by C.M. Mackenzie
Wool coats are a stylish choice for keeping away the chill of winter. Although care for wool coats is different from coats of many other materials, it is not difficult or time consuming. In addition, unlike coats of less durable fabrics, such as cotton or nylon, these coats can last for many years. Good care for and wool coats simply means following a few rules (which are generally the same for all wool garments) for cleaning and storing.
Gently brush the coat with a soft suede brush. You can also use a lint brush to clean the coat after wearing it and before hanging in a closet. Brushing removes surface soil and lint.
Hang wool coats on plastic or wood hangers between use. Hangers should be sturdy and broad, so the weight of the coat does not stretch the shoulder areas out of shape. In addition, hang wool coats in an area with good air flow. If packed too tightly with other items, wool coats may become crumpled. Also, wool hung next to dirty items may absorb some of the dirt or odor.
Blot spills on wool immediately to sop up moisture. Use absorbent cloths or heavy paper towels and do not rub the spill. Rubbing will spread the liquid and push it deeper into the wool. If the substance spilled contains natural or chemical pigments (wine, ink, chocolate or coffee), consult a dry-cleaning company or the coat manufacturer for what to do after blotting the liquid. The proper course of action can vary, depending on the type of wool.
Take wool coats to a dry cleaner twice a year. The best time to take a coat to the cleaner is at the beginning and end of the season. If wool coats become exceptionally dirty for some reason, you may need to have them professionally cleaned more often. With normal use, however, twice yearly should be sufficient.
Store coats after the season in a garment bag. This will help prevent moths and other insects from infesting the wool. For additional protection, you can add moth balls or store the items with cedar chips (or other natural moth repellents).
Most wool coats should be dry cleaned. For those that can be hand washed, use only cold water and a mild detergent made for wool. Soak the coat in the water for five to ten minutes. Rinse out the detergent with clean cold water. Lay the coat on a thick towel and shape the coat. Let it air-dry.
If you can avoid ironing a wool coat, do so. If you've brought the coat out of storage and let it hang for a while yet it still has wrinkles, iron on a cool setting. Place the coat on your ironing board or a flat, clean surface, such as a table. Place a sheet or pillowcase over the women's or men's wool coat to protect it from the iron's surface. Use steam for best results.
Moth balls have an unpleasant smell, which is often difficult to remove from wool coats, and they contain toxic substances. Use these with care (ventilate the item very well before wearing and keep moth balls out of children's or pets' reach) or use a safer moth repellent, such as cedar chips.