How to Protect and Preserve Clothing and Furniture
Essential Tips from the Butler’s Closet founder Barbara Harman
Sponsored by The Butler's Closet
If anyone knows how to keep clothing and furniture safe, it’s Barbara Harman. She’s so passionate about it that when she couldn’t find garment covers up to her standards for her own life, she decided to create them. Now you can get garment and furniture covers, as well as a whole range of museum-quality preservation products on her site Butler’s Closet. Here, Barbara shares her time-tested tips for protecting clothes and furniture:
PROTECTING AND CLEANING CLOTHES
Clean Clothes Before Storing
Dust particles can tear clothes; food, perspiration, lint, and hair can remain embedded in the fabric and attract insects including moths, silverfish and carpet beetles that tend to nest in closets and attics. These issues can lead to deterioration. Once a garment is soiled, follow care instructions and either wash it or take it to the dry-cleaner.
Say Goodbye to Skinny Hangers
These are popular because they allow you to squeeze more clothes into your closet, which is terrible for clothes. Clothes need to breathe; overcrowding can lead to abrasion. Skinny hangers can also crease clothing because they are too thin to properly support the clothes. So, what hanger to use? It depends on the garment. A hanger for a wool winter coat needs to be wide enough and shaped properly to support the shoulders and weight of the garment. A silk shirt should be hung on a padded hanger to avoid hanger marks on shoulders. For jeans and casual trousers, Harman recommends chrome hangers with rubber bars from The Container Store. The website Butler Luxury also offers a wide array of specialty hangers.
Watch Out for Moths
The best way to keep moths and other insects out of your clothes is to keep everything, including your closets, pristine. Check your wardrobe regularly. If you find an infestation you should put the item in the freezer in a tightly sealed plastic bag for at least two weeks followed by washing or dry-cleaning, depending on care instructions. If you have a stain on a shirt and put it back in the closet and forget about it, that, along with other dirt and dust can attract insects. Don’t keep a hamper for dirty clothes inside your clean closet. If you store clothes in an attic and don’t examine them from time to time by bringing them downstairs and giving them a good shake, larvae and insects can find a home and eat away. Lavender and cedar sachets are of no value. Mothballs are considered toxic to the environment and to pets and humans if eaten or inhaled.
Buy a Good Clothes Brush
A clothes brush used regularly can help prolong the life of your garments. Clothes brushes remove dirt and raise the fabric’s nap – the usually hard-to-see raised, fuzzy fabric surface. The brushes can also help remove the first layer of a dried and crusted stain.
Give Your Shoes a Rest
Shoes need to breathe and recover from a hard day’s work, so let them rest for a day after wearing. Using shoe trees, shoe stuffers, and keeping them clean and polished will help extend their life. Find a good shoemaker and keep up with small repairs. Dust shoes regularly and use shoe bags for travel to protect the shoes and keep dirt off packed clothes.
Don’t Overdo the Dry-Cleaning
Dry-cleaning too often can harm fabric and cause it to deteriorate because of the chemical solvents used in the process, not to mention the wear and tear of handling the garment in the cleaning and pressing process. Plus, the plastic bags that cover dry-cleaned goods trap the residual gasses of the solvents. Consider washing items you might have taken to the cleaner if the care instructions indicate that washing is ok.
Seasonal Storage Is Always a Good Idea
Moving winter or summer clothes into another closet after the season has ended is smart: It lets you examine your wardrobe and discard items you haven’t worn or that have gone out of style. Make sure soiled items have been washed or dry-cleaned prior to storing. Clean closets thoroughly before switching your clothes out. Dust the floors and wash the walls with a light solution of water and bleach which helps deter moths and other insects. At the least, get rid of dust with a Dustbuster or Swiffer products.
Turn Your Clothes Inside Out Before Washing
In addition to sorting for whites and colors, removing items from pockets, and zipping zippers, you should turn your clothes inside out before they go in the washing machine. This last step protects the clothes from abrasion.
PROTECTING AND PRESERVING FURNITURE
Cover Upholstered Furniture to Protect it From Dust and the Sun
Dust covers protect fabric from harmful rays and dust. Also, vacuum upholstery regularly.
Polish Wood Furniture to Keep it Nourished
Home heating systems can reduce moisture in the air and cause your wood furniture to show cracks. Using a good furniture polish or wax that corresponds to the furniture’s wood type is essential. The Furniture Bible by Christophe Pourny is a great guide for furniture care. You can get his Furniture Tonic and Color Reviver, along with two large flannel polishing cloths, on Harman’s site.
Some Rug Stains Need a Specialist
Carpeting and rugs can be costly; stains can be tricky and if you treat a stain improperly, it can get worse. Vacuum carpets and rugs at least once a week to avoid dust accumulation. If you keep up with this care, then you can have items cleaned professionally every year or so. Blot spilled stains immediately. Have stain remover on hand and follow directions. When in doubt, or if the stain isn’t removed after treating, call a professional.