How to Store Your Winter Clothes

7 simple steps to stowing your cold-weather gear out of reach of its natural enemies: moisture, sunlight, and that noxious creature depicted below.
Illustration by Jameson Simpson

Know your enemy.

Spring is officially here, and unless your wardrobe’s got its own apartment, it’s time to clear some space for the lighter-weight garments in your repertoire. Here’s the smart, safe (and fully Alan Flusser-approved) way to do it.

1. Frisk it.
Empty all the pockets on the item you’re preparing to store. A pocket filled with loose change can become misshapen after several months of hibernation.

2. Clean it.
“Normally you shouldn’t dry clean anything unless you really must,” says New York custom clothing maker and all-around sartorial guru Alan Flusser, noting that the fewer chemicals that touch your suits, the better. “But if you’re going to put something away for four or five months, make sure it’s clean.” Moths are attracted to dirt and stains (including perspiration)—so if there’s any doubt about an item, clean it. This also gets rid of insect eggs or larvae that may already be present. And be thorough: After several months, small stains you might have missed will be a lot harder to remove.

3. Check it.
Make sure anything you wash is bone dry before you store it—the smallest amount of moisture can lead to mildew over time. Clean and polish your winter shoes to keep them from drying out, and be sure to remove any traces of sidewalk salt (which is corrosive) from soles and uppers.

4. Hang it…
Tailored clothing needs to be kept on a hanger that supports the shoulder,” says Flusser. “Bad hangers probably do more damage to a suit than anything else.” Flusser recommends hanging pants by their cuffs to avoid creasing, on a hanger that has felt between the wood and the fabric. “If you must fold the pants over a hanger, make sure that part of it is rounded, to minimize creasing,” he adds. Ties should also be hung.

5. …Or fold it.
“Knits should never be kept on hangers,” adds Flusser. “They’ll stretch out and lose their shape, especially long-term.” Sweaters, T-shirts, hosiery, and heavy coats should be folded and packed snugly in boxes to avoid slipping and creasing.

6. Pack it.
All containers must be airtight to keep out insects, odors, and moisture, but suits should be stored in breathable garment bags. For other items, including woolens, use clean plastic containers. Cardboard attracts insects, and it’s about as much use as a napkin if it gets wet. Footwear should be stored with wooden shoe trees to aid shape retention and enable air circulation, and placed in a felt bag, which is breathable and non-abrasive.

7. Stow it.
Clothing should be stored somewhere cool, dark, clean, and, most importantly, dry. If moisture is likely to be a problem, consider using silica gel packets (those sachets you used to see in camera packaging). Make sure clear plastic boxes are not stored in direct sunlight, which will fade colors. Also: Measure your storage space before you buy the boxes, to make sure they fit, and to maximize space.

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