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How to Store Your Winter Clothes Properly

Some expert advice from Lindsey Boyd of The Laundress and Sarah Gerrish at 'Redbook.'
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Caroline Issa at New York Fashion Week. Photo: Imaxtree

Caroline Issa at New York Fashion Week. Photo: Imaxtree

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Q: I invested in some really great winter clothes — what's the proper way to store them when it gets warmer?

Believe it or not, it's March, and spring is just around the corner, meaning it's time to start thinking about winter clothes storage. Even if you didn't shell out big bucks on your wardrobe this season, it's a good idea to store your fall and winter pieces properly so that they can be worn well into the future. 

So, for tips on how to store winter clothes, we consulted Lindsey Boyd of The Laundress and Sarah Gerrish, fashion market director at Redbook. The biggest takeaway? Clean everything properly before you store it. Read on for more of their expert advice.

1. Wash your clothes before you store. It might sound counterintuitive to wash your clothes before you store them away, but according to Boyd, things like oil, perfumes, body lotions and perspiration can cause yellowing and stains down the road, even if they're not visible at time of storage. "It's also really bad for sweaters because it creates a food source for moths," explains Boyd. Gerrish says that washing before storage can help prevent odor, mold and mildew as well.

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2. Prevent musty smells. Stale smells might be inevitable to a certain degree if you live in an older apartment or home, but Boyd says that proper washing pre-storage should go a long way in reducing odor, along with steaming and freshening with a fabric spray when your clothes come out of storage. You can also store them with lavender sachets, which can help keep them smelling fresh and clean. "Lavender is two-fold: it's great for scent, but it's also good for repelling moths," Boyd says. As an easily accessible alternative, Gerrish recommends lemon peels, which dry naturally and won't leave residue on clothes.

3. Do not store clothes in a damp place. Avoid damp basements or attics, and opt for a cool, dry place. Simple, right?

4. Store accordingly. Sweaters should always be folded, even during fall and winter, to keep them from losing their shape. Dresses should (ideally) be hung, although they can be folded if they come in fabrics that don't wrinkle easily. If they've been dry-cleaned, Gerrish advises not storing them in the plastic bags that they came in since that can breed mildew. For short-term storage, she places clothing in plastic bins, with heavier things on the bottom and lighter things on top. Caveat: if there's one thing Gerrish wouldn't store in a bin, it would be fur, since it's so delicate.

5. Avoid using plastic or cardboard for long-term storage. For long-term storage, never store in cardboard or plastic containers, which can make clothes smell worse and potentially cause yellowing. "For proper preservation and longevity, [clothing] needs to be stored in cotton, linen or a fabric that's breathable," Boyd explains. Storing clothes in non-breathable plastic or cardboard can also create the type of warm, humid environment that attracts silverfish and moths, according to Boyd.

6. Don't be lazy; clean your shoes, too. No, they're not clothes, but shoes are an important part of your winter wardrobe and should also be given proper care and attention. "There's all that salt on the streets, so I would take Clorox wipes and wipe the soles as long as the shoes aren't leather," Gerrish says. She also advises cleaning with a brush, although she recommends getting shoes professionally cleaned if there's a really bad stain. 

Needless to say, it's also a good idea to get in the habit of maintaining shoes — getting them resoled, freshening them regularly, etc. — during the winter season as well. Before placing them in a bag or box, Boyd recommends simply giving them some time to breathe. And lastly, to help shoes maintain their shape, Gerrish suggests using boot trees or even stuffing them with old newspaper.

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