-fitting garments they don’t wear. Send these in before you hand over things you actually favor. After you get the garment back, spend two or three weeks with it - wear it a few times, see how it fits, examine the quality, etc. For me, it takes a few weeks to really review these things. First impressions are often always positive, but three weeks in, I may notice that the work might not be done as cleanly and well as I would like. Before I trust someone with something I’ve spent a considerable amount time to find, and somewhat hefty amount of money to purchase, it’s absolutely critical that I can fully trust their work. Getting to this place can sometimes take two or three “test runs.” It might seem like a lot of hassle, but imagine the hassle you’ll go through if you had to replace some of your favorite clothes. 

A Three-Step Process to Finding Good Tailors and Dry Cleaners

I’m moving to Moscow for a few months, and being that it’s my first time there, I’ll have to find a new tailor and dry cleaner. When I was young, I used to worry about having to find a new barber when I travelled. The whole idea of having a new person cut my hair just seemed frightening. What if they chop my hair to uneven bits? I’ve learned, however, that hair grows back. Clothes that you’ve painstakingly poured a lot of time and money into, on the other hand, will never be restored once they’re ruined. That’s why it’s important to find good tailors and dry cleaners - one exchange with a bad one could ruin your favorite garments forever. 

So I’ve developed a kind of system to finding good tailors and dry cleaners in a new area. Perhaps it will be useful for you as well, whether you’ve arrived in a new place or you’re still trying to find someone reliable. Here’s my three-step process:

1. Find the local consensus: The first step is to call the very best upscale stores and hotels in the area. For stores, this can be high-end boutiques such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus; independent fine menswear stores that sell brands you respect; and internationally known brand stores such as Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, or Zegna. For hotels, this can include the Four Seasons, St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, etc. Just check your Zagat Survey for the five-star operations. 

Ask the managers of these places which tailors and dry cleaners they send their work to. Hotels will obviously have dry cleaners they depend on, but menswear stores will often also have a dry cleaner that they send soiled garments to. They will most certainly at least have tailors they work with for alterations. Try to identify a consensus among these recommendations. You’re likely to spot at least two or three that everyone goes to. These will be your candidates.

2. Ask questions and identify quality operations: Call up your candidates and ask them questions about the job you’re looking to have done. Unfortunately, you have to know a little bit about tailoring and dry cleaning in order to know what are the right questions to ask. It’s beyond the scope of this article to cover these subjects, but you should search the archives of StyleForum to get a sense of the processes behind whatever you want done. Ask them about some of these technical details. A good tailor or dry cleaner should be able to discuss these things with you competently. 

Additionally, for dry cleaners, look for places that do the work on-site and, ideally, offer hand ironing. The second part is particularly critical if you have high-end suits, otherwise your nice rolling lapels may come back incorrectly pressed. 

Note that while you can often find a very skilled alterations tailor who is affordable, good dry cleaning never comes cheap. If someone tells you they only charge $25 to clean a suit and $5 to launder a shirt, and you can pick it up in just a few days, you’d be a fool to hand over your garments. 

3. Give them your worst: Everyone has low-end, ill-fitting garments they don’t wear. Send these in before you hand over things you actually favor. After you get the garment back, spend two or three weeks with it - wear it a few times, see how it fits, examine the quality, etc. For me, it takes a few weeks to really review these things. First impressions are often always positive, but three weeks in, I may notice that the work might not be done as cleanly and well as I would like. Before I trust someone with something I’ve spent a considerable amount time to find, and somewhat hefty amount of money to purchase, it’s absolutely critical that I can fully trust their work. Getting to this place can sometimes take two or three “test runs.” It might seem like a lot of hassle, but imagine the hassle you’ll go through if you had to replace some of your favorite clothes. 

I recently had a wonderful conversation with Gerald, who runs Jeeves, a company that offers custom handcleaning services for high-end, bespoke garments. 

As he explained it to me, traditional dry cleaning can be a bit rough. Not only does it often involve the use of perchloroethene (a potential carcinogen if not handled correctly), the process can also damage your clothing.

You see, traditional dry cleaners use a machine that looks much like a front loading washer. The dry cleaner inserts a load of clothes into the barrel, throws in some dry cleaning solution, and then closes the door. The machine agitates the clothes for a while, and then rotates the barrel so that the clothes reache an apex, at which point they fall so that the soil can dislodge. Afterwards, the barrel spins, much like a traditional washing machine, so that the cleaning chemicals are spun out. The process is fine for most clothes, but if you have handwork details on a bespoke suit, it can be hard on the stitching.  Worse still, many lower end dry cleaners filter the used solvent and reuse it for other loads. 

The alternative Jeeves offers is to go over the entire garment and treat each stain accordingly to what it is. For example, shoe polish stains will be treated in a way that’s best for them, not in the way that’s best for wine stains. All of this is carefully done by hand. Afterwards, the company puts the garment in a room with an ozone machine, which helps neutralize any smells, and then carefully hand presses the jacket the way it would be done on the bespoke tailor’s floor. People who have had their jackets’ lapel rolls ruined by a dry cleaner know how important this is. 

Unfortunately, you have to be in New York to utilize Jeeves’ services, or near one of their international locations. The process is also expensive - $150, as it takes five hours worth of skilled, hand-cleaning work. If you have high-end bespoke garments however, and are near one of Jeeves’ locations, it’s worth looking into. 

Lastly, as a reminder to everyone, this is the time of the year to store away your fall/ winter clothes and bring out your spring/ summer ones. Will at A Suitable Wardrobe made a good video about this recently. He also had a good post last fall that reminded us that we need to clean our clothes before we store them away. For most of us, that means a good local dry cleaner, but perhaps for others, it’s bringing that Attolini suit to Jeeves. 

Q and Answer: Why does wool get shiny?
Rob asks: Why do wool pants and suits get shiny over time? Is there any way to  prevent/correct this? I remember you mentioned bristle garment brushes  in the past - do they fix this problem?
Wool gets shiny for the same reason anything else does - because its surface becomes smoother.  This is a result of friction from wear, pressing, heat and especially dry cleaning. 
Garment brushes don’t correct this problem, but they do help prevent it.  If you brush your wool tailored clothes after wearing them, they’ll stay cleaner.  That means both less dirt wearing away at the fibers of the clothes and less trips to the dry cleaner.  It’s the intense heat and chemicals used in dry cleaning and commercial pressing that are the number one cause of suit shininess.  That’s why if you buy a suit on Savile Row, you can take it in for a free pressing and cleaning that’s done with a sponge and steam, rather than a big iron maiden-looking super-heated death contraption, which is what you’ll find at the dry cleaner’s plant.
Wool, especially certain weaves, like gabardine, will shine after a lot of wear no matter what you do, but it’s important to dry clean your garments only when they actually need them.  That means a few times a year if you’re wearing them regularly, and once a year or so if you’re not.  If you buy a particularly nice suit, it’s a good idea to get an extra pair of pants - which are typically relatively inexpensive - as the seat and inside thighs are usually the first part of the suit to start shining.

Q and Answer: Why does wool get shiny?

Rob asks: Why do wool pants and suits get shiny over time? Is there any way to prevent/correct this? I remember you mentioned bristle garment brushes in the past - do they fix this problem?

Wool gets shiny for the same reason anything else does - because its surface becomes smoother.  This is a result of friction from wear, pressing, heat and especially dry cleaning. 

Garment brushes don’t correct this problem, but they do help prevent it.  If you brush your wool tailored clothes after wearing them, they’ll stay cleaner.  That means both less dirt wearing away at the fibers of the clothes and less trips to the dry cleaner.  It’s the intense heat and chemicals used in dry cleaning and commercial pressing that are the number one cause of suit shininess.  That’s why if you buy a suit on Savile Row, you can take it in for a free pressing and cleaning that’s done with a sponge and steam, rather than a big iron maiden-looking super-heated death contraption, which is what you’ll find at the dry cleaner’s plant.

Wool, especially certain weaves, like gabardine, will shine after a lot of wear no matter what you do, but it’s important to dry clean your garments only when they actually need them.  That means a few times a year if you’re wearing them regularly, and once a year or so if you’re not.  If you buy a particularly nice suit, it’s a good idea to get an extra pair of pants - which are typically relatively inexpensive - as the seat and inside thighs are usually the first part of the suit to start shining.