Words of Wisdom on Storing Clothing

walk in closet

I recently enjoyed a presentation by a clothing expert from Garde Robe, a luxury wardrobe storage service in New York City. Archival clothing expert Danielle Morin spoke at the monthly meeting of the Connecticut chapter of NAPO (the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals), and while I personally don’t own many luxury garments, much of what I learned could be helpful to anyone.

Here are some key tips I took away for how to best store your clothing:

  • Remove plastic (e.g. dry cleaner bags) before putting items into your closet. These bags are designed to protect garments during transit, not for long-term use in the home. Over time, these plastics will emit a gas that is bad for the clothing.

Note: As a professional organizer, I also recommend removing the bags because they clutter your closet and often rip and get stuck on the hangers.

  • If possible, allow breathing room between hanging garments. This is especially true for leather and suede pieces, which tend to take on impressions from whatever they are pressed against.
  • Knit items, such as sweaters or sweater dresses, are better folded than hung. Gravity naturally pulls down on hanging items, which can result in distortion, particularly in the shoulders. If you need to hang a sweater, fold it in such a way as to minimize damage (see my YouTube video here).
  • If you have nice dress pants, the ideal way to hang them is from the hem or the cuffs. This avoids getting a crease in the middle of the pants. If the pants are leather or made from a fabric with a high nap, place acid-free tissue in between the garment and the clips.
  • To store fancier garments (e.g. tuxedo, gowns, etc.), protect them in breathable, fabric garment bags such as these. You want bags that breathe, so the bags that suits come in are not ideal for long term storage.

Note: As a professional organizer, I sometimes compromise with bags like these that have a breathable panel on one side but clear plastic on the other side so you can easily identify garments. The plastic in these bags from The Container Store is Polyethylene, an inert plastic that will not emit gasses like the ones from the dry cleaner.

  • The ideal humidity for storing clothing is around 45%, so be cautious about storing clothing for long periods of time in a damp basement.
  • The ideal temperature for storing clothing is around 58˚F, so avoid storing items for more than a couple of months in a hot attic.
  • Furs require special storage. Due to the natural oils in the pelt they attract bugs, which love to go after the fur’s protein. To protect furs out of season, keep them in a cold environment (34-45 degrees F) and a slightly higher humidity (around 50%).
  • Speaking of bugs, the three most common types of pests that attack clothing are carpet beetles, silverfish and clothes moths. These can be very difficult to get rid of, so prevention is your best weapon. Helpful strategies include keeping the humidity low and using natural deterrents such as lavender and/or cedar in your closet and drawers. Mothballs are no longer recommended because their strong scent can trigger a negative reaction in some people and can be difficult to get out of the clothing. If you find yourself facing an infestation, consider calling a professional. You may need a combination of traps like these, thorough cleaning of all garments and professional treatment.
  • When storing valuable items for a long time in boxes, be sure to wrap items in acid free tissue and keep them in either canvas boxes or museum quality “blue board” boxes. There is a natural polymer called lignin in regular cardboard that can damage clothing over time. Plastic bins are okay for off-season storage of regular clothes, but not are not advised for long-time storage of quality garments.
  • Handbags should be stored up off of the floor. Items kept on the floor tend to absorb moisture, which can result in damage. If you have investment handbags, consider keeping them in fabric bags or pillowcases to protect them from dust.
  • If you have strapless items, such formal strapless gowns, it is better to hang them from clips attached to the top of the gown than to hang them from the little ribbons that often come attached to the insides. These small ribbons often result in crooked hanging that can stretch or warp the piece. If the fabric is delicate or made of velvet, place acid free tissue underneath the clips.
  • Daily use typically keeps the air flowing in our drawers and closets. However, when spaces sit unused, such as when we are on vacation, air can become stale and humid To keep the air moving, leave your closet doors open when you leave a space for more than a day or two.

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While I mostly live in jeans and cotton fleece, I appreciated learning these tips from the pros for how to properly care for quality clothing.

On a humorous note, the question was raised in the room about what to do about particularly smelly clothing, such as hockey clothing. One professional organizer suggested an ozone machine, and while I haven’t tried it, if you have a particularly smelly space, it might be worth a try. Furthermore, if you have a storage space that tends to be particularly humid, another PO suggested a product like DampRid.

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If we are going to keep things, it makes sense to store them in the best way we reasonably can. Do you have a tip for storing clothing?

21 thoughts on “Words of Wisdom on Storing Clothing”

  1. Garde Robe provides an excellent service. And how fantastic that a rep came to present at your chapter meeting. You took outstanding notes, Seana! The one that especially stood out to me was getting rid of the plastic covers that come with the dry cleaning as soon as possible. I always do that, but I know many people (including my husband,) that do not. I’m going to share this valuable advice. Many thanks for all of the great tips.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…How to Quickly Change Your Bad Habit to a Healthy OneMy Profile

    1. I learned a lot. Even though I don’t have a closet of gowns or investment pieces, I think the advice is helpful to all. I see dry cleaner bags in most closets, and they really should be pitched right away. Always learning, right Linda?

  2. Seriously, such great advice and very timely as I am currently needing to clean out my closet here and am going to go to try to keep this advice here in mind as I do so. Thanks Seana 🙂

  3. Thanks for taking such great notes–we are all benefiting from your new knowledge! I think if I had a dollar for every dry cleaner bag I’ve removed from a client’s home, I’d be swimming in dollar bills. I had no idea that fur coats attract bugs nor did I know the ideal temps for storing clothing. I’ll be bookmarking your post for future reference!

    1. I found the whole presentation so interesting! Since I don’t own a fur, I didn’t know anything about them. I have had a few clients with the bug problems, so that was helpful in a very concrete way. Gotta share the wisdom, right Stacey?

  4. I never knew this type of business existed, but then again, I probably don’t own ANY of the items you mentioned. The only exception is my grandmother’s Persian lamb jacket which, to the best of my knowledge has been stored at room temperature for decades and doesn’t seem to be any the worse for wear.

    1. Garde Robe has a unique product offering, and for the people who need their service, it really is invaluable. They are such a wonderful resource for professionals who come frequently to NYC for business. They will deliver any garments the clients needs right into their closet at their hotel. When their trip is over, they pick them up, clean them, and store them for next time. It saves a lot of schlepping, which is also hard on clothing.

    1. I felt the same way, Sheri. We joked around the table that now we could tell clients, “You really shouldn’t store your clothing in that. The lignin could damage your clothes”… makes us feel very well informed!

  5. Thanks for sharing these tips on clothing organization.

    Years ago, I worked with several high-end clients. To help them store their expensive clothing, I researched the best possible way to sort these high-quality fabrics. You mentioned a lot of what I learned in this post. I do find that if you have a cedar closet, it’s best to store things in cloth bags, not plastic. Cedar is best to keep out moths that will feed on wool items. if you have to hang a sweater, puffy hangers work well to minimize the shoulder bump from the hanger. I also found that sweaters folded on a shelf should not be more than 4 high because they will easily topple over.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…How to Determine Your Definition of ClutterMy Profile

    1. I was just talking with a client last week about adding more shelves to her closet so we didn’t have to stack so many sweaters on top of each other. If the stack is too big, it definitely topples, and it is very hard to maintain in an attractive fashion.

  6. Love this! We actually don’t have closet doors – on the closet or even in the room itself, which is walk in. I wanted them but they didn’t work with the plans and with Cassidy. So the air is the air there!
    I had no idea about what is better folded rather than hung, and I’m going to make some changes in there – with sweaters, sweater dresses, and my strapless gowns! (of which I don’t have a lot but I used to)

    1. If you love a garment, it is worth making sure you are storing it smartly. I love that you don’t have doors. I do, but I hardly ever close them:)

    1. Definitely don’t keep the dry cleaner bags. Our speaker was fairly ardent on that point! Frankly, I think everyone wants more closet space… such a luxury to have it!

    1. Those are tough, and it really depends on what space you have. I was just working a client last week and talking about belts and ties. You really need to talk through how many they have, how often they wear them, what their priorities are, etc. I really enjoyed this presentation and learned a lot, which feels great!

  7. Good points you have there. I have a few clothes hanging around in my closet. And they sometimes get ruined for reasons I wasn’t really sure of. I even had to Dry cleaner them a few times a week. Just to keep them tidy. This was really enlightening. Thank You.

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