Get your dry-clean-only clothes ready to wear
By Nick Burns
From Style + Tech For Men
With fall approaching quickly, it's time to pull your cashmere sweaters and wool suits out of storage so you're not left out in the cold when temperatures drop. But after months in a dusty closet -- or worse, a dank storage unit -- they aren't going to look, or possibly smell, ready to wear right away. You need some professional help.
So we called up Brian Crosby -- one of San Francisco's most trusted cleaners and the general manager of Peninou French Laundry and Cleaners -- for advice on how to get your fall duds looking dapper. Crosby works with persnickety clients, like Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus and Burberry, so he truly knows how to treat garments right, and how you can make sure that your local dry cleaner does too.
"Wool suits should only be cleaned when they really need it," says Crosby. "You don't need to wash them after each wear." Shoot for washing every three to five wears -- unless you tend to sweat heavily, in which case you might wash more frequently.
Sweaters -- especially cashmere -- can also be worn a few times before they need to be dry-cleaned. If you don't want the sweater to shrink or lose its shape during the cleaning process, Crosby recommends requesting a "measure and block service." The cleaner will measure the sweater's shape and size when it arrives, and then use steam and cold air to manipulate the sweater back to its original measurements.
The most commonly laundered item is the shirt. If you're tired of them being returned from your local cleaner with broken buttons, it's time to upgrade your cleaner. "Broken buttons occur because the cleaner is using a large press that crushes the buttons, instead of ironing by hand," says Crosby. "A high-end laundry will cover buttons with foil to avoid scratching, or remove them for pressing and sew them back on at the end."
Many people are shying away from traditional dry-cleaning or laundering for their shirts in favor of a service called "wet-cleaning," a hybrid, water-based cleaning process that uses cold water and extra-gentle detergents. "It's safe for things that are recommended for water, but also for items preferred for dry-cleaning," says Crosby. "If you have a water-based stain, like grass or wine, or if you sweat into the shirt a lot, wet-cleaning might be a better choice."
If your shirts have only a few creases or need some sprucing up after storage, Crosby recommends hanging the shirt up and using a little bit of steam to release any wrinkles. "But don't iron it on a board unless you really know what you're doing," he says.
How to Find a Quality Cleaner in Your Area
Ask the experts! Crosby recommends calling your local high-end department stores or boutiques for recommendations. Many shops use high-end cleaners for their own garments, and they also hear reviews from customers. But be wary of any shop that offers one-hour or overnight cleaning. "It takes an average of 75 minutes for a cleaning cycle," says Crosby. "And you need to give them time to rewash it in case they don't get the stains out the first time. Cleaning is an art, and you shouldn't be afraid of a cleaner that is going to take a few extra days."
Nick Burns is one of the leading grooming writers in the country. He has contributed to The New York Times, GQ, Details, Men's Journal and Esquire.com. He is also the co-author of The Bearded Gentleman: The Style Guide to Shaving Face.
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