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How to Clean Your Fall Clothes After Storage

A woman with a lint roller and a rack of neutral colored coats
Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock.com

As cooler weather draws near, it’s time to bring out your fall clothes, but they might not be ready-to-wear straight out of storage. With a few simple tips and cleaning hacks, you can refresh your fall faves and have them ready to wear through those crisp autumn months.

Getting your fall clothes ready to wear can take several steps, from removing those musty “storage” smells to cleaning complicated materials and getting rid of wrinkles. While some of your heavier items might need a cleaning professional’s attention, you’d be surprised at how much you actually can do yourself. Here are some of the best tips for cleaning and refreshing your fall clothes, right at home.

How to Clean Fall Outerwear

Getting to show off your favorite stylish outerwear is one of the best parts of fall fashion. For lightweight cotton and denim jackets or simple sweaters, cleaning is simple: just a gentle hand wash and hang dry (for jackets) or flat dry (for sweaters). For your heavier outerwear, however, you’ll need a more specialized process.

How to Clean Leather Jackets

A leather jacket laying on a white surface; a blonde woman wearing a leather jacket
Leather Honey/Aged Leather Pros

While leather jackets may feel pretty durable (and many of them are!), just tossing them into the washing machine usually isn’t the best idea. If your leather jacket is made from a suede or similarly textured leather, your best bet is to take it to a professional cleaner who has experience dealing with leather products.

If you have a “regular” leather jacket (typically called aniline leather), the outside and the inside lining of the jacket need slightly different care, but you can take care of it at home.

The best care for the outside of a leather jacket is preventative. Apply a leather protective product, like the Aged Leather Pros Waterproofing Spray, at least once a year, or more often if the jacket is frequently worn and exposed to harsh elements. Then, you can simply wipe the outside gently with a damp, clean, soft cloth on a semi-regular basis.

Aged Leather Pros Leather Waterproofing

Keep leather clean and soft from the start.

To clean the inside lining and remove residue from body oil, perspiration, perfume, and more, follow these steps:

  1. Check the care label. If it is not explicitly labeled as a washable fabric, take it to an experienced cleaning professional.
  2. If the lining is washable, turn the jacket inside out so that the lining is on the outside and the leather is on the inside.
  3. Fill a sink or tub with lukewarm water.
  4. Add a small amount of gentle laundry detergent in the tub, and mix by hand until completely dissolved.
  5. Submerge the jacket and swish as needed to ensure the entire jacket is covered.
  6. Let soak for 8 to 12 minutes.
  7. Lift the jacket out and gently squeeze out the excess soapy water. Do not wring, as this can permanently damage the garment.
  8. Replace the soapy water with clear water, and rinse.
  9. Repeat the rinse step until the water runs clear and no more soap residue comes out.
  10. Turn the jacket right side out, and hang on a sturdy wooden hanger to dry. You may wish to hang over a bathtub or tile floor in case of water drips. It may take up to three days to dry completely.
  11. Once completely dry, use a leather conditioner on the outside until it feels soft and flexible again.

Woolite Delicates Liquid Laundry Detergent

Gentle laundry detergent cleans without damaging leather.

Solid Wooden Suit Hangers

Sturdy hangers maintain the shoulder shape while the jacket dries.

Leather Honey Leather Conditioner

Always condition a leather jacket after washing.

How to Clean Wool Coats

A woman uses a lint roller on a camel-colored coat
Alliance Images/Shutterstock.com

As with leather jackets, wool coats don’t need to be deeply cleaned after every wear, and some can be cleaned at home with the right products. It all depends on the specific composition of the coat and whether you’re looking to fully clean the coat or just refresh it.

Wool, the primary material for many popular coats, is a washable fiber. If the care label says “Dry Clean Only,” then the coat probably contains a lining, padding, or other add-on made from materials that are not safe to wash traditionally. In those cases, just spot-clean stains, and you can steam or spritz with vodka in a spray bottle to refresh in between dry cleanings.

For coats that are labeled “Dry Clean Recommended” or similar phrasing, you may be able to gently wash at home. Follow these steps to hand wash carefully:

  1. Using a clothing brush, brush the entire exterior surface area of the coat to remove and/or loosen any dirt, debris, or other residue.
  2. Fill a bathtub or large plastic tub with lukewarm water, and dissolve in about 1/4 cup of gentle, wool-friendly detergent.
  3. Submerge the coat fully, and soak for about 30 minutes.
  4. Gently swish and agitate the coat by hand. Do not use a wringing or twisting motion; gently swish and squeeze instead.
  5. Remove the coat from the tub, drain out the soapy water, and refill with clear water.
  6. Submerge the coat in clear water and swish around to rinse.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until no soapy residue comes out in the rinse water.
  8. Gently squeeze to remove as much water as possible, but be careful not to wring or otherwise warp the fabric.
  9. Lay the coat out flat, on top of large, clean towels. Roll up the towels to gently squeeze and absorb the water.
  10. Lay the coat out, flat and smoothed out as much as possible, on fresh, dry towels, and let air dry. This may take a couple of days—flip the coat over and replace the towels on the second day for more even drying.

You can also use this method for cleaning your favorite sweaters while keeping them from getting misshapen or pilled. Just soak for a shorter amount of time (approximately 15 minutes), since there’s less material than a full-sized coat.

Kent Black Boar Bristle Cherrywood Clothes Brush

Refresh your favorite coat with a high-quality, handcrafted clothes brush.

How to Remove Smells from Fall Clothes

A stack of folded sweaters next to brown ankle boots
Tori Suzanne/Shutterstock.com

When you get your fall clothes out of storage, you may notice a slightly musty smell. While it will usually go away after the first wash, you probably want to get rid of the smell before you actually wear them for the first time this season.

There are several different techniques you can use to remove those pesky odors. Try one of these tips before trying on your favorite fall fashions:

  • Sprinkle 1/2 cup of baking soda in with your first laundry load to absorb unpleasant odors.
  • Pre-treat clothes by soaking them for 2-3 hours in a solution of 1 gallon room temperature water to 1 cup white vinegar, then wash as usual.
  • Pour vodka into a spray bottle and spritz the clothes. The vodka will evaporate and take away the odor with it.
  • Leave your clothes to air out in a sunny spot with plenty of air flow. Don’t use this tip on dark clothes, however—sunlight can lead to fading.

Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda

This pantry staple fights all those musty odors.

Lucy's Family Owned Natural Distilled White Vinegar

Remove odors with a pre-treatment harnessing the natural power of this simple ingredient.

Empty Clear Glass Spray Bottles

A reusable spray bottle is a must for all your favorite laundry hacks.

How to Get Rid of Wrinkles

A woman steaming a blue dress shirt; a steamer held up to the lapel of a gray jacket
PurSteam

Ridding your fall clothes of wrinkles is easier than you think. Since your fall clothes that get wrinkled are probably sturdy items like jackets, sweaters, and coats, your best bet is to use a fabric steamer, like the PurSteam Garment Steamer. Follow the directions on your steamer for best results; it will typically involve holding the steamer right up against or a couple of inches away from the wrinkled area and pressing a “steam” button.

PurSteam Garment Steamer

Get rid of wrinkles in all your fall clothes, the way the pros do.

In a hurry and don’t have time for a full steam? You can make double use of your getting-ready time by using your shower to de-wrinkle your clothes! Simply follow these steps:

  1. Make sure all the doors and windows to your bathroom are completely closed so that the heat and humidity stay trapped in the room.
  2. Hang up your clothes on the shower rod or on a hook at the back of the shower. Make sure the shower head is angled away from the clothes so that you won’t get water or soap on them. If your shower configuration has no splash-free spot, you can hang the clothes on the outside of the shower rod instead.
  3. Turn on the shower and make sure that hot water runs for at least 5 minutes.

This method won’t necessarily get rid of the deepest wrinkles, but it will freshen up clothes and get rid of milder wrinkles before you head out.


As you transition to your fall wardrobe, these easy tips can help you make sure every piece is crisp, clean, and ready to wear. Take care of these sturdy clothes, and they’ll last for years to come!

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
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