Setting store: how to keep woollen coats and puffer jackets packed away safely

From fighting off moths to keeping mildew at bay, packing winter coats away the right way will ensure they come out good as new next season

It’s time. The seasons have changed, we are out of lockdown and nearly at the end of spring. Hopefully, we can retire our heaviest coats for the summer (although I’m writing this in Melbourne, where you can never rely on the weather).

Before you do, we asked some experts for their advice on the best way to store your coats to ensure they’re in optimal condition when you reach for them next winter.

Decide what to store

“Not all coats need to be stored throughout summer,” says Australian Wool Innovation (parent company of The Woolmark Company) chief executive John Roberts. This is because wool has inherent benefits such as breathability and moisture control, which means it can be worn all year round. “But certainly, for those living in areas where the mercury soars in summer, some heavier wool felt coats may indeed be stored away,” he says. Storing wool the right way “will increase the active-use phase of the garment”.

Daniel Nieslsenbeck, the owner of Shop Bruce, a vintage consignment store in Melbourne, suggests “trying on the coat or jacket to see if you’re still connected to the piece” before you store it. “If you’ve moved on from the style or fit, you might consider consigning or donating the item.”

Restore before you store

A hand holds a needle poised over a button and some fabric
Repair faults such as torn pocket linings and missing buttons prior to storage. Photograph: Atli Mar Hafsteinsson/Getty Images/Cultura RF

Charlotte Hicks, the founder and designer of Esse Studios, suggests spending time at the end of the season making your coat “look as good as it did when you bought it”. She advises getting any small faults repaired, such as torn pocket linings, belt loops, or lost buttons. She says this is important “so things don’t continue to fall out of shape” while the piece is packed away.

She recommends getting your coat dry cleaned at the end of the season, “to avoid any residual spills discolouring the fabric over time”. She points out that this will also “remove odours, which can attract unwanted friends”.

Nieslsenbeck agrees. “We recommend dry cleaning coats prior to storage if necessary.” If the coat is still in “excellent condition”, it “can be lightly steamed and given ample time to dry” instead.

Practise best storage

A wide, rounded wooden coat hanger
Keep coats on hangers with round, wide edges to keep shoulders in shape off-season. Photograph: romiri/Alamy

Be aware that wool and other animal fibres contain keratin, which attracts moths, so it’s important to ensure woollen, cashmere or mohair coats are kept in a place where they won’t be eaten.

Once your coat has been cleaned and any repairs have been handled, do not file it away in a plastic dry cleaning bag. Hicks suggests hanging coats on hangers with round, wide ends to ensure the shoulder shape holds through the off season. Then cover it in a calico suit bag, with cedar wood balls to repel moths and silverfish. A cedar wood suit hanger should also do the trick.

Roberts agrees that “wrapping your wool coat in a light cotton fabric ensures your wool retains its as-new appearance”.

A cotton garment bag hangs on a rack in a closet
Hanging coats in a breathable cotton garment bag with some cedar balls at the bottom should keep pests at bay. Photograph: leschnyhan/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Avoid vacuum-packing coats in airtight bags, both Nieslsenbeck and Hicks say, as the suction can compromise the shape of the coat. If you don’t have enough hanging space, Nieslsenbeck recommends storing coats folded, with acid-free tissue paper, in plastic bins with clear lids and some Huon pine blocks to repel moths. He says “packing boxes should never be over-filled and we recommend storing in a weatherproof environment free from mould, damp [and] humidity”.

Storing puffer jackets

Like woollen coats, puffer jackets or down jackets should be stored clean, but generally taking a down jacket to the dry cleaner is ill-advised.

Instead, machine wash your down jacket on a gentle cycle at 30C, select the extra rinse option and skip the spin cycle. Use a down-specific detergent and follow the directions on the bottle. This is important because traditional detergent can strip down of its natural oils and negatively affect the loft (how puffy it is) and performance. For handwashing, puffer jackets can be soaked in a sink or bucket for an hour. Once the coat has soaked, gently squeeze any excess water out, being sure not to wring it.

Before putting your puffer into storage, it’s important to dry it properly. This can be tricky – as down absorbs so much water, it may feel dry long before it really is. Storing down wet can result in mildew.

Generally speaking, it will take 24–48 hours to drip dry, depending on the weather. To prevent clumps from forming, it’s a good idea to give it the occasional fluff as it dries.

When the coat is almost dry, put it in the tumble dryer on low heat with some tennis balls or dryer balls to break down any clumps. Once you’re sure it’s dry and safe to store it, be sure it isn’t squashed or stuffed into a tight space, so the loft isn’t damaged. Kathmandu has an online guide if you’d like to see how it’s done.


Lucianne Tonti

The GuardianTramp

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