When it’s time to bring out fall and winter clothes, it’s important to correctly store your summer wardrobe. Correct cleaning and storage, especially of summer fabrics, will save you money and time in the future so you don't have to search for a bathing suit come next swimming season only to find that it's stretched out and unwearable.
Summer clothes are usually made from lightweight, sheer, and more delicate fabrics. Many fabrics wrinkle easily, but there are ways to store your summer clothes (even your summer whites) so they'll be ready to wear when you need them. (We'll even walk you through knowing when to toss summer clothes that won't make it to the next hot season.)
Sort Summer Clothes
Begin by sorting summer clothes into categories and putting them in piles. Your piles can be divided into "keep," "fix," "donate," and "toss out." At times it's tough to figure out what goes in which pile. Be honest—if you didn't wear the item of clothing or accessory this past season, why would you wear it next summer? Ask yourself whether you're willing to spend time and money on fixing a summer item that is ripped or otherwise unwearable as-is.
Clean Summer Clothes
For the clothes you plan to keep until next year, carefully inspect each piece to make sure it is clean and free of typical summer stains, such as grass or flower pollen. All clothing should be washed or dry cleaned before storing. There could be small stains that are not visible but can become difficult to remove after a winter in storage. Stains may also attract bugs that can eat through and ruin your clothing. Here are the correct ways to clean and handle typical hot weather fabrics.
Don’t use starch or sizing on summer items that are being stored, such as cotton or linen clothing. Starch and sizing can attract insects that damage clothes.
Cotton is soft, thin, and breathable, which means heat easily escapes from your body so you stay cooler. Cotton wrinkles easily, while cotton-polyester blends wrinkle much less. Cotton is also susceptible to sweat stains by the armpits and collar, especially in light colors. Here are tips to clean and store cotton summer clothing:
- Use cold water to prevent shrinkage.
- For white clothes, always read the label to see if you can add chlorine bleach to whiten the item or if you should stick to oxygen bleach for brightening.
- Use low heat and don't dry cotton garments at high heat in the dryer to avoid shrinkage.
- Hang cotton garments to reduce wrinkles.
Linen, a natural fabric, is also breathable and perfect for hot weather. It's lightweight, loosely woven, and prone to serious wrinkling. You may or may not prefer the wrinkled linen look. If you prefer the smooth, unwrinkled look, you may want to have the item dry cleaned before storing it for the year. A few things to note about cleaning and storing linen clothing:
- Linen garments absorb a lot of water during the wash cycle; dry linen items separately so they don't moisten other garments.
- If you choose to iron your linen before storing them, turn the item inside out and use a steam setting.
- Store linen clothing in a plastic container that will keep out bugs and moisture and put it in a cool, dry place.
To refresh a crinkly linen garment when pulling it out of storage, spritz it lightly with water, use your hands to press the garment flat, then let it completely air dry.
Have you ever taken a bathing suit out of storage and found that the color has faded and the elastic or fabric has deteriorated? That's because chlorinated water, sun exposure, sweat, and suntan lotions can make the man-made materials dull, brittle, and dry. Wash and store your suits with these tips so you can use them another season:
- Wash women's and children's bathing suits by hand with mild dishwashing detergent (not laundry detergent) to avoid over-agitation in the wash.
- Lay bathing suits flat to dry so they aren't misshapen; putting them in the dryer will dry out fibers.
- Men's swimsuits are made from different man-made materials that can be safely washed in the washing machine. However, elastic waistbands may become brittle over time.
- If you want to use a washing machine, put suits in a mesh bag to protect straps and mesh fabrics and use mild, bleach-free detergent.
- Make certain bathing suits are bone dry before you place them in a plastic bin or drawer; any trace of moisture can breed mold and mildew.
If you use plastic bags to store bathing suits, use vacuum-sealed bags. The vacuum seal keeps out any air or moisture that can form mold or mildew.
Store Summer Clothes
Now that you've cleaned and preserved summer clothing, the next step is to correctly store them. You'll need the right supplies, such as hangers, storage bags, and storage containers.
Select sturdy hangers that won't rust or discolor fabrics. (That means avoiding the thin wire hangers provided by cleaners.) Here are tips for using the best hangers for various garments, whatever seasonal clothing you're storing:
- Hang structured items like jackets on shaped hangers to support the shoulders.
- Hang skirts and pants by the waistbands on skirt hangers to avoid creases.
- Hang silky fabrics on padded or flocked hangers to prevent them from slipping off during storage.
Hanging Storage Bags
Fabric hanging bags are a better option than plastic ones because air can circulate to prevent moisture build-up and damage. If you are hanging items in fabric storage bags, first give them a quick run through the washing machine to remove dust and mold spores.
Or, use a 100 percent cotton sheet or pillowcase to cover hanging summer clothes. Simply cut a small opening for the hangers to slip through. This prevents dust from settling on your clothes and allows them to breathe while in storage.
If you have clothes dry cleaned, always remove them from the dry cleaner's thin plastic bags. These bags trap moisture that can lead to mildew and even discoloration.
Cardboard and Plastic Storage Containers
Summer clothing is best rolled rather than folded. Rolling prevents hard creases from forming. Summer knits, especially, benefit from rolling (or possibly folding) rather than hanging in a garment bag.
Using the right cardboard or plastic boxes can save your summer wardrobe. The best cardboard boxes for summer clothing storage should be acid-free containers. The cardboard boxes you grab from the grocery or liquor store are not safe for clothing storage. These boxes are made from wood pulp that can leach acids and cause yellowing and stains on clothes. Plus, the glue used to hold these boxes together can attract insects.
Use plastic containers for storage made of cast polypropylene, a safer material for clothing storage. Look for the #5 within the recycling triangle on the bottom of the container or the letters PP. Clean the inside of the bin with a disinfectant cleaner. Line the container with a clean 100 percent cotton sheet or acid-free tissue paper to keep fragile items from touching the plastic container.