How to Clean and Care for 9 Types of Winter Coats

9 types of winter coats

The Spruce / Michele Lee

A winter coat can be costly, so it's worthwhile to protect your investment by caring for it properly—which, in some cases, means taking it to a dry cleaner instead of throwing the garment in a washing machine. Read the care label to find out what material the coat is made from, then follow the instructions to wash it properly.

Wool Coats

adding a wool coat to a dry-cleaning bag

The Spruce / Michele Lee

Wool is a natural fiber spun from the hair of sheep or goats. Although woven and knitted wool is washable by hand or in a machine's gentle cycle using cool water and a gentle wool wash, almost all wool coats are labeled dry-clean-only. That's because the manufacturer must use interfacings and padding to achieve the structured shape of tailored wool coats, and these inner fabrics are not washable—they'll likely dissolve or become misshapen in water. Additionally, wool coats may also be lined with fabrics that are not washable.

For the best results, take your wool coat to a professional dry cleaner for the best results. However, if your coat just needs to be freshened or spot-cleaned, you can use a home dry-cleaning kit.

How to Clean Wool Coats
Detergent Do not use detergent
Water Temperature Do not wash
Cycle Type Do not wash
Drying Cycle Type Follow dry-cleaning kit instructions
Special Treatments Spot-clean only
Iron Settings Steam, wool setting at 300 F (148 C)

Project Metrics

Work time: 10 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Skill level: Beginner

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Home dry-cleaning kit

Tools

  • Dryer
  • Steam iron
  • Pressing cloth
  • Sturdy hanger

Instructions

  1. Treat Stains

    Treat any visible stains with the stain-remover pen included in the kit.

  2. Load the Kit Bag

    Load the coat into the kit's dryer bag with the kit's damp cleaning cloth. Clean only one coat per bag. Follow the package directions for the length of time the coat should be in the dryer.

  3. Hang to Air-Dry

    Remove from bag and hang immediately from a sturdy hanger to air-dry completely before wearing.

  4. Press to Remove Wrinkles

    Wool coats can also be pressed carefully at home to remove excessive wrinkles. Always read the care label and follow the instructions.

Down Coats and Vests

applying stain remover to a down coat

The Spruce / Michele Lee

Down coats and vests are lightweight and incredibly warm. The secret to their success is keeping the down clean, dry, and fluffy. Even though you've probably heard disaster stories about wet down clumping, down garments can be successfully washed and dried at home. Always read the care label to be sure that the outer fabric, which can be a natural or synthetic fiber like olefin, is washable.

How to Clean Down Coats and Vests
 Detergent Specially formulated
 Water Temperature Cool or warm
 Cycle Type Gentle
 Drying Cycle Type Low
 Special Treatments Finish with air-dry
 Iron Settings Not needed

Project Metrics

Working time: 15 minutes

Total time: 2 hours

Skill level: Intermediate

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Stain remover
  • Down wash, such as like Granger's Down Wash or Nikwax Down Wash

Tools

  • Washer
  • Dryer
  • Wool dryer balls
  • Sturdy hanger

Instructions

  1. Treat Stains

    Pretreat any visible stains following the guidelines for the type of stain.

  2. Load the Washer

    Load the down coat into a front-load washer or high-efficiency top-load washer without a center agitator for gentle agitation. 

  3. Add Detergent

    Add a detergent formulated specifically for down, and wash using cool or warm water.

  4. Dry on Low Heat

    Place the coat in a dryer on low heat. Add wool dryer balls to help fluff the down as it dries. During the drying cycle, stop the dryer and massage the coat with your hands to help break up any clumps of down.

  5. Hang to Dry

    Remove the coat while still slightly damp, and hang to finish air-drying completely.

Fleece Coats and Garments

fleece coat with dryer balls

The Spruce / Michele Lee

Fleece is a high-tech lightweight fabric that provides incredible warmth. Some types can even wick away perspiration to keep you dry during strenuous activities—which is why it's good to clean fleece outerwear regularly.

How to Clean Fleece Coats and Garments
Detergent  Regular or heavy-duty
Water Temperature Cold or warm
Cycle Type Permanent press
Drying Cycle Type Low
Special Treatments Wash alone
Iron Settings Usually unnecessary

Project Metrics

Work time: 15 minutes

Total time: 2 hours

Skill level: Beginner

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Stain remover
  • Laundry detergent

Tools

  • Washer
  • Dryer (optional)
  • Drying rack or clothesline
  • Hangers

Instructions

  1. Pretreat Stains

    Pretreat any visible stains following the guidelines for the type of stain.

  2. Sort Laundry

    Fleece can be a magnet for pet hair and lint, so be sure to avoid washing it with lint-producing clothes. Follow all tips for reducing and removing lint from the laundry.

  3. Select Detergent and Washer Cycle

    Use a regular or heavy-duty laundry detergent. Wash in cold or warm water on the permanent press cycle, which has a cold rinse and does not spin excessively fast that can set wrinkles.

  4. Tumble Dry

    Air-drying is best for fleece, but you can tumble on low heat to get started. Remove the garment while it is still slightly damp. Never dry on high heat.

Faux Fur Coats and Trim

washing faux fur trim

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

The key to taking care of faux fur coats is to read the care label. The fur is almost always a washable synthetic fiber, but the inner linings and structural components of the coat may not be washable. The best choice for washing any type of faux fur item is hand-washing.

Never put faux fur in a clothes dryer, as the high heat can melt the faux fur fibers and cause the fibers to fuse and become matted. Once this happens, there is little to be done that can reverse the damage.

How to Clean Faux Fur Coats and Trim
 Detergent Mild
 Water Temperature Cool
 Cycle Type Hand-wash
 Drying Cycle Type Drip-dry
 Special Treatments Dry flat
 Iron Settings Unnecessary

Project Metrics

Work time: 20 minutes

Total time: 24 hours

Skill level: Intermediate

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Gentle or mild detergent
  • Cool water

Tools

  • Sink or large basin for washing
  • Indoor drying rack
  • Soft-bristled brush

Instructions

  1. Mix the Water and Gentle Detergent

    For large coats and blankets, the cleaning can be done in a large plastic storage container or bathtub. Fill the sink or basin with cool water and 1 to 2 teaspoons of gentle detergent, such as Woolite or Studio by Tide.

  2. Submerge the Faux Fur

    Place the faux fur in the detergent solution, making sure that it is fully submerged. Swish the fur through the water for no more than 10 or 15 minutes, avoiding excessive agitation and wringing.

  3. Drain and Rinse

    Lift the fur out of the water, and gently squeeze out as much soapy water as possible. Drain the basin and refill with clean water. Rinse until no suds remain.

  4. Remove Excess Water

    Gently squeeze out as much excess water as possible. You can roll the fur in a thick bath towel to help remove the water.

  5. Allow to Drip-Dry

    Use an indoor drying rack to dry the faux fur flat or place it on a sturdy, padded hanger and hang from the shower rod to dry. If you dry it on a rack, place it in the bathtub or shower to catch the drips and avoid a wet floor.

  6. Smooth the Fur

    Reposition the coat or blanket often so there are no crush marks on the faux fur. Use your hand to smooth any areas that don't appear smooth. Keep out of direct sunlight and heat. It may take 24 to 48 hours to dry. Do not wear or use until the faux fur is completely dry.

  7. Brush Lightly

    Use a soft-bristled brush to gently brush any matted fur and lift the fibers.

Natural Fur Coats

natural fur coat in a garment bag

The Spruce / Michele Lee

Do not attempt to clean a real fur coat at home. Natural fur coats come from the pelts of animals, and the fur is a protein fiber like human hair. However, specialized care must be taken when cleaning a fur coat to keep the hide that holds the hair supple. If the hide becomes too dry or isn't maintained properly, the fur will shed. A professional furrier or dry cleaner should be used to clean a natural fur coat.

Waterproof Coats

How to Wash a Waterproof Coat
PeopleImages/ Getty Images

The key to keeping a waterproof coat in good shape is to clean it correctly to preserve the waterproof finish. Always wash this type of coat in cool water using a gentle detergent that will not harm the waterproof finish. Never place the coat in a dryer, and keep it away from high heat.

How to Clean Waterproof Coats
 Detergent Mild
 Water Temperature Cool
 Cycle Type Permanent press
 Drying Cycle Type Air-dry only
 Special Treatments Reduce spin cycle
 Iron Settings Unnecessary

Project Metrics

Work time: 15 minutes

Total time: 2 hours

Skill level: Beginner

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Stain remover
  • Laundry detergent

Tools

  • Washer
  • Drying rack or clothesline
  • Hanger

Instructions

  1. Pretreat Stains

    Pretreat any visible stains following the most gentle treatment for the type of stain.

  2. Select Detergent and Washer Cycle

    Use a gentle laundry detergent or one formulated for waterproof clothing. Wash in cold water on the permanent press cycle. Reduce the spin cycle speed, if possible, to reduce wrinkling.

  3. Allow Coat to Air-Dry

    Do not place a waterproof coat in a dryer. Instead, hang to air-dry. Wrinkles should fall out during the drying process.

How to Wash Vinyl Coats

vinyl coat with a wet cloth

The Spruce / Michele Lee

Vinyl and faux leather coats are man-made fabrics that are quite easy to care for. Always read the care label, but most vinyl coats can be machine-washed. 

How to Clean Vinyl Coats
 Detergent Regular
 Water Temperature Cold
 Cycle Type Permanent press
 Drying Cycle Type Air-dry only
 Special Treatments Reduce spin cycle
 Iron Settings Do not iron

  

Project Metrics

Work time: 15 minutes

Total time: 2 hours

Skill level: Beginner

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Laundry detergent
  • Water

Tools

  • White cloth
  • Washer
  • Drying rack or clothesline
  • Hanger

Instructions

  1. Remove Stains

    Stains can usually be removed by just wiping down the surface with a damp cloth. 

  2. Select Detergent and Washer Cycle

    Use regular laundry detergent and wash in cold water on the permanent press cycle. Reduce the spin cycle speed, if possible, to reduce wrinkling.

  3. Air-Dry the Coat

    Do not place a vinyl coat in a dryer, as high heat can melt the fabric. Hang to air-dry. Wrinkles should smooth out during the drying process.

Leather Coats and Jackets

leather balm next to a jacket

The Spruce / Michele Lee

Keeping a leather coat soft and supple takes a bit of care, but it can last for many, many years. Leather can be cleaned at home. However, expensive items should be taken to a professional dry cleaner who specializes in cleaning leather.

How to Clean Leather Coats and Jackets
 Detergent Mild for delicate items
 Water Temperature Lukewarm
 Cycle Type Hand-wash only
 Drying Cycle Type Air-dry only
 Special Treatments Rinse thoroughly
 Iron Settings Unnecessary

Project Metrics

Work time: 30 minutes

Total time: Up to 48 hours

Skill level: Intermediate

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Saddle soap
  • Water
  • Leather conditioner

Tools

  • White cloth
  • Large sink or tub
  • Sturdy hanger

Instructions

  1. Remove Stains

    Many stains can be removed by simply wiping them away with a clean, damp cloth. However, removing stains like mildew or ink from leather requires a bit more effort.

  2. Read the Care Label

    If you are a novice with laundry, always follow the label instruction if it says to dry clean-only. Hand-washing is appropriate for aniline leather finishes only. Never wash suede or nubuck garments.

  3. Test the Color-fastness of the Leather

    Before you attempt to hand-wash leather, test the color-fastness using a clean, white, wet cloth on an interior spot of the leather. If color transfers to the cloth, the dye is not stable on the leather and you should not proceed.

  4. Prepare for Washing

    Begin by emptying all pockets of the jacket and turn it inside out. Fill a large sink or plastic storage container with lukewarm water. Add a small amount of a gentle liquid detergent recommended for hand-washing delicate items, such as Woolite, and swish to disperse through the water.

  5. Add the Jacket to the Water

    Completely submerge the leather jacket. Swish through the water to be sure the entire lining is wet. Gently squeeze the solution through the lining. Allow it to soak for 10 minutes or so. If there are specific stains, use a soft-bristled brush to help lift those away.

  6. Rinse Thoroughly

    When it is time to rinse the jacket, lift the jacket out of the soapy solution. Never wring a leather item. Simply squeeze out the excess moisture. Fill the sink with clean water and rinse. You may need to change the water several times to remove all of the soap and soil.

  7. Hang to Dry

    Turn the coat right outside and hang it over a bathtub to air-dry. Use a sturdy wooden or padded hanger to prevent marks on the shoulders. Never hang in direct sunlight or near a heat source. It may take two to three days for the coat to dry completely.

  8. Condition the Leather

    Using a good quality leather conditioner, condition the garment until it is once again soft and supple. 

Suede Coats and Jackets

baby powder next to a suede jacket

The Spruce / Michele Lee

Natural suede is created from the soft underside of a split-grain animal hide. It has a nappy finish that is easily stained. While some small oil stains and scuffs can be treated at home, suede must be cleaned by a professional dry cleaner who specializes in leather care. Some fabrics that appear to be natural suede are man-made fibers. Read the care label for fiber content and care instructions.

Project Metrics

Work time: 15 minutes

Total time: 2 hours

Skill level: Beginner

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Cornstarch or baby powder

Tools

  • Suede brush
  • Soft, white, clean cloth
  • Pencil eraser or art gum eraser (for removing adhesives)
  • Emery nail file or emery cloth (optional)

Instructions

  1. Remove Surface Dust and Debris

    Brush the garment after every wearing with a suede brush to remove dust and debris and smooth the nap.

  2. Treat Stains

    Oil stains and scuffs can be treated at home, but consult a suede stain removal guide to treat more difficult to remove stains. After each step, brush the stained area with a suede brush to restore and smooth the nap.

    For oily stains, sprinkle the stain with powder. As soon as the oil hits the suede, sprinkle the stain with baby powder or cornstarch to absorb the oil. You should see the powder begin to look oily after an hour or so; brushed away with a soft brush. It is fine to leave the powder on the stain for several hours. Repeat the process until the powder no longer changes color or texture.

  3. Remove Scuff Marks

    Use a clean, soft cloth to gently rub the area and remove any dried-on surface stain. The cloth will also restore some of the texture to the nap. If the stain remains, gently rub the area with a pencil eraser or art gum eraser. As a last resort, use an emery nail file to gently rub the area.

Storing Winter Coats

Storing a winter coat the right way will help retain its shape. Gently fold and loosely stack cloth winter coats into a plastic bin. Keep the bin in a cool, dry, dark place, or under your bed. Puffer coats and vests of synthetic fill can be put into space-saving vacuum-sealed bags. Other winter coats can stay on a wood hanger and continue to hang in a cool, dry, dark place so they can breathe during the off-season.

Repairs

Fix rips and tears in winter coats, including linings, before cleaning or storing. If your coat has a large or jagged tear a few inches long, opt for a professional to try repairing the damage. Cloth coats and linings can be repaired with normal household thread. For tears in leather and vinyl winter coats, look for leather repair kits and vinyl seam sealant kits. When researching a kit, make sure the label says it can be used on coats and jackets.

Tips for Cleaning Winter Coats of All Types

  • Before washing, cleaning, or taking any coat to the cleaners, fasten all buttons and zippers to keep any protrusions from becoming snagged in the process.
  • Use durable wooden hangers for all coats to help retain their shape.
  • Mend loose or ripped seams before cleaning to retain the coat's shape and to keep the fill from coming out.
  • Take this opportunity to also clean your winter accessories, such as wool or fur gloves, hats, and scarves.