Washing your winter wear

It's just about that time of year again. You know, the time when you trade those down jackets for trench coats and swap wool pants for linen ones. With all the shuffling of clothing on the horizon, we asked clothing-care experts for tips on washing winter wear so it's ready to go when the chill returns.

Sort and prep: Organize clothes according to their needs. "If certain things can be mended you start a repair pile, a donation pile, a dry-clean pile, or if it's something that can be spot cleaned by yourself, (a washing) pile," Costello said.

Brian Sansoni, a spokesman for the Soap and Detergent Association, said it's important to prepare coats for the wash. "Zip the zippers. Close the Hook and Loop fasteners or buttons so they don't catch bits of lint or thread," he said.

Pretreat stains: Pretreating involves putting a liquid detergent or stain-treating product on spots in advance of washing them. "It's OK to rub the garment on itself. It's not OK to take a brush that has rigid bristles on it and scrub a garment, because you're going to start breaking loose the fibers," said Jeff Gardner, known as "The Laundry Doctor," a Minneapolis coin-laundry owner.

Wash: For bulky machine-washable items such as down coats, experts say it's best to use a front-loading machine at home or commercial-grade machines at the coin laundry.

Before throwing clothes into the dryer, Sansoni said consumers should check for stains — even if that means putting a reminder note on the washer. "If the stain is still there, you'll want to wash it again," he said.

Dry: Dry bulky coats on long, low temperature cycles, said Gardner, adding that the process could take up to three hours. "If you don't get all of the moisture out, within a matter of days it will smell musty, and within a matter of weeks it will mold," he said.

Inspect your garments in good lighting: Forgo the urge to spring-clean your closet hastily. "Take out all of the winter clothes that are not trans-seasonal and put them on the bed and really do a once-over with your eyeball," said Maureen Costello, a fashion industry veteran and owner of Image Launch, a Lake Forest, Ill. "Are there any buttons missing? Are there any permanent stains? Does it still fit you? Do you still like it?"

Read the labels: Experts stressed that consumers check laundering-care labels to ensure proper handling of clothes and outerwear. "Any time you stray away from those instructions, you run the risk of harming your garment," said Brian Wallace, president of the Coin Laundry Association.

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