How to Care for Your Thrift Shop Suits & Other Menswear

How to Care for Goodwill Thrifted Suits & Menswear

Buying men’s suits, & menswear at Goodwill stores and other thrift outlets is a great way to save money. Just as importantly, you can find high-quality garments that with proper care can last for years. High-quality second-hand suits can often provide many years of good service when properly maintained. Here are ten practical low-cost ways to care for Goodwill thrift suits and menswear.

How To Make Your Goodwill Thrift Suits Last Longer

We assume that you will do an initial dry-cleaning of your second-hand suits, sportcoats, and jackets as well as laundering shirts and other washable items. Here are additional tips to make your second-hand menswear last longer. For my spring season regimen for warm weather suit and sport coat care check this post.

Tip #1: Buy Quality

Thrift shopping is a great way to build a high-quality wardrobe on a tight budget. Educating yourself on how to judge clothing quality provides the foundation for a longer lasting wardrobe. Better quality clothing lasts longer and will look better in the long-term. Familiarize yourself with the quality brands worth buying and seek them out when thrift shopping. The articles on this website can help you to discover better brands of men’s clothing. Plus, there is a plethora of helpful information online that can help you to choose clothing wisely. If its made better, it will last longer.

Thrift Shop Suits
This entire outfit was purchased second-hand.

Tip #2: Brush Your Garments After Each Wear.

This tip applies especially to suits, sport coats, and dress slacks. First, you should change out of your suits and other expensive tailored clothing on arriving home. This will keep them looking like new longer. Before hanging them up, be sure to give them a good brushing with a soft-bristled clothes brush. This prevents dust from becoming embedded and raises and restores the nap of the fabric, preventing shine. Regular brushing will add to the life-span of most apparel. Taking a few minutes to do this at the end of each day maintains the appearance of your clothing. Also, you will minimize the need for dry cleaning with this daily maintenance.

Tip #3: Use the Right Hangers For Your Clothing

Common wire hangers do a poor job of supporting your suits, sport coats, and slacks properly. If the shoulders of suits, coats, and sport coats are not properly supported on hangers, they will stretch and distort, ruining their look. You need sturdy hangers that will support the full width of the jacket shoulders. Avoid hanging clothing on hooks or throwing them in a pile. Clothing that is promptly hanged-up does not need to be pressed and ironed as often.

When thrift shopping, lookout for great deals on second-hand high-quality clothing hangers. Check out this post for tips on low-cost, high-quality clothing hangers for suits and jackets.

Tip #4. Don’t Wear the Same Clothes and Shoes Two Days in a Row

Wool garments can release odors and perspiration if allowed to rest a day or more between wearings.  Wearing a number of suits or outfits in rotation will extend the life of each garment. Just be sure to hang them properly and allow them to air out.  Shoes also need a day of rest to avoid harboring odors and moisture that shorten the life of the leather. Cedar shoe trees should be inserted into a pair of shoes for 24 hours after each wear. They help the shoes to keep their proper shape, and the cedar wood is great at removing odors naturally. Also, check out my tips on extending the life of rubber-soled shoes in this post.

Cedar Shoe Trees
Cedar shoe trees extend the life of your shoes.

Tip #5: Use a Clothes Steamer to Remove Odors from Suits and Jackets

A handheld clothes steamer should be an essential tool in every man’s wardrobe. It is the perfect tool for removing perspiration odors from the lining of a suit jacket or slacks, especially in warmer weather. A clothes steamer kills all odor-causing bacteria, and will also instantly kill moth larva, dust mites, and just about anything that lurks in the recesses of your suits. If you purchase one with an accessory clothes brush, it will refresh your suit fabric between dry cleanings. You will need fewer trips to the dry cleaners, extending the good looks and longevity of your tailored clothing. Check out this post on more tips on using a clothes steamer.

Tip #6: Mend Clothing and Treat Stains Promptly.

If a button is loose, take a few minutes to resew it before it becomes lost forever.  Common household items such as vinegar, salt, and baking soda can remove many common stains (download this stain removal cheat sheet for tips). Also, the Tide To Go Stain Pen is good to keep nearby for emergencies. Acting promptly will keep your clothing in good repair and stain free.

clothing stain removal chart

Tip #7: Dry Clean Less Often

If you use all of the tips mentioned so far, your tailored suits, sport coats, and slacks will require less dry cleaning. Much less! Excessive dry cleaning strips the wool fabric of its natural luster and softness. Generally, if you brush your suit promptly after each wear and use a clothes steamer to remove odors you can greatly extend the life of your suit between dry cleanings. If your suit needs an occasional pressing, use a good steam iron at the proper heat setting and a pressing cloth (always use a pressing cloth). Check out this post for tips on cleaning a suit without dry cleaning. Owners of bespoke (custom-made) suits follow this advice religiously to keep their suits looking like new for years, even decades.

Dress shirts will also last longer if you launder and iron them properly (check this post for tips). Again, dry cleaning is harsher on shirts in general and will shorten the life of quality cotton dress shirts. Learning to care for shirts is not difficult and is a life skill that you will always find useful.

Tip #8: Stop Using Bleach

Just stop. Now! Bleach weakens fabric over time and can cause yellowing with overuse. Rather, use baking soda or hydrogen peroxide to brighten white shirts and underwear. A great whitener and brightener for all types of fabrics are Oxyclean and other ‘oxygen’ cleaners. These are concentrated forms of hydrogen peroxide combined with baking soda. They whiten and brighten fabrics without the harsh effects of bleach. Learn more about this in my post on ironing shirts.

Tip #9: Wash in Warm or Cold Water Whenever Possible

Many modern detergents are formulated for cold water washing. While washing in hot water is best for clothing that is visibly dirty or has perspiration odors (underwear and socks), most jeans, man-made knits, and brightly colored fabrics will look better longer when washed in warm or cold water. Look for detergents that are formulated for cold water washing. Be sure to follow clothing care label directions for best results.

clean clothing lasts longer

Tip #10: Wear an undershirt

An undershirt acts as a buffer between your clothes and all of the perspiration stains and odors that can ruin them. Plus, your shirts will always look crisper and fresher, especially in warm, humid weather. Most antiperspirant deodorants will stain shirts with daily use. It is better that they stain your undershirts rather than your expensive cotton dress shirts.

There you have it! Ten tips to make your second-hand clothing last longer! If like many men you are always looking for ways to save money on clothing, be sure to read my post on thrift shopping for vintage menswear. Save money, dress better, and take better care of your clothing!