Q: I just had a beautiful suit made. It is 100% wool and made in Italy. How can I make sure that I properly maintain my suit so that I can achieve a longer lifespan of wearing it?
I continuously get emails on garment care and the protocol for various cleaning methods. Today’s particular email answered is solely on 100% wool garments. Before we get into specifics on when and how to care for your garments, let’s first look into the types of classifications of different wool fabrics. Not many people know of the defined classifications and properties that wool has. If you wear wool daily then this should be a great read!
Wool fabrics are considered protein fibers. Protein fibers come from an animal and have living properties such as cooling and warming the animals during hot or cold climates. You may hear many wool mill owners say that these fabrics are made to enhance and maintain performance. Many are even treated to have water resistant and wrinkle resistant properties but these properties are not exactly natural to wool and although it’s a nice compliment to the garment, treating it to have these qualities can damage the hand and breathability. Even if the garment is a blend of protein and other fibers, the protein fiber content cannot be ignored. The most common protein fibers are silk, wool, angora, cashmere and camel hair.
Woolens & Worsted Wools
Woolens are garments that have a soft surface, the result of a low twist on the yarn and a loosely woven fabric. These characteristics mean the garment is easily pilled by anything other than light mechanical action.
Worsted wools are characterized by a smooth, flat surface that is the result of high-twist yarns.
Wool can absorb almost one-third of its weight in moisture and still feel dry to the touch. This means, unfortunately, beverages will penetrate deeper and more quickly than they do in most other fibers. Therefore, coffee and wine are more difficult and more time-consuming to remove from a wool garment. It is fortunate that wool tolerates neutral synthetic detergent (NSD) and most tannin stain-removal formulas quite well. With a little patience, most tannin stains can be removed from wool garments with no more than standard tannin protocols.
Most white and light-colored wool garments have been treated with an optical brightener to enhance their appearance. This brightener is a surface finish that is sensitive to alkali and mechanical action. Once this finish has been disturbed, the area will take on a flat or sometimes gray appearance, and the damage is usually irreversible.
It is important to find a quality dry cleaner who can determine the best route for care, especially high quality wools. Wool can be permanently and irrevocably damaged if not protected when exposed to water. The damage is a type of shrinkage referred to as felting, and it is characterized by a drastic reduction in garment size combined with a noticeable hardening. Any combination of water, heat, mechanical action and (especially) alkaline detergent will likely ruin a wool garment, if accepted wetcleaning methods are not followed.
Wool is antibacterial and I personally recommend only dry-cleaning them after every 3 – 4 wears depending on you lifestyle. City life on a subway commute, taxis and high volume restaurants is a little concerning to me even with wool’s natural antibacterial proprieties. However, if your day consist of a morning car ride to the office and an occasional cocktail hour followed with a car commute home then I would adhere to the recommended 3 – 4 wears before cleaning.
For more questions on how to care for your garment you can email me at Clothier@GuyMenswear.com
Picture: Scabal Nobel Fleece
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