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Trouser care and cleaning/washing


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#1 brinydeep

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Posted 03 May 2012 - 03:44 AM

What are your suggestions for maintaining trousers? I would like to avoid dry cleaning, but the merchants of many of the good cloths do not recommend any washing, even handwashing. What are your thoughts or experiences? I am curious about care for cotton, linen and wool. Could cotton and linen be machine or hand washed in cold water and hung to dry regardless of the merchants' warnings? What about wool... could you brush this to keep it clean and occasionaly hand wash? I am speaking here of garments about which there is no worry about internal structure, such as canvases, lining or padding -- only the cloth and stitching is of concern.

#2 Martin Stall

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Posted 03 May 2012 - 03:56 AM

Normally, cotton and linen don't suffer from water the way that wool does. However! Warning!

If your merchant says not to use water, then don't. You might end up with faded colours, or just as easily: shrinkage. Even for cottons and linens.

Wool should be brushed off after wear so that dust won't settle into the weave. But no water - it will lose it's shape and the nap of the yarn will get ruined. Dry cleaning is the way to go, unfortunately. Unless you don't mind the cloth suffering significant loss of beauty.

Point is that dry cleaning doesn't use water (which is why it's called 'dry') but a chemical liquid instead. That liquid (PER, in Holland) contains no water and so it leaves the fibers good and well alone.
Sure, I believe your work rocks, but... have you considered, how are you going to sell that stuff?

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#3 brinydeep

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Posted 03 May 2012 - 04:04 AM

Thanks for the comments. If one still wants to avoid chemical dry cleaning, is the 'sponge and press' the way to go? Would brushing, a damp sponge on dirty areas and pressing when necessary maintain a good level of cleanliness?

#4 greger

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Posted 03 May 2012 - 09:40 AM

On wool suit trousers the aim is to dry clean about once a year and never wear twice in a row, preferably wear once a week at most.

Brush after each use when hanging up.

Spot cleaning when necessary.

#5 ladhrann

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 08:01 PM

[Post edited by moderator]

Thanks for the comments. If one still wants to avoid chemical dry cleaning, is the 'sponge and press' the way to go? Would brushing, a damp sponge on dirty areas and pressing when necessary maintain a good level of cleanliness?


I'd like to add my two-pence on this subject. You can wash certain kinds of wool if you are quite careful. I have some wovens that I have had to do this with for a few reasons as well as knitwear.

Firstly do not wash or dry clean if you do not need to. A good brushing and airing on the clothesline will remove any surface dust etc. and remove odours of tobacco, beer, and so on.

Many people dry clean their clothing because they assume the garment needs to be cleaned. Brushing and airing will take care of that. Other than that leave it alone! A pressing by a skilled drycleaner will sharpen up the suit, and restore the clean lines.

That being said if you are dunked in a pond of baby vomit/sour milk I suggest the following. Get a tub and fill it with lukewarm water, and add some natural unscented soap, you could also just grate some pure soap and add that to the water. Wet the soiled parts of the garment in the tub and swirl around. DO NOT SCRUB unless absolutely necessary, In that case do so only at points where whatever is stuck will not come off and use a piece of the cloth against itself.

Empty tub and rinse the wet parts of the garment in cold water. DO NOT WRING, DO NOT SQUEEZE. leave it out flat along its natural crease lines on a towel. Do this away from sources of direct heat i.e. a radiator or fireplace. In a room with a fireplace, or near a radiator is ok, but never on one or hung in front of a fire. The back of a couch or a table top will work for this.

Leave it to dry naturally. Then get it pressed by a professional.

The important points to note are that application of heat or vigorous mechanical action will cause the wool to felt. These instructions will not work for anything that is a blend of manmade and wool fibres or for anything called superwash or machine washable etc. In those cases the fibres are treated so severely they lose all their natural elasticity and strength.



With regards to cotton corduroy and linen I have had trousers made for me in both fabrics and regularly machine wash them with no adverse effects. These are unlined though.

#6 Martin Stall

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 08:27 PM

Sorry for the edit in you post, Laddrann. I think it was important enough to avoid people from misunderstanding and ruining their clothes.

Yes, certain kinds of wool can be washed without suffering. But not all.

Also, no matter what kind of wool it is, if you use your method on a bespoke jacket, you can consider it dead and gone. If it's a fused jacket? Risky.

Point is, you don't wash woolen suits. Because they suffer from it. Almost always. Just brush them off and if they are too stained, then you take them to a dry cleaner. Once a year? Fine. Your suit really won't suffer from one dry-cleaning per year.
Sure, I believe your work rocks, but... have you considered, how are you going to sell that stuff?

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#7 Youngsarto

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 02:48 AM

Where can one buy a proper brush that can be used on wools and tweeds? Or do tweeds need a good brushing also? Mind you I live in the U.S., so anything that has to do with tradition is awfully hard to find.
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#8 brinydeep

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 04:37 AM

Thank you for the suggestions. Glad to hear some people have successfully washed cotton, linen and (of course, gently) wool. It is my feeling, in regard to cotton and linen, that there is little you could do to it to make it 'unwashable'. regardless of what the mills/merchants say. I imagine this has more to do with them worrying about people being disappointed if fabric loses the 'new' look. Of course, if one intends to wash the trousers, it is probably important that the trousers have been made with washing in mind and the cloth shrunk before construction.

Some sources for clothes brushes in the States...

The Butler's Closet sells a horn, wood and boar's bristle brush ($100) that looks to be made by Abbeyhorn (www.abbeyhorn.co.uk) in England.
http://www.thebutler...-clothing-brush

They also have a great article on brushing clothes.
http://www.thebutler...e-clothes-brush

Caldrea sells a pear wood with bronze wire and natural fiber (probably boar bristle or horsehair) brush ($30) that looks to be made by Bürstenhaus Redecker (www.redecker.de) in Germany.
http://www.caldrea.c...=Cleaning Tools

The Kent (England) clothes brushes are also made from natural materials and are highly regarded. I think they can be found at a few merchants in the States.
http://www.kentbrush...Clothes brushes

Edited by brinydeep, 08 May 2012 - 04:41 AM.


#9 Martin Stall

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 05:11 AM

Well, everyone gets different mileage, but if a mill tells me "don't wash this", then I won't. Except that one time the mill didn't tell me, and so my customer washed a series of four cotton Sahariana suits. Pretty expensive cloth, completely shrunk and ruined into permanent wrinkles.

There are many reasons why this cloth can and that cloth can't be washed. For example, cotton shrinks at every single washing. However, the first washing will take off some 7%, the next only 1%, and after that it's smaller and smaller. In maths I guess you would call it 'nearing to infinity'. Sucks pretty bad though if you put together a pair of trousers, you include a nice 10% extra length to compensate for the first washing - except that particular cotton shrinks on the first several washings, not just the first. Fork depth reduced, legs too short... ruined.

But, feel free to experiment. At least you have been warned :)
Sure, I believe your work rocks, but... have you considered, how are you going to sell that stuff?

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#10 greger

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 04:46 PM

Bought some cheap cotton cloth that was made in China. It shrunk many times and each time a lot for several washings. I have never seen cotton shrink so much and after so many washing. Usually it is one or two big shrinks and then minor per wash there after. Don't want to buy cloth from China again.

#11 Martin Stall

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 06:44 PM

If I'm not mistaken, that would be because of a high percentage of viscosis. That stuff apparently never stops shrinking. But I'm not sure if my memory serves me well.
Sure, I believe your work rocks, but... have you considered, how are you going to sell that stuff?

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#12 jukes

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 01:40 AM

Bought some cheap cotton cloth that was made in China. It shrunk many times and each time a lot for several washings. I have never seen cotton shrink so much and after so many washing. Usually it is one or two big shrinks and then minor per wash there after. Don't want to buy cloth from China again.


Most cloths are pre shrunk at the mill, maybe this was missed.

#13 Martin Stall

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 02:01 AM

True, but cloth of poor quality will often shrink again, even after pre-shrinking.
Sure, I believe your work rocks, but... have you considered, how are you going to sell that stuff?

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#14 greger

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 06:24 AM

China has made a number of errors from lead paint on childrens toys to sheet rock that isn't safe to be in buildings (over a billion dollars) to swapping chemicals, to name a few. Some of the problems is that the companies here should have know to take radom samples and test them before they ever left China so they wouldn't leave China. A couple of Chinese were excuted for allowing these blemishes to happen. The first cloth from China I expected some extra shrinkage, but not near that much. It was well over twice what I expected (It was a store for women who do home sewing). It pays to buy cloth from the proffesionals markets instead of from homesewer markets. Like any country stepping into world markets China is learning.

Those of you who get to see quality stuff to buy and trimmings are lucky. Buying without seeing and touchng always leaves one wondering what has been bought until it arrives. Cloth that comes different than the picture and feels different is not what one expects. Even a 300 mile drive is worth it. But a thousand miles is pushing it. Over 1,300 mile is probably the closes. The shoddy homesewer markets 5 miles away is rather temping for cheap cotton cloth for twill pants and jeans and shirts. I guess I should buy an arcers worth of quality cloth.

#15 ladhrann

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 03:20 PM

Sorry for the edit in you post, Laddrann. I think it was important enough to avoid people from misunderstanding and ruining their clothes.


No problem, I was really only talking about knitwear and trousers, or something unstructured. Although I have had to wash off said baby vomit from a tweed jacket with a damp cloth and a smidgen of soap. My heart was in my mouth throughout the whole process.


The shoddy homesewer markets 5 miles away is rather temping for cheap cotton cloth for twill pants and jeans and shirts. I guess I should buy an arcers worth of quality cloth.


I take it this is an outfit somewhat like Joanns Fabrics or something? My best advice for cottons including denim, duck/canvas/twill, chambray etc. is http://www.pacificbluedenims.com/ they have Italian, Japanese and US made selvedge edge (narrow width) and 150cm wide, a huge selection. They're very reasonable too, starting at $7 per yard depending on what you go for.






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