7 Must-Know Rules of Cleaning Your Winter Wardrobe

Protect your winter fashion investments with proper cleaning and storage. Your clothes and your wallet will thank you.

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Out with the old

01_Old_Clean_and_storeistock/AzmanJaka Maximize your storage space, and your personal resources, by purging (and donating) as the first step in your seasonal storage project—who wants to pay to clean and store something you're not planning on wearing next season anyway? And after you've realized the "magic of tidying up" and figured out what's worth keeping, better get folding because Marie Kondo can school you on that, too, with her patented folding method designed to make the best use of drawer space.

Clean, but also condition

02_Condition_Clean_and_storeistock/PeopleImages We all know that cleaning your clothes before storage is critical—fabric-killers are attracted to food particles and odor—but fabric conditioner is a lesser-known, but important second step. Per Downy Principal Scientist Mary Johnson, fabric conditioners such as Downy condition fibers, which protects them against stretching, fading, and fuzzing. "You wouldn't skip conditioner after your shampoo—same goes for your clothing," she says. Finally, just because clothes look clean, doesn't mean they are. Johnson says 70% of soil in laundry is invisible.

Skip the dry cleaner

03_Dry_Clean_and_storeistock/manley099 If you can, wash your knits at home—either by hand or in the washing machine. Sure, dry cleaning is easier, but take control, minimize exposure to dry cleaning chemicals (and save money) by washing yourself. Nothing to be afraid of, thanks to these tips from Johnson. "Using high-quality detergent like Tide but also Downy Fabric Conditioner helps prevent stretching, fading, and fuzzing," she says. This can help keep clothes looking newer for longer—so they're in pristine condition for next season. For machine-washable knits, set the machine to gentle cycle and use a cold water temperature (which helps to prevent shrinkage). And for hand-washing, Johnson says to add a small amount of delicates-friendly detergent to a sink with cool water, then soak for 15 minutes. Remove, but don't wring or twist. Refill the sink with fresh cool water and add a small about of fabric conditioner—lightly agitate, then rinse. To remove excess water, place the garment flat on a clean towel and roll it with the garment inside—repeat as needed. Then lay flat on a drying rack to dry.

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Toss the moth balls

04_Moth_Clean_and_storeistock/Winai_Tepsuttinun The experts at Good Housekeeping point out that use of moth balls is on the decline due to concerns that they might pose a health risk. Further, they say, cedar isn't worth it either—the large larvae and moths aren't deterred by it. They recommend cleaning as above, combined with proper storage, as your best defense.

Breathe, just breathe

05_Breathe_Clean_and_storeistock/izusek Gwen Whiting and Lindsey J. Boyd, co-founders of The Laundress, say that wool, cashmere, and any folded items are best stored in a breathable fabric bag with a zip closure. Plastic, they say, is a no-no since it can cause yellowing and discoloration over time. Fun fact: Moths cannot eat through cotton!

To hang or not to hang?

06_Clothes_Clean_and_storeistock/nzphotonz Fur, leather, and outerwear are best stored hung, say Whiting and Boyd, so they don't dry out. Meanwhile, take your most delicate pieces (and anything that wrinkles), and fold them with acid-free tissue. Also, don't hang knits, silks, or synthetics because that will alter their shape if hung over an extended period in storage.

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Don't forget your footwear

07_Shoes_Clean_and_store_istock/MagMos It's easy to forget about the boots or winter shoes in the back of the closet, but making your boots last longer requires proper cleaning and storage, too. Michael Davydov, of Michael's Shoe Repair in Brooklyn, says that leather boots need to be first cleaned with a salt remover. (Tip: Do this at home to save money if you'd like, but you'll need to pick up the solution at your local shoe repair shop). After removing the salt, let them dry completely and then use a leather conditioner. Suede shoes or boots should be brushed and then sprayed with a waterproof spray. No plastic bags for either though, he emphasizes. They should be stored in a box with holes to allow for proper aeration. Here are smart ways to clean every pair of shoes in your closet.

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