How To Freshen Your Suits (No Dry Cleaning Needed)

To begin, it’s important to note that suits and sport coats do benefit from dry cleaning, but perhaps not as frequently as you assume! This guide will demonstrate how to rejuvenate your suit at home, ensuring it stays fresh in both appearance and scent, all while saving money on dry cleaning costs.

Why You Should Not Dry Clean Your Suits (So Often)

A recent New York Times article (May 23, 2019) entitled “Dry Cleaning Your Wool Sweaters? Don’t Bother” also covered the subject of dry cleaning men’s suits. Here’s an excerpt:

Martin Greenfield, owner of custom tailor shop Martin Greenfield Clothiers, told us wool rarely needs dry cleaning. “Wool is an animal’s hair — they don’t get dry cleaned. They go out in the rain.” He recommends that his clients spot-clean and steam-press their suits, which restores the natural finish. “We find the dry cleaning fluid to be very caustic on fine wools, so we try to avoid it as much as possible,” he explained. Dry cleaning certain delicate fabrics may also shorten their life span, causing them to lose their luster and contributing to wear and tear. “The clothing gets tossed into a machine with a spin cycle — it’s pretty rough on hand-tailored clothing,” Mr. Greenfield said.

Most custom and bespoke tailors, including Martin Greenfield who is renowned for dressing presidents, industry leaders, and celebrities, consistently advise against frequent dry cleaning of suits. High-quality handmade suits are traditionally not dry cleaned often, if at all. Instead, they are maintained with the traditional method of hand cleaning known as ‘sponge and press.’

This method has been used since the Victorian era to clean the attire of kings and queens. This process involves removing stains & spots from your suit by hand, lightly cleaning the entire garment by hand and finishing up with a hand press and steam. In fact, Saville Row tailors clean the bespoke suits of their clients in this manner, using dry cleaning only when a suit is heavily soiled.

How to Freshen Your Suits at Home

A clothes steamer offers a modern twist on the traditional ‘sponge and press’ method for suit care. It rejuvenates the fabric’s appearance, eliminates odors by killing bacteria, and effectively destroys moth larvae and dust mites in your suits and sports coats. For guidance on using a clothes steamer on a suit, refer to the instructional video provided. Before steaming, brush off any dust and soil with a clothes brush.

Steaming is an effective, fabric-friendly way to clean suits. In many cases, unless the suit is visibly soiled, steaming is sufficient for a thorough clean, reducing the need for dry cleaning and its harsh chemicals, thereby extending the life and appearance of your suit. For more insights on using clothes steamers, explore our detailed post. Suit maintenance has been revolutionized by devices like the LG Styler Steam Clothing Care System, priced at $1,999.99, and the Whirlpool Swash for $399.00.

However, these expensive appliances perform the same functions that a more affordable hand-held clothes steamer, costing under $30, and a bit of Febreze Fabric Refresher for a fresh scent, can achieve. After steaming, your suit might still need pressing with a steam iron to look sharp.

Pressing is a skill that improves with practice, and it’s advisable to practice on an expendable suit from a thrift shop if you’re new to it. For advice on selecting a high-quality steam iron and adding a fresh scent to your suits while removing odors, see our review of Febreze Fabric Refresher. Visit our post for tips on caring for your suits during the spring season.

How to Press a Suit Properly

The video highlights the necessary tools and methods for expertly pressing a suit. It introduces the sleeve board, a crucial yet affordable tool, that ensures your suit remains properly shaped during ironing, outperforming a traditional flat ironing board.

You’ll also need a pressing cloth to avoid burning the fabric, which you can make from an old cotton shirt or sheet. If you’re new to pressing suits, practice on an expendable suit first! These techniques are ideal for suits that aren’t deeply stained or dirty (leave those for professional dry cleaners) and help prolong the life and appearance of your suits, not to mention the cost savings.

I apply these methods to maintain the high-quality, second-hand suits I buy from thrift stores and online, ensuring they stay in top condition for extended use. This approach offers an economical way to care for your second-hand suits and sport coats.


How do you fix a smelly blazer?

Air it outside on a sunny day or hang it in a well-ventilated area. For persistent smells, use a fabric freshener spray or a mixture of water and vinegar. If necessary, dry clean.

Does a new suit need to be dry cleaned?

Not immediately, unless it has visible stains or odors from storage. It’s typically ready to wear but inspect it first and consider pressing for a crisp appearance.

How do you freshen fabric?

Spray lightly with a fabric freshener or a diluted essential oil solution. Hanging fabrics in fresh air or using a garment steamer can also remove odors and refresh the material.

How do you deodorize a jacket?

Start by airing it out. If the odor persists, sprinkle baking soda on the jacket, leave it overnight, and then brush off. For tough smells, consider a wash according to the care label or use a specialized fabric deodorizer spray.

The Bottom Line

Keeping your suits fresh without relying on dry cleaning is both feasible and straightforward with the right approach.

By employing methods such as airing out your suits, using homemade or commercial fabric fresheners, and applying spot-cleaning techniques, you can maintain the pristine condition of your suits with minimal effort.

These strategies not only save you time and money but also extend the life of your garments by reducing exposure to harsh chemicals.