Taking Care of Your Outerwear

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By Kelly Smith

Spring is only about a month away so why are we still dashing through the snow, not to mention, the ice, sleet, slush and rain?  March really is coming in like a lion and all of that slushy mess can leave us covered in dirty, soggy and salt covered clothes.  Did you ever drop a nice pair of gloves in the slush covered street?  Has your beloved pair of Uggs fell victim to a muddy Pittsburgh pothole?  Or, how about trying in vain to slip out of your car in a tight parking spot?  I like to think that my stealthy sideways walk move will save my coat from giving my car door a quick cleaning but no. My car doors’ dirt and my coat are now united as one.  My suede and leather boots have also been ravaged, at times, by winter’s ferocity.  From leather and suede to faux fur and puffer jackets, there is a benefit to keeping your outerwear in tip-top shape.  Think of your coat, boots and gloves as an extension of your skin. You take a shower everyday to keep clean, right? Why would you not want to keep your outer most layers tidy?  These protect your skin from the elements and so they need to be maintained as well.  Always follow the care instructions and read on for important tips to help make the most of your winter gear!

Leather Goods—Leather is a natural material so it needs some TLC!   With so much salt and chemicals lying around, it’s all but impossible to get around it and if it gets on leather boots it should be removed right away.  The best way is to rinse off all residue in warm water then pat dry but if a sink isn’t available then you need to improvise.  Always carry baby wipes as they are presoaked with a gentle cleanser and are good for on the go cleanings.  For long term care, you can use a solution of water and white vinegar to remove salt and dirt build up.  You can also use olive oil or beeswax to keep a good shine but use only a soft cotton cloth or cotton balls on any leather product.

Suede— dry cleaners now add boot cleaning services to their menu but it comes at a price.  $30-$40 a pair is the going rate and that can get pricey if you have multiple salt-stained Uggs that can literally leave you screaming the word “ugggggg”!   Instead, keep them looking fresh by using a soft bristle brush to loosen any dirt and soften the nap.  Kiwi sells a good cleaner or you can again, use white vinegar mixed with warm water and baby soap and clean the entire surface. Moisten the entire boot -it needs to be wet but not dripping in order to absorb the cleaning product.  Suede loses its shape when wet so either stuff them with tissue paper or insert a 2-liter bottle (or a wine bottle for your fancy folk!)  To help them keep their shape while drying.  In 24-36 hours, you’ll have what looks like a brand new pair of boots!

Faux fur— I love faux fur-lined anything but if it gets wet, it’s a sloppy mess.  I have learned the hard way that you can’t throw a fur-lined hat or coat in the wash because you’ll end up with a matted mess.  Instead, try cornmeal!  Yes, that’s correct, cornmeal will clean up that ratty matted fur in a snap.  Cornmeal’s properties allow it to absorb dirt and moisture from fur, much like a bag of rice absorbs moisture from a cell phone.   If your fur-lined hat happens to fall into a puddle of slush, don’t fret!  Simply fill a paper bag with cornmeal and give it the old vigorous shake and bake treatment. Let it sit for a few hours then brush it out and your fur lined hat is as good as new!  This also works for fur-lined coats, boots and gloves.

Parka /puffer/ ski coats–  Again, always follow the care instructions, but generally speaking, synthetic coats  can be washed on a gentle cycle using cold water and mild detergent with success.  I like to air dry in the dryer on a low setting to keep its shape but you can’t go wrong with a drip dry on a short ski-style jacket.

Hopefully March really will go out like a lamb- whatever that actually means but what it means to me is waving with one hand, in my best pageant wave of course, “bye-bye” to winter while the other is waving “hello” to spring!