Coats and Outerwear Questions

April 22, 2011 6:59 pm

Coats and Outerwear

“Can you offer some tips on how I can make my coats last longer and still look sharp?”

A. A coat is something that people see you wearing every day. Here are some practical precautions to keep your winter coat looking its best:

  • Wear scarves to avoid soiling the collar––particularly for leather and suede coats.
  • Avoid hanging the coat by its “neck” on a coat rack. Use sturdy hangers (not wire) and allow “breathing” space in the closet.
  • Air-dry wet coats at room temperature. Never expose to heat unless directed by the care label.
  • Treat stains immediately to keep them from setting.
  • Clean the coat whenever it is soiled and at least once during the season (preferable monthly) and once before storing it.
  • When cleaning, make sure you follow the care label instructions.
  • Never, never store coats (or any garments) in plastic bags. Doing so promotes light damage and mildew. It also dries out leather coats.
“I picked up my all-weather jacket from the cleaners and the fabric looked blistered. The marks were all over the jacket. What happened?”

A. After the cleaning and/or steam finishing process, noticeable damage and loss of the smooth fabric shell surface appears on many all-weather coats and jackets. In some cases, the surface of the fabric shows small points of indentations or “blisters” that appear randomly throughout the garment. In other instances, there can be severe separation or loss of coating which causes waves, puckers, or bubbles of the shell fabric.

Did the drycleaner cause the problem? In most cases, the problem was caused by a coating or synthetic facing applied to the reverse side to aid in wind resistance, water-repellency, and to give body and shape. Some of these materials, or the bonding agents used for construction, are not resistant to dry cleaning solvents or the heat of drying or pressing after cleaning or laundering. There is no way for the drycleaner to determine in advance if the suggested care process is appropriate for the particular fabric.

“I’ve been disappointed in the water repellency of my winter raincoat; on rainy days my clothing has gotten wet. What do you suggest?”

A. Raincoats and most foul weather outerwear are water-repellent and not waterproof. Whereas, the fabric of waterproof clothing (such as GORETEX® and Conduit™) is waterproof, a surface repellent is applied to most fabrics to create water repellency.

There are various qualities of repellent and different ways to apply them. The drycleaner may be able to repel the coat twice or make suggestions for improvement. There are also products available at hiking and ski stores that can be applied for further protection. Be sure to test a small area, if you try one. Spray on a small, concealed area and let it dry. Then put water on it to test for repellency.

If the rain is very heavy, it is unlikely that any water repellent coat will keep you completely dry. It’s still a good idea to carry an umbrella

“I have a lightweight jacket that really comes in handy for much of the year. I’ve had it over four years and it has remained in style. I was very disappointed when I got it back from my drycleaner with bubble-like wrinkles that I can’t smooth out. What can I do?”

A. It sounds as if the bonded foam inner layer has separated from the shell fabric during cleaning. Age is a factor in foam laminates because the foam itself has a limited life cycle and deteriorates over time. If your jacket had not exceeded its life expectancy, then the manufacturer should be held responsible; however it sounds as if it may be time to purchase a new one.