How to clean winter gear like snowboarding and ski jackets

Cleaning and Storing Winter Clothing

Posted on September 25, 2023 by Steven Toltz

In Colorado, winter is one of our longest seasons, which means that our winter gear — like scarves, mittens, gloves, hats, and winter coats — needs a little TLC. Keeping these cold weather staples clean and well-cared for can be a challenge, but not if you know how to properly wash and store your winter gear.

Clothing meant for the cold is usually made out of materials like wool, down, or heavy synthetic fiber that can be damaged in the wash. At Dependable Cleaners, we want our clients to feel confident in taking care of their favorite winter clothing, which is why we’ve outlined how to wash a winter coat and put together this list of winter clothing care tips.

Related Article: How to wash wool clothing

Here’s how to clean a coat, keep your gear stain-free & fresh, and how to store your winter clothing to keep it in the best possible condition.

How to Wash Your Winter Coats, Scarves, and Hats

Most laundry is straightforward — but how do you wash a winter coat? Winter gear is often made from heartier, warmer materials, which can be tough to get right when it comes to washing. Remember that if you plan to wash your wool winter gear, you’ll want to hand-wash it in cool water with a delicate detergent or soap, unless the care tag on your coat, hat, or scarf explicitly states that machine washing is okay. For down clothing like mittens or coats, you can hand-wash, but the process can be tedious and hard to get exactly right. We recommend taking down coats and garments made of similarly delicate materials to a professional, who will decide based on the specific item what is the best course of action.

Related Article: How to Clean Down Coats

Tackle Tough Stains ASAP

Because winter gear is harder to clean, it’s even more important to spot clean stains from slush, mud, or salt as soon as possible. This is particularly important for down clothing like ski bibs — if a salt stain hardens, it can rip or tear the fabric keeping the down or down alternative safe inside. As with all spot cleaning, use a gentle stain remover or a vinegar based solution and spot-test on a less visible part of the clothing to ensure colorfastness before treatment.

Drying: A Tough Call for Winter Gear

How to clean a coat isn’t the only tricky question. Depending on the fabric and lining of your winter gear, you’ll need to decide whether to air dry it or dry on a low, gentle cycle. Sweaters made out of cotton and other such durable, soft materials should be fine in the dryer (as long as the care tag indicates so), but you should never try to machine dry wool. The heat and tumbling action of machine dryers can shrink wool clothing and cause loss of shape and damage to fibers, resulting in pilling, stretching, and weakening of the fabric. 

Down is unique, and down jackets and other similar garments require tumble drying on a low heat or no-heat (air fluff) setting. To help fluff up the down and prevent clumping, add a few clean tennis balls or specialized dryer balls to the dryer. These balls will agitate the down items as they tumble, ensuring even drying. It’s also best to periodically check the down items during the drying process and gently shake or fluff them to ensure that the down clusters are evenly distributed and not clumping together. 

Again, always refer to the care label on your down items and winter gear for specific drying instructions. Some products may have unique requirements based on their construction and materials.  

How Often Should You Wash Your Winter Coat?

How often you wash a winter coat depends on factors like climate, activity level, and fabric type. For light use in mild weather, washing once or twice a season and spot cleaning as needed may suffice. In cold climates with regular use, cleaning every few weeks to every month is advisable. High activity levels or rigorous winter sports may require more frequent cleaning. 

After months of almost daily use, it’s imperative to wash your coat before you store it for the spring and summer. Since moths are attracted to human scents, cleaning your jacket can prevent insects from causing damage, and will also remove any stains and nasty odors that may set during the warm summer months.

Striking a balance between cleanliness and preservation of coat quality is key to proper maintenance, and is a great reason to entrust your ski jacket or winter coat to a professional cleaner.

Related Article: Why Do Clothes Smell After Washing?

Take Your Coat to A Dry Cleaner

If your jacket’s care label says “dry clean only,” take it seriously. Woolen coats are often dry clean only because the inner fabrics that give the coat body and shape are not washable. Washing at home could leave you with a misshapen, unwearable jacket. When in doubt, a dry cleaner will remove any stains, complete free minor repairs, and ensure your jacket is returned to you as good as new.

Related Article: Which Fabrics Should Be Dry Cleaned?

Storage is King: The Best Way to Store Winter Clothing 

Once your winter jacket and accessories are clean, the next step is to store your winter clothing correctly during the warmer months. Wool sweaters, hats, scarves and coats can get holey if left exposed to moths, and down jackets can lose their fluff if they’re stuffed hastily into an underbed storage bin without consideration.

Empty Your Pockets 

Keeping your wallet or other items in your pockets can cause them to sag or lose their shape — plus, you don’t want to spend half of the year looking for something important that was left in your ski jacket. To keep yourself sane and keep your coat looking its best, empty your pockets before putting your gear away for the season. 

Hang Coats and Scarves Up 

Winter coats, especially those made with wool, can quickly take on new shapes or collect creases if improperly cared for. When storing your jacket between uses, hang it up on a solid, sturdy hanger. The hanger will prevent your coat from stretching out in the shoulders or developing fold lines. For scarves, you can use scarf hangers or install hooks in your closet to hang them neatly. Alternatively, scarves can be rolled and placed into a drawer or bin.

Storing Hats and Gloves

Fold hats and gloves neatly to prevent creasing and misshaping. Gloves can be tucked inside each other, and hats can be stacked or nested. Invest in storage bins, baskets, or drawers specifically designated for winter accessories. Don’t cram too many items into one storage container, as overcrowding can lead to wrinkles and make it difficult to find items you need. To prevent moisture buildup and mold growth, consider adding moisture-absorbing packets or silica gel packs to your storage containers.

Some Things Are Best Left to the Professionals

As with most tough laundry cases, caring for your winter gear can be tough to get just right, which is why it’s almost always best to leave the cleaning to the professionals. For deep cleaning before storage at season’s end, stain treatments, odor elimination, alterations & repairs, or just to keep your jacket looking its best on the slopes, Dependable Cleaners has you covered all year round! 

Take advantage of our environmentally-friendly coat cleaning services, free pickup and delivery, wash & fold laundry services, and same day cleaning — all backed by our above-and-beyond quality guarantee. Don’t get left out in the cold when it comes to your laundry. Find a dry cleaner near you today, or give us a call at 303-777-2673

If you decide it’s time for a new winter coat, swing by one of our participating locations to donate your old one to Coats for Colorado, an organization we proudly partner with to support our local community.

David G.

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The service is absolutely outstanding and the quality of work is great!!!