Jackets are key wardrobe staples we rely on throughout the seasons. But how often does outerwear really need washing? While it may be tempting to throw jackets in with each laundry load, excessive cleaning can actually damage fabrics and shorten their lifespan. Read on to learn how to wash various jacket types properly.

Why Proper Jacket Washing Matters

Washing jackets too often leads to premature damage through:

  • Fading from detergent and heat exposure
  • Pilling when fibers rub against washing machines
  • Shrinkage from high heat drying
  • Rips and tears from zippers, embellishments, buttons catching on other laundry items
  • Stitching damage and detached linings when seams are not strengthened first
  • Loss of water resistance from stripping specialized coatings
  • Residual odors when detergents are not thoroughly rinsed away

Infrequent, gentle washing preserves jackets best.

How Often To Wash Different Jackets

Follow these general guidelines on washing frequency:

Formal Coats

  • Wool peacoats, tailored overcoats: Every 2-4 wears
  • Cashmere coats: Once a season max

Casual Jackets

  • Denim jackets: When visibly dirty or smelly – 10-15 wears
  • Light outerwear like windbreakers: Once a month
  • Heavy duty coats like parka: Once every 3-4 months

Activewear Jackets

  • Fleece coats, softshell jackets: After every 5 wears
  • Waterproof and insulated ski/hiking shells: When dirty or soaked

Leather/Suede Jackets

  • Twice a year professionally
  • Spot clean only at home

Match washing frequency to jacket function and materials.

When to Wash Instead of Spot Clean

Even before visibly soiled, wash jackets when:

  • Exposed to mold or mildew like damp closets
  • Heavily worn against bare skin where oils transfer
  • Used during illness and may have viruses present
  • Exposed to harsh chemicals like grease or cleaners
  • Permeated with campfire or other smoke odors
  • Stored improperly like washed before wet outdoor use

Assess hidden soils along with visible dirt.

Preparing Jackets For Washing

Before washing, prep jackets properly:

  • Brush off loose dirt and debris with lint roller, suede brush or garment comb.
  • Check pockets for tissues, receipts etc. that can disintegrate into lint.
  • Treat stains by dabbing or spraying directly before washing.
  • Close all zippers, snaps and hooks so they don’t catch on other clothes mid-cycle.
  • Reinforce loose buttons or trim.
  • Turn jackets inside out to protect coatings and minimize wear.
  • Use mesh wash bags for delicates, embellished fabrics.

Proper prep prevents damage down the line.

Hand Washing Jackets

For casual jackets and lightweight materials:

  • Fill sink or tub with cool water and mild detergent
  • Submerge jacket, gently swish and soak
  • Drain dirty water, refill to rinse twice.
  • Roll jacket in towels to absorb moisture, do not wring.
  • Lay flat on a towel, reshape and air dry thoroughly.

The manual process allows customizing wash care.

Machine Washing Jackets

For outerwear labeled machine washable:

  • Wash alone or with clothes of similar color
  • Use a mild powder or liquid detergent
  • Wash on delicate or permanent press cycle in cool water
  • Option 1: Dry clean professionally
  • Option 2: Machine dry on very low heat or delicate setting
  • Remove immediately after drying cycle is complete

Take steps to maximize gentleness in machines.

Drying Jackets

Reduce heat exposure when drying coats:

Line Dry

Ideal for lightweight jackets and fabrics prone to heat damage. Hang or lay flat.

Dry Flat

For heavy coats, lay on a drying rack or towels. Flip periodically for even drying.

Low Heat

If machine drying, use the lowest heat setting safe for fabrics. Add dryer balls to aerate.

Steam and Iron

While still slightly damp, use a steam iron or garment steamer to smooth wrinkles and help set fabric shape.

Restyle While Damp

Gently reshape jacket before fully dry so it maintains structure as it dries.

Dry Cleaning

Some coats require professional dry cleaning instead of high heat tumble drying.

Gentle drying preserves the look and feel of jackets.

Storing Jackets Between Wearings

  • Allow jackets to fully air out before putting away in closets.
  • Use cedar blocks or sachets in closets to deter moths.
  • Give jackets room on racks and hangers to allow air circulation.
  • Fill shoulder pads or stuff arms with acid-free tissue to hold shape if hanging.
  • Store in cool area away from heat and light which degrades fabrics.
  • Periodically reshuffle closet to change which side bears the jacket’s weight.
  • Steam clean and disinfect closet interiors between change of seasons.

Well cared for storage spaces keep jackets looking like new longer.

Jacket Washing FAQs

How often should you wash coats?

Most coats only need washing every 3-6 months or less. Wash as needed based on visible soil or odors. Overwashing degrades fabrics.

Can you put wool coats in the washing machine?

Only washable wool labeled machine washable. Traditional wool requires dry cleaning to avoid shrinkage or felting due to agitation.

How do you wash a jacket without ruining it?

  • Brush lint and dirt off first
  • Pre-treat stains
  • Wash delicate cycle in cool water with mild detergent
  • Line dry away from heat and sunlight

How do you get smelled out of a jacket?

For light odors, hang outdoors in fresh air. For stubborn odors, hand wash with detergent containing enzymes or oxidizers to break down odor molecules.

Should you dry clean or wash outerwear?

Read garment labels. Dry clean wool, silk, suede and most formal coats. Casual cotton, nylon, fleece coats can be machine washed on delicate, then dried flat.

Can I put coats in the washer and dryer?

Only coats specifically labeled machine washable and dryable. Most outerwear requires professional dry cleaning or very gentle hand washing and flat drying at home.

Show fine outerwear some TLC between wears. Avoid overwashing which deteriorates expensive fabrics prematurely. Implement proper deep cleaning alongside steam, spot and air treatments to keep jackets looking impeccable. With the right techniques, your coats repel dirt and shed stains beautifully season after season.

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