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How to Protect Suits in Closets

A man trying on a navy blue suit in a suit store with racks of suits.

Suits and dress clothes are one of those items that you may only wear for special occasions, but when you need them you want them to be looking their absolute best.

Because it is so common for suits to be stored longer in a closet than other everyday clothing items, you want to be sure you are storing them safely to protect your garments from any mold, mildew, moths or unattractive smells.

Even if you wear suits daily for work, you still want to make sure all your suits are protected and kept in their best condition because we all know it isn’t cheap to replace them.

There are definitely things you can do to keep your suits safe in your closet and preserve their condition for when you need to look your best.

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Storing Suits Properly

Any natural fabrics, such as cotton, wool, linen, or silk have the potential to deteriorate over time, but proper storing can significantly delay this process if it’s done the right way.

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According to Jos. A. Bank, wooden hangers are best for your dress shirts when hanging them in your closet. Wooden hangers are very sturdy and also wide enough that they allow some breathing room for your garments as they are hanging in your closet.

They suggest buttoning your dress shirts from the collar all the way down and aligning the shoulders with the shoulders of the hanger to prevent any wrinkles or shifting.

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These are also the same hangers suggested for blazers and sport coats as well. For dress pants, they suggest hanging from the hem with a felt clamp to allow any wrinkles to work their way out of the fabric or fold them over a felt trouser bar to prevent any creases or slipping of the hanger that can cause additional wrinkles.

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In addition to your suits and dress shirts, other accessories that go along with your suit may require special attention as well.

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Ties and belts can be hung on a hook or placed on a belt or tie rack, but as you start to acquire more and more, it may be most practical to roll them and store them in a case or a shallow drawer.

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Both can be rolled from the narrowest end loosely all the way to the widest end. You can use custom storage made specifically for ties and belts, or simply get bamboo or fabric compartmentalized drawer inserts.

Any leather or suede dress shoes can also be at risk when exposed to different elements that can be present in a closet. They could become stiff, start to crack, or grow mold or mildew on them as well.

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They would be best stored in a cool, ventilated part of your closet and always make sure to clean them before storing them away, so they stay fresh and look their best when you need them.

What Risks Can Your Closet Potentially Pose

When it comes to your suits, they could be susceptible to many different things like dust, mold, mildew, and excessive sunlight, but probably the biggest threat to your expensive suits are moths.

Moth larvae feed on the wool and hatch eggs inside the wool, which could create a very serious problem for your entire wardrobe.

Storing them with natural fragrances like lavender or cedar tends to keep the moths away, but you should also store them in sturdy garment bags as well for this reason and other reasons stated previously.

Because of most closets being in a small confined space, it also restricts airflow which causes humidity to be trapped inside. When this happens, it could create a musty smell and even cause mold and mildew to grow on your shelves, garments, linens, and other spaces inside your closet.

In order to keep your closet and all the items inside smelling and looking their best, there are steps you can take to limit the moisture inside your closet, control the humidity and prevent that nasty odor from infecting everything inside.

If you are not sure about the level of humidity in your closet because your home is relatively new or you are new to the home or apartment and there are not indicators that it has been an issue in the past, you might want to start by testing the level of humidity that exists.

An easy and inexpensive way to do this is to get a humidistat or hygrometer that monitors humidity levels, such as the ThermoPro TP55 Digital Hygrometer that digitally monitors levels of humidity, or the Inkbird Humidity Controller IHC200 Humidistat which monitors and controls the humidity by dehumidifying the space when the level goes above the normal range and humidifying the space if it goes below normal range.

Preserving Your Wardrobe

A row of suit jackets stored in a closet.

Different fabrics require different protection, so you want to be sure you are making the best storage decisions to preserve all the garments in your wardrobe.

Wool is the most popular fabric used for men’s suits, but it is also one of the most susceptible fabrics to damage if it is not stored and cleaned properly. As previously mentioned, moths and moth larvae could wreak havoc on your wool suits if you are not careful.

For other sensitive fabrics like leather and cashmere, careful storage is also very important. Leather should always be cleaned before storing so it doesn’t attract any insects and if you don’t plan on wearing your leather garments for a while, stuff pockets with acid-free tissue paper and store in a garment bag like your sportcoats and blazers.

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For your cashmere and other sweaters, you should never hang these items because it causes unwanted stretching of the sensitive fabric.

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Breathable garment boxes or a cedar chest are the best storage options to keep all your sweaters and sensitive fabrics like new. Cedar chips or lavender inside garment boxes will also keep them smelling fresh and looking their best.

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Desiccants are moisture-absorbing products like silica gel, baking soda, chalk, or washed charcoal that could help soak up any unwanted moisture and humidity in your closet. Some very easy and low-cost options are the airBOSS Closet Dehumidifier, Aoerzn Bamboo Charcoal Bags, Bamboo Charcoal Air Purifying Natural Deodorizer Bags, DampRid Fresh Scent Hanging Bag Absorber, or Dry & Dry Rechargeable Silica Gel Beads.

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All of these items work to remove unwanted odors, absorb moisture, and purify the air making a fresh and clean environment in your closet. Some of the deodorizing bags can last up to 2 years and they all come in different sizes depending on the size of your closet and how much you will need.

Top 9 Storage Suggestions

There are many things you can do to be proactive in ensuring your suits are not exposed to harmful conditions while stored in your closet. Here are the most common rules of thumb:

1. Always remove suits from dry-cleaning bags

Plastic dry-cleaning bags are made from petroleum, which can emit harmful gasses when stored in a closet.

You don’t want your suits exposed to these gases and trapped inside the plastic when stored for an extended period of time because it can damage your garments and tarnish their color.

2. Gently brush before storing

When you are done wearing your suit, gently brush it off before storing it back in your closet. Letting your suit air out for a few hours, or even a day, before putting it back into your closet can help keep your suit fresh. If stored away too soon, any dust or odors that might be on your suit from wearing it can get trapped inside and not smell so nice when you go to wear it again.

3. Use the right hangers

Steer clear of wire hangers as they can cause unwanted creases in your clothing, specifically in the shoulders. You don’t want stiff pointed shoulders in your dress shirts and suit coats next time you go to wear them. You should buy either felt or wooden hangers that are the right fit for your dress clothes and can withhold the weight of your suits to keep them in good condition.

4. Leave buttons unbuttoned

When you hang up your suit coat, you should always leave the buttons unbuttoned as opposed to buttoning them up on the hanger. This allows for your jacket to breathe and falls freely and naturally as it would on your body. You want your suit to retain its natural shape as much as possible. Buttoning the buttons while it is hanging, depending on how long it is hanging in your closet, could create a stiffer and less comfortable look and feel when you go to wear it again.

5. Only hang clean, dry clothes

You don’t ever want to hang any clothing, including suits, in your closet after they have been worn without airing them out for a little while. Especially if your clothing has been exposed to any extremely hot or humid conditions. If your clothing retains any moisture from humidity, rain, snow, etc. it will be more likely to cause mold or mildew if stored in your closet while it’s still damp or retaining any moisture.

Additionally, any clothing that may have perspiration or stains should not be placed in your closet with your clean clothes. Any old stains or smells on your clothing increase the risk of attracting unwanted insects or stinking up the rest of the clothes in your closet.

6. Keep suits protected

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While plastic dry-cleaning bags could give off harmful gasses that can damage your clothing, you should still always keep your suits protected with hanging wardrobe covers. A breathable garment bag is perfect for storing your suits safely in your closet. They come in all different sizes and come in a transparent breathable fabric, allowing the clothing to breathe while safely stored and also to be easily recognized without having to open the bag. It will also protect your suits from dust, moths, damp conditions, pleats, pet hair, and any mold or mildew growth.

7. Protect from light

If your closet has any windows or other areas that allow bright or natural lights into the closet regularly, you should try to position your suits away from any light. Wardrobe covers will definitely help with this if they are not clear, but as a general rule of thumb, you should always steer clear of direct sun or bright lights shining on your suits and other clothing to avoid color damage, heat damage, or faded fabrics.

8. Storing your dress shoes

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It is important to make sure you preserve the quality and look of every piece of your dressy wardrobe. Your dress shoes are no exception. They should always be stored after being cleaned and completely dry in a cool and well-ventilated area. For shoes that are only worn on rare occasions, it is best to keep them off the floor where they may collect moisture, mold, or mildew. The best suggestion for infrequently worn dress shoes is to place a cedar shoetree inside to keep them fresh and preserve their quality and shape.

9. Beware of mothballs

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Although this was the most popular method at one time to keep your suits fresh and protect them from pesky moths, it is far less common these days because of the threat they can potentially pose to children and pets. Instead, using natural fragrances like lavender and cedar, sticky moth traps, or hanging powerful odor-free moth traps in your closet could do the trick and are a much safer option for your home.

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