Researching and buying new pieces of clothing is lots of fun (for me, at least), but I’ve found that the true joy in owning something great is taking care of it over time and watching it become something unique to me. Breaking in a pair of raw jeans, building up patina on a pair of shoes, or watching your shirt collars fray after years of hard wear is a lot of fun for the hardcore clothing enthusiast like myself.
Of course, to achieve these effects of long-time use, taking care of our purchases is critical. We each have our own opinions on how to launder our clothes, so I figured I’d share mine and see what others have to say as well.
Note: When in doubt, read the directions on the tag. Generally speaking, tailored clothing, sweaters, outerwear, and the like can’t be cleaned in a washing machine.
Shirts: I know some people that get their dress shirts professionally dry cleaned or laundered; this seems like a waste of money to me (especially the dry cleaning, which is unnecessary and damaging to the fabric). For my shirts, I launder in cold water like normal and air dry. If your shirts have mother-of-pearl buttons, treat them a bit more delicately since they can crack (and keep those spare ones!). Small stains can usually be removed with a light hit from a stain removal spray, and I’ve heard good things about this method for tough stains. Most of my shirts end up going unironed (sorry, Mom), but this is my process for doing so when it’s needed.
Chinos: I typically approach chinos with the same process as shirts, with the exception that I will sometimes run them through the dryer on low heat. If you do this, keep in mind that cotton does shrink a bit in the dryer, so if you’ve finally gotten your chinos to be at that perfect no-break length it might be best to skip the extra heat (lest they end up a bit short). Note: if your chinos are on the dressier side (e.g. the bottom half of a cotton suit), you should definitely get them dry-cleaned.
Denim: Here’s where people tend to get pretty opinionated. Tomes have been written on washing raw denim – when, how, if it’s even worth doing at all – so I’ll just mention what I do. First off, I don’t set any sort of timeline for when my jeans should be washed; I just wash them when they need it, whether it’s after a year or a week. Wearing smelly jeans just to avoid washing them will not get you any style points, even if the fades are better. Personally, I just soak my jeans inside-out in cool water with a bit of detergent (Woolite Dark is a popular choice, but I usually just use whatever’s around) and hang dry. Denim can be fairly susceptible to shrinking, so I try to keep them away from warm/hot water. Outside of that, I try to not make it too complicated.
Socks, T-Shirts, and Underwear: I treat these guys like most people treat all of their laundry – just wash and dry like normal.
How do you care for your machine-washable clothing?