How to care for your finest threads

From leather to linen, and silk to suede, tips on caring for your businesswear.

The worst weather is behind us, but the coming warmth presents new challenges. Mostly for our fabrics. Suede and leather get tossed into storage with salt stains or grow mildew. Silk comes out of the closet covered in mothballs and creases, while linen ends up looking like a wrinkled napkin. It’s tempting to fob off the maintenance chore on specialty cleaners or permanently switch to cotton polyester blends. But the simpler, cheaper and more mature solution is to learn how to care for your finest businesswear.

Silk: Handwash in cold water using a mild detergent, and pat dry with a towel. Hang on a padded hanger to avoid creasing. For ties, rolling them up loosely and placing them in a drawer will avoid stretching. To remove any wrinkles, use steam. 1, 3, 4, 5

Leather: Correct storage is crucial. Never put leather in plastic, which encourages mildew growth, and always keep in a cool, dry place away from heat. Stuff leather shoes and handbags with newspaper so they retain their shape. 2, 4

Suede: Before putting suede boots away for the winter, give them a once-over. On a dry stain, use an eraser or sandpaper. On oil or mud, soak it up with talcum powder and let dry overnight. A cloth dipped in vinegar gets rid of salt stains. 2

Wool: Needs dry cleaning, but no more than twice a year. In the meantime, brush down for dust and use rounded-shoulder hangers. Give wool suits a full day between wears to let them regain their shape. Store in cedar, wrap in acid-free tissue paper and add mothballs. 1, 3, 4, 6

Linen: Made from flax plants, the fabric wicks away sweat, making it ideal for hot weather. Can be washed by hand or in the machine with warm water, but always hang up to dry. To lessen wrinkles, iron with a bit of spray-on starch and never fold. 1, 4

1 – Hang to dry
2 – Keep dry and cool
3 – Use good hangers
4 – Loses shape
5 – Handwash
6 – Dry clean