6 Types Of Coats And The Best Way To Wash Them

Stop throwing away money at the dry cleaner. It’s easy to wash your coats at home.

When was the last time you washed your coat? If you can't remember, chances are it needs a good cleaning. Our coats don't get nearly as much care as they deserve because the fabrics are intimidating. Down, wool, and leather simply don't resemble the clothes we're accustomed to putting in the washing machine. There's no reason to run to the dry cleaner, though. With a little bit of know-how, you can save yourself a great deal of time and money by cleaning your own coat. We chatted with Jessica Zinna, PhD, Tide Senior Scientist, and Liz Eggert, Fabric Care Scientist and Textile Expert at P&G, who offered easy instructions for cleaning your coats at home.

How to Wash a Synthetic/Polyester Coat at Home

Zinna says, "Synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon, and elastane are particularly attracted to natural greases and oils like sebum. In fact, we refer to synthetic fibers as dirt and odor magnets." To make things worse, she adds that synthetic garments are more likely to absorb odors and will become smelly more quickly than natural fibers. This means any garments that are fully synthetic or contain synthetic fibers are more likely to get smellier faster.

As with any coat, you should always check the tag for the care instructions before washing. Many polyester items can be machine washed on a cold-water cycle with a high-quality detergent. Make sure to zip up your jacket and check the pockets for any items before washing! Zinnia recommends air drying synthetic/polyester coats to avoid shrinkage and damage.

How to Wash a Down Coat at Home

If you're under the impression that you must take your down coat to the dry cleaner, Zinna has good news. You should always read the care label, but she says in most cases you can wash and dry them at home.

  1. Before you begin, check puffy jacket seams for durability and mend any shaky seams to keep the feathers in place. Fasten all zippers and empty pockets.
  2. Choose a normal wash and spin cycle (unless otherwise noted by the garment care label) and add a deep cleaning detergent.
  3. In a top loading machine, wait to submerge the coat until the washer is half full. Balance the load by adding a few same-colored towels. Stop the washer occasionally to press air from items. Note: In the case of a front-loading washer, there is no need to submerge the items.
  4. Machine dry according to your care label. Pro tip: You can add a few dryer balls or clean tennis balls stuffed in clean cotton socks to help break up any clumps in the feather or down filling during the drying process.

How to Clean a Fleece Coat at Home

Fleece may not be as fancy as wool or down, but as always, it's still important to check the fabric on your care label to determine if your fleece coat can be machine washed before you start.

  1. Turn the item inside out before washing. This will help avoid pilling on the exterior of the garment.
  2. Avoid washing fleece coats with other heavy fabric items such as denim jeans. This can cause damage to the fabric.
  3. Machine wash on cold water on the cycle recommended by your care label using a high-quality deep-cleaning detergent.
  4. After the wash cycle, lay the coat flat and allow it to air dry.

How to Clean a Wool Coat at Home

According to Zinna, wool is machine washable in its natural state, however, your coat may also have a liner or other parts made of additional materials. Therefore, she says it's imperative to follow the care instructions on the care label. Winter coats are expensive, and you don't want to damage your investment!

If your wool is machine washable, use a high-quality deep cleaning detergent like Tide Hygienic Clean Heavy Duty 10X. Follow the wash cycle recommendations on your garment care label. Lay flat to air dry, away from sunlight or heat.

To hand wash wool coats, soak in a clean bathtub in cold water and a little hand washing liquid for approximately a half hour. Flush the coat with clean, cold water until the water runs clean. Allow the garment to air dry flat, avoiding sunlight and heat to prevent shrinkage.

How to Wash a Leather or Suede Coat

Eggert says in her experience, it's a mistake to wash leather or suede coats at home. She explains, "Leather and suede coats require special care and should always be professionally cleaned." If your coat needs a quick touch up, however, she says you can use a damp cloth on leather or a brush on suede to remove any surface soils in between cleanings.

How to Wash Rubber/Vinyl Coats

For raincoats and other coats made of rubber and vinyl, be sure to check the care label as usual. Zinna says some vinyl coats can be machine washed while others require hand washing. If the coat can be washed in the machine, follow the instructions on the label. Allow it to air dry because the high heat and agitation can cause damage.

To hand wash the coat, allow it to soak in clean, cold water in the bathtub for a half hour, just like you would with wool. When you're finished, rinse the coat with cold water until it runs clean and allow it to air dry.

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