I have never before experienced such difficulty getting rid of things. I’m the efficient get-rid-of-it-now type, and my wardrobe is proof. I have two neatly hung areas of my closet and can fit my entire spring/summer and fall/winter wardrobe on one side. I take my compulsive decluttering down a notch with clients, but this time was different.
Marie had an immaculate wardrobe with pieces she’s owned for years. She was fully prepared to dramatically pair down her closet and even asked that I show her some “tough love” during our Closet Cleaning. As a Denver personal stylist, my normal process of removing clothing from a closet and placing an item in the “donate” or “sell” pile wasn’t cutting it. I worked my way through her wardrobe and discovered the majority of Marie’s pieces fit the criteria of flattering, fitting of Marie’s style, and in good repair.
I wasn't sure what to do next. I recommended we wait until our Shopping Session to see what new pieces could replace the styles currently hanging in her closet. She was tired of many of the items and wanted a fresh look! When I came back for the final Closet Shop outfitting session, we STILL had too many pieces to work with, and I realized our problem was due to Marie’s careful care of her wardrobe.
I HAD to ask Marie for her trade secrets and was so excited when she agreed to share her know-how with the Denver Style Shop community! Much of her knowledge comes from her father who owns a dry cleaning business, and you may be surprised at some of her strategies. Check out her answers to the questions below and learn everything from Marie's go-to stain treatments, her secret for keeping denim in like-new condition, and the 15 items YOU need on hand to keep your clothing in spotless condition!
(Please note, you can find links to the majority of items listed below by clicking on the colored text. I'm not receiving commission on these items but wanted to make life easy for you!)
1) Do you have a go-to stain treatment you’re able to use on a variety of materials?
There's a great product called Puracy Natural Laundry Stain Remover. I'm of the philosophy that most clothing is made from plant-based materials, so harsh chemicals can cause fading or threads of the fabric to weaken. This is a pretty good product for most organic stains. OxiClean is also a staple in my laundry arsenal! In a pinch, I'll use dishwashing powder for stains and cornstarch as my go-to for soaking up oil.
2) What’s your #1 trick for keeping suede in good condition?
Suede is essentially a skin, so I tend to baby it more than leather. Both leather and suede can dry out, and it can be difficult to revive the material once it does. All of my suede items are covered in a breathable fabric so dust doesn't settle on them. For a breathable fabric you already have laying around the house, take an old pillow case and cut a hole in the top so the item can hang without gathering dust! The dust is hard to get out, but if you discover a fine layer on the surface of the suede, take a soft bristle toothbrush (if it's abrasive on your skin, it's too rough for suede) and gently "brush" the suede. The motion should be like a mini flick of the wrist, causing the brush head to "sweep" the dust away.
Shoes need the same attention. Stains on a suede shoe may actually just be debris resting on top of suede nap. A suede eraser is a great tool for day-to-day care, and the Saphir Medaille d'Or Gommadin Rubber Suede Eraser will do just that. Since a suede shoe will often transcend a passing trend, taking care of the shoe is as equally important as caring for a classic piece in your closet that will stand the test of time. You can also order a little kit from Jason Markk to keep your suede in good condition.
The moment you purchase a fine pair of suede shoes, treat them immediately with a suede water repellant. Not all water repellants are the same; look for one that is specific to suede. This will save heartache later when you get caught in an unexpected rainfall! A white ring of water isn't fatal to the shoe, but it will take a little work to get it clean again. If you need to take a pair of suede shoes to a professional leather cleaner, my suggestion is to go to a cobbler who will clean them. Some dry cleaners will offer a service, but it is often sourced to another vendor who specializes in suede and leather.
3) What about leather?
Leather needs to be babied as well. This may sound odd, but don't let leather or suede touch your skin. All the lotion you lathered on is layered with oils your body naturally produces. When the skin touches leather, it deposits all that oil on the leather. The neckline is the main depository, so add perfume and a light scarf before donning a leather jacket. Dust your leather once a week with a lightly damp cloth (take a cloth, wet it, and wring the heck out of it), and then run it lightly over the leather. All the leather! Know how a person can tan unevenly? Any moisture will do the same to leather, so it's all or nothing!
Let it dry naturally away from heating vents as the heat will sap moisture from the leather, causing it to seize up. Again, think of your own skin! Once it's clean, store it in a dark place under a breathable fabric on a padded hanger. This goes for suede, too! The padded hangar ensures the shoulders won't take on the shape of the hanger or clip. In the event of a dent, there's really no way to shrink it back to its original form (think of it as a stretch mark!). Don't forget to cover your leather in some light breathable fabric! Eventually, the article should be professionally cleaned, preferably once a year if it's a well-worn piece. I recommend a well-established dry cleaner or leather cleaner.
4) Any time-saving tips on laundry you frequently use?
Martha Stewart has a great chart for treating stains. It's printed and posted on my wall next to all the laundry detergent!
Another time-saving trick involves a constant reminder to my husband to turn his socks right-side out. All the socks go in a separate mesh laundry bag that's tossed in the wash. When done this way, none of the socks disappear and it makes sorting and matching much faster!
All laundry will survive in cold water. In fact, unless you have heavily soiled clothing, cold water is the gentlest on fabrics!
The very best time saver is to reduce the laundry load. Unless you're sweating, clothing that contacts skin can last at least 2 wears before needing a wash. When wearing a sweater, wear a camisole underneath to avoid frequently throwing it in the wash. Any time you throw something in the wash, the agitation, tumbling, and cleaning of the item will weaken the threads of the fabric and fade the color.
I use a professional steamer my father picked up at a Dry Cleaner's convention over 15 years ago and gave to me for Christmas! It has a separate boiler to generate steam and takes about 45 minutes to heat up. With just one boiler, I can steam three loads of fine fabric in 1 hour! If you're looking to purchase a steamer, look for one where steam is pushed out of the iron in a steady stream rather than a version that puffs steam. This will ensure you won't have to rub or press the steamer to get wrinkles out! Click here for another option.
5) How much money do you think you’ve saved over the years buying quality pieces and caring for them correctly?
I've saved thousands of dollars in jeans alone. I have jeans I bought in 2011 that haven't faded! The moment I buy good jeans, I take them home, turn them inside out, and soak them in a mixture of salt and water. I then let them sit for a good 2 hours before I toss them in the wash on delicate/cold. Afterward, I hang them to dry and steam the wrinkles out. That's it!
Let's pretend you only have one pair. Wear the pair, throw them in the freezer (it'll kill any odor-creating bacteria) and wear them again the next day. Then repeat! You can do this a couple times during the week to save the wear, tear, and dye of the fabric. If normally you would have washed a pair of denim after two wears, skip it and throw it in the freezer. Repeat until the jeans lose their "freshness." Now the pair deserves to be washed!
6) Is there an alternative to taking a clothing item to the dry cleaner’s? Anything you can do to wash it at home instead?
There's really only a few pieces that need the dry cleaner as the dry cleaner's main purpose is to clean synthetic and water-vulnerable fabrics. This includes fabrics that will stain and shrink in water! The cleaning solution used in the dry cleaning machine is quick to evaporate, and the machine will suction the solution out of the garment once it's been cleaned. This leaves the fabric dry as if it never touched anything in a liquid state! So really, the only materials you need to take to the dry cleaner's are wools, silks, rayons, or anything that would react adversely to water. Since these materials are usually seasonal, special, or can be layered with an item of clothing to avoid collecting skin oils, they shouldn't have to visit the cleaner very often.
If the tag says dry clean only, then obey the direction. If it says "recommended," there's flexibility. If you love the pristine appearance of an item, always dry clean it!
Polyester, acrylic, nylon, cotton, and linen can usually be washed at home. Just make sure to check if the item will bleed color in the wash! If there's any decorative trim on an item of clothing that might be attached by glue, washing the garment at home can be a risk.
If you DO decide to wash the "recommended" dry clean item at home, use a mesh laundry bag and turn the item inside out while washing. Use the gentlest cycle or hand wash the item with a very mild, dye-free detergent.
If the fabric is heavy and holding water, lay the item flat on a white towel or towel you're ok to dye if there's a transfer of color from the garment. Layer another towel on top, and roll both towels and the item of clothing from one end to the other, pressing firmly. This will extract more water and expedite the drying process! Once you're done, lay it on a drying rack to fully dry.
7) Do you have any tips on removing the especially tough grease, oil, and wine stains?
If the stained garment is silk, rayon, or an item that can't be washed in water, take it to the dry cleaner's ASAP. Do not salt or attempt to treat it on your own; get thee to a dry cleaner!
For red wine, blot the stained garment with a white cotton cloth. Yes white! Any other color might transfer dye to your already-stained garment.
When you arrive home, get some water boiling and grab a bowl to drape the garment over. Find something to hold it tight! Pour a generous amount of salt on the spot, like you are curing salmon. Then pour the water over the spot from about 6-8 inches away. You need the water to hit the spot with force to push the debris of the stain through the other side of the fabric! Prepare for the water to splatter. Then, wash your garment at the highest temperature the fabric can handle. Keep in mind, this only works if you are immediately treating the spot!
For oil, apply cornstarch to the stain and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Brush (do not rub) the cornstarch off. Then, use dish soap or baby shampoo on the stain as a pre-treatment before you throw it in the wash. Dish soap and shampoo are engineered to battle natural oils, so both will function the same way. Wash as the garment instructs and DO NOT PUT IN THE DRYER! The dryer will only set the oil into the fabric. Inspect the item and treat it again with dish soap or another stain fighter, if needed. Let it air dry so you can check to see whether the stain is gone, and if it's still there, repeat!
For grease, use a mechanic's soap engineered to fight manufactured grease. Take the dry soap and rub the stain so it penetrates. You should see the grease break down! Then repeat. Wash as the garment directs but AIR DRY. Repeat as necessary.
8) What’s your #1 time-saving strategy when doing laundry?
My strategy is to avoid doing laundry! I think through what I want to wear for the day and whether it fits the activities I have planned. If you're out eating pasta, don't wear white. If you wear white, ask for a bib! When I know I'm going to be eating something that might splatter or stain, I'll wear black cotton. Most everything comes out of black cotton!
9) Do you have a piece of laundry know-how you can’t live without?
If you love something due to its beautiful color and fabrication, turn it inside out or stick it in a laundry bag for the wash. Then hang it up or lay it flat to dry. Always blot when stained; do not rub!
10) What detergent do you use?
In summary, there's a ton of websites and articles out there, but these are a few tips and tricks I've learned from my dad. He's been keeping me tidy since 1984!
Marie L. Jo currently works in the Human Resources Department for an international retailer. During her down time, you can find Marie exploring the Colorado Rockies or attending her step-daughter's soccer games!
We plan to schedule a session in the Spring where we'll continue to strategically select which pieces deserve a spot in her well cared-for closet.
If you're anything like me, you're super excited to know some of Marie's top-secret laundry hacks, but might feel overwhelmed with all the amazing information. That's why I created a clothing care SHOPPING LIST you can download for use during your next visit to the store (HERE"S the JPEG file in case you'd like to download to your phone for reference)! You can also walk through your house and check off the items you already have on hand with a plan to pick up ONE additional item from this list each week until you've collected Marie's entire clothing care arsenal!
Don't forget to print and download the Martha Stewart CHART for stain removal basics. I plan to have it handy in my laundry room just like Marie does!
Was this article helpful? In the comments below, share your one biggest takeaway or favorite piece of advice! For me, I'm all about washing my clothing in cold water to avoid paying for hot water or using up all the hot water in the house. I've also been thinking a LOT about washing my items less frequently! What about you?