How to Clean and Care for 9 Types of Winter Coats

Nine types of winter coats hanging up

The Spruce / Michele Lee

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner

A winter coat can be expensive, 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. But you can keep them in good shape at home if you have the right techniques. Read the care label to find out what material the coat is made from, and then follow the instructions to wash it properly.

How Often to Clean a Winter Coat

Clean everyday coats at least twice a season. For a special occasion coat, clean it once before storing for the off-seasons.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Wool Coats

  • Dryer
  • Steaming iron
  • Pressing cloth
  • Sturdy hanger

Down Coats and Vests

  • Washer Dryer
  • Wool dryer balls
  • Sturdy hanger

Fleece Coats and Garments

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

Faux Fur Coats and Trim

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

Waterproof Coats

  • Washer
  • Drying rack or clothesline
  • Hanger

Vinyl Coats

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

Leather Coats and Jackets

  • White cloth
  • Large sink or tub
  • Sturdy hanger

Suede Coats and Jackets

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

Materials

Wool Coats

  • Home dry-cleaning kit
  • Washer
  • Large terry cloth towels
  • Clothes brush
  • Large mesh washing bag
  • Wool wash

Down Coats and Vests

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

Fleece Coats and Garments

  • Stain remover
  • Laundry detergent

Faux Fur Coats and Trim

  • Gentle or mild detergent
  • Cool water

Waterproof Coats

  • Stain remover
  • Laundry detergent

Vinyl Coats

  • Laundry detergent
  • Water

Leather Coats and Jackets

  • Saddle soap
  • Water
  • Leather conditioner

Suede Coats and Jackets

  • Cornstarch or baby powder

Instructions

How to Clean Wool Coats

Wool is a natural fiber spun from the hair of sheep or goats. Almost all wool coats are dry-clean-recommended. That's because the manufacturer must use interfacings and padding to achieve the structured shape of tailored wool coats, and these inner fabrics aren't washable. They'll likely dissolve or become misshapen in water. Additionally, wool coats may also be lined with fabrics that aren't washable.

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

That said, wool coats can be washed at home if done properly. The three essential elements needed to successfully wash a wool coat are a gentle wool wash or detergent, low water temperatures, and gentle agitation.

How to Clean Wool Coats
Detergent Wool wash
Water Temperature Cold
Cycle Type Gentle Cycle
Drying Cycle Type Do not tumble dry
Special Treatments Spot-clean only
Iron Settings Steam, wool setting, at 300°
  1. Brush and Pretreat Stains

    Brush away loose soil and pretreat any stains as you would before handwashing it. Be sure to empty pockets and button or zip the coat. Turn the coat inside out.

    Brushing the wool coat to get any stains out

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Set the Correct Cycle and Water Temperature

    Set the washer to the wool or gentle cycle and the water temperature to lukewarm or cold. If possible, select the slowest final spin cycle to reduce stretching.

    Setting the cycle and temperature

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Add the Wool Wash and Coat

    Add the wool wash following product instruction to the washer. Place the coat in a large mesh washing bag to prevent snags. If you don't have a mesh bag, use a white pillowcase and tie the top closed.

    Placing the coat in a large mesh bag

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  4. Air-Dry the Coat

    When the cycle is complete, remove the coat and turn it right side out. Follow the steps to air-dry the coat flat on a mesh drying rack or towels.

    Laying the coat flat to air dry

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Clean Down Coats and Vests

Down coats and vests are lightweight and incredibly warm. The secret to lasting 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
  1. Treat Stains

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

    Down coat stain pretreating

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Load the Washer

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

    Loading the washer

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Add Detergent

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

    Adding the detergent to the washer

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  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.

    drying a down jacket in the dryer

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  5. Hang to Dry

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

    Hang drying the down coat

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Clean Fleece Coats and Garments

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
  1. Pretreat Stains

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

    Pretreating stains on a fleece jacket

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  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. Check the jacket pockets for tissues and paper that can stick to the fleece. Close all zippers, buttons, and fasteners and turn the jacket inside out to prevent snags.

    Sorting laundry and turning the fleece garment inside out

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  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 as that can set wrinkles.

    Washing the fleece jacket in the washer

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  4. Air-Dry

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

    Drying the fleece jacket on a rack

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

How to Clean Faux Fur Coats and Trim

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 fibers and cause them 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
  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 1–2 teaspoons gentle detergent, such as Woolite or Studio by Tide.

    Mixing the detergent solution to clean faux fur

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  2. Submerge the Faux Fur

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

    Someone washing faux fur trim in a tub

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  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.

    Squeezing out excess water

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  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.

    Rolling the damp faux fur in a towel

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  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 a 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. Keep out of direct sunlight and heat. It may take 24–48 hours to dry. Do not wear or use until the faux fur is completely dry.

    Letting the faux fur trim drip dry

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

  6. Brush Lightly

    After the fur is dry, use a soft-bristled brush to gently brush any matted fur and lift the fibers. A wide-toothed comb can be used to loosen up stubborn fur.

    Smoothing and brushing out the fur trim

    The Spruce / Michelle Becker

How to Clean Natural Fur Coats

Never 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. Specialized care must be taken when cleaning a fur coat to keep the hide that holds the hair supple. If it 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.

Putting a natural fur coat in a garment bag

The Spruce / Michele Lee

How to Clean Waterproof Coats

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 with a gentle detergent that won't harm the finish. Never place one of these coats 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
  1. Pretreat Stains

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

    Removing stains from a waterproof jacket

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  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.

    Permanent Press Cycle on a Washing Machine

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  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.

    Waterproof jackets hanging up to dry

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Clean Vinyl Coats

Vinyl and faux leather coats are manmade fabrics that are quite easy to care for. Always read the care label first, 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
  1. Remove Stains

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

    Using a damp cloth to wipe down faux leather vinyl

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  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.

    Permanent Press Cycle on a Washing Machine

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  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.

    Hanging up the coat to air dry

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

How to Clean Leather Coats and Jackets

Keeping a leather coat soft and supple takes a bit of care, but it can last for many, many years if properly maintained. Yes, 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
  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.

    Removing surface stains from leather with a white cloth

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  2. Read the Care Label

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

    Reading the care tag on the inside of a jacket

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  3. Test the Colorfastness of the Leather

    Before you attempt to hand-wash leather, test the colorfastness by using a clean white cloth that's been dampened with water 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.

    Testing a hidden area of the leather jacket

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  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.

    Turning the leather jacket inside out

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  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, and allow it to soak for 10 minutes or so. If there are specific stains, use a soft-bristled brush to help lift those away.

    submerging the jacket into the water

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  6. Rinse Thoroughly

    When it's time to rinse the jacket, lift it 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.

    Rinsing the jacket with new water

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  7. Hang to Dry

    Turn the coat right side out, 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 2–3 days for the coat to dry completely.

    Letting the jacket drip dry over the tub

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  8. Condition the Leather

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

    Conditioning the leather

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

How to Clean Suede Coats and Jackets

Natural suede is created from the soft underside of a split-grain animal hide. It has a nappy finish that's 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 manmade fibers. Read the care label for fiber content and care instructions.

  1. Remove Surface Dust and Debris

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

    Brush out a suede jacket after wearing

    The Spruce

  2. Treat Stains

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

    For oil stains, treat as soon as possible. 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; brush it away with a soft brush. It's fine to leave the powder on the stain for several hours. Repeat the process until the powder no longer changes color or texture.

    Using baby powder on the stain

    The Spruce

  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.

    Using a white cloth to brush the suede

    The Spruce

Storing Winter Coats

Storing a winter coat the right way will help retain its shape. Gently fold and then 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 with 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, seek out 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

  • 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.