How to Keep All Your Winter Clothes Looking Great

A pair of slippers, tennis balls, lent roller, and brush to take care of your wardrobe

Hand wash or dry clean? Machine dry or hang? Here are some pro tips for keeping your winter wear fresh and looking like new.

So long, shorts. Toodle-oo, tee shirts. Farewell, flip-flops. It’s that time again—when we swap our easy summer cottons for sweaters, scarves and parkas.

While most warm-weather clothing can be tossed into the washing machine, many of the woolens and down-filled items we wear in winter need special care.

Woolen Items

  • Dry clean wool coats at the beginning and end of the season. Dry cleaning at the end of the season helps protect your wool items from moth damage.
  • Remove surface dirt and lint from wool coats with a lint roller or, even better, with a natural-bristle coat brush.
  • Wool sweaters that say “hand wash only” can be washed in the machine on the hand wash or wool cycle. Use cool water.
  • Never use hot water or bleach on wool items.
  • Try not to hang wool coats in a packed closet. Wool that can “breathe” will stay nicer longer. Sturdy wooden hangers help keep the shoulders from stretching.
  • Wool socks can be machine washed. Turn them inside out before washing. Don’t use bleach or fabric softener. Machine dry on low heat, or lay them out flat and let them air dry.
  • Wait 24 hours before re-wearing woolens. This will keep wrinkles at bay and help restore the fabric’s elasticity.

Down Items

  • Down coats, jackets, vests, etc., can be machine washed. Use cold water and a minimal amount of mild detergent. Using too much soap can make the down less fluffy. You might want to put the items through an extra rinse cycle.
  • For really dirty items, stop the machine mid-wash and let them soak for an hour or so.
  • Machine dry on low heat. Throw in a few clean tennis balls to help prevent the filling from clumping.
  • Don’t wash down too often; a couple times per season should be fine.
  • Cedar wood hangers will help keep items smelling fresh.


  • To prevent stretching, store sweaters in drawers, instead of hanging them up.
  • Remove pilled cotton or wool by gently rubbing your sweater with a disposable razor or piece of sandpaper.
  • Twisting and turning action in the washing machine can damage your sweaters. Hand wash them to keep them in great shape. If you do wash your sweaters in the machine, use the hand wash cycle and cool water.
  • Lay sweaters out flat to dry. A wet sweater on a hanger will stretch.


  • Fleece items can be machine washed in cool or warm water. Wash inside out on the gentle cycle.
  • Use powdered detergent instead of liquid can help fleece retain its water resistance.
  • When washing fleece, never use bleach or fabric softener.
  • If machine drying, use low heat. High heat causes fleece to pill.
  • Fleece should never be ironed.


  • For wool hats, scarves, mittens, and gloves, wash as you would a wool sweater.
  • Place non-wool winter accessories in a mesh laundry bag; wash the whole bag. Let them air dry.

Following these tips will help make your winter clothing, outwear and accessories last longer, and keep them looking their best season after season.