How to keep winter garments, shoes looking good for years to come

Tips on keeping seasonal garments and shoes looking good for years to come

02/06/2012 12:00 AM

02/05/2012 11:05 AM

Winter fashions can mean big investments. Slick leather jackets, cozy cashmere scarves and sleek tall boots aren’t like the bikini you bunch up and toss in the drawer at the end of the summer.

So why not take a little time — and in some cases, a little money — to treat those investments right? After all, if properly cared for, some of those favorites could last a decade or more.

We asked experts for their best tips in caring for wool, leather, fur and more.

Leather jackets and pants:

•  Apply a waterproofing conditioner as soon as you buy a leather jacket or pair of pants.
•  Blot any dirt or stains on your garment as soon as possible with a warm, damp sponge.
•  Spring is a good time to take a garment to a cleaner experienced with treating leather for a cleaning, reconditioning and touch-up, says Jimmy Lee, owner of Jones Dry Cleaning in Charlotte, N.C.
•  Never store leather in a plastic dry cleaning bag, Lee warns.
•  Keep your leather at a moderate temperature year-round — never in the attic or a damp basement — and away from light or heat sources like radiators.
•  Most any hanger is fine, as long as it is strong enough to hold the weight of the jacket.


•  Make sure it is well-cleaned before packing it up at the end of the winter, says Tom Hilker, owner of Brothers Cleaners in the Raleigh, N.C., area.

“What people don’t realize is that there are 12 different kinds of bugs besides moths that damage your clothes,” Hilker says. Bugs go after sweet spills, and in the process, eat the garment’s fibers.

•  Periodically inspect your white wool garments carefully, because spills oxidize and turn brown over time.
•  Taking wool to the dry cleaner for a professional cleaning is usually your safest bet, but if the care label says it’s OK, you can often clean items yourself at home. Just be sure to use as little agitation as possible, Hilker says — it shrinks the fibers. And drying with heat can cause shrinkage.
•  As for pills on wool sweaters and other clothing, Hilker recommends using a sweater razor or even an old-fashioned double-edged straight razor.

Men’s shoes:

There are three keys to keeping your leather shoes in top shape, says Mohamed Mahfoze, who owns Dean’s Shoe Repair in Charlotte with his wife, Holly.

1. Store your shoes on a shoe tree to keep their shape and prevent cracking.

2. Shine your shoes often. Frequent polishing — every month or two is usually good — keeps the leather moisturized and supple. A monthly waterproofing during a wet season is a good idea too.

3. Wear a sole guard in winter. The thin rubber sole covers the bottom of the shoe (it is invisible from the side), keeping the leather sole from getting soft and wearing down. A sole guard is especially important for those who frequently walk on wet, hard surfaces like parking lots and sidewalks.


•  For tall boots, a boot tree is a must for keeping them from developing creases or cracks from bending over in the closet.
•  Waterproof and keep your boots polished as you would any leather shoes, to keep the leather supple.
•  For high-heeled boots, pay attention to the condition of the heel. If it gets worn down to the nail, it could become a major fall hazard. Mahfoze says it’s a good idea to replace a plastic heel with a rubber one that will last much longer and be far safer. It’s a $10 repair.
•  UGG lovers, have the boots waterproofed as soon as you buy them and keep them fresh with an UGG care kit ($20, Or do it yourself by making a solution of equal parts Woolite and water, then gently scrubbing in small circles. This is especially important if the boots are exposed to salt from a winter storm. Once the boots are cleaned, put them on a shoe tree or stuff them with paper towels while they dry. Don’t put them in the sun or near a fire or radiator, or they’ll crack. If they smell inside, put a couple of tablespoons of baking soda and leave overnight. Use a brush to restore the pile.

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