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What Happens If You Put a Suit in the Washing Machine?

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Putting a suit in the washing machine is a common mistake that can lead to significant damage to the fabric, lining, and structure of the suit. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve deep into the potential consequences of machine washing a suit, the types of suits and fabrics most at risk, and the recommended methods for cleaning a suit at home. We’ll also provide practical steps to take if your suit has already been machine washed and suffered damage.


Putting a suit in the washing machine can lead to significant damage including ruining the fabric and lining, damaging the suit’s structure, shrinking the suit, fading its color, and causing damage to delicate details. It is especially risky for suits made of natural fibers like wool and linen. Instead, suits should be cleaned using methods such as brushing, spot cleaning, steaming, and proper storage. If a suit has already been machine washed and suffered damage, steps like steaming, ironing, mending, and professional alterations can help rectify the issue.

The Risks of Machine Washing a Suit

Washing a suit in a washing machine poses several risks, including:

  1. Ruining the fabric and lining: Washing machines can be harsh on delicate fabrics, potentially causing them to wear out, fade, or become rough.
  2. Damaging the suit’s structure: The agitation and tumbling in a machine can cause the suit to lose its shape and structure, altering its fit and appearance.
  3. Shrinking the suit: Some suits, especially those made of wool, can shrink when washed in a machine.
  4. Fading the color: Washing a suit in hot water or using harsh detergents can cause the color to fade.
  5. Causing damage to delicate details: Washing machines can be rough on delicate details such as buttons, sequins, and lace, potentially causing them to come loose or break.

These risks are particularly high for suits made of natural fibers like wool and linen, which are generally not suitable for machine washing.

Suits and Fabrics Most at Risk

Most suits are made of fabrics like wool, cotton, linen, and tweed. Wool is the most common fabric used for men’s suits due to its versatility, breathability, and wrinkle resistance. However, wool is also prone to shrinkage and damage when exposed to water, heat, and agitation in a washing machine.

Cotton suits, while easier to care for than wool, can also suffer from machine washing. The fabric may fade or become rough, and the suit’s structure may be compromised.

Linen and tweed suits are also not ideal for machine washing. Linen can lose its crispness and become wrinkled, while tweed can become misshapen and shrink.

If you can’t or don’t want to take your suit to a professional dry cleaner, there are ways to clean and care for it at home without resorting to machine washing. Here are some recommended steps:

  1. Brush your suit regularly: Use a suit brush to remove dust, hair, and other particles. Brush the fabric in a downward motion.
  2. Spot clean stains: Use a wet cloth with mild detergent and gently dab the stained area. Leave the suit to air dry.
  3. Steam your suit: Invest in a steamer to refresh your suit, reduce odors, and eliminate wrinkles.
  4. Store your suit properly: Hang your suit on a quality wooden hanger and use a cloth suit bag to protect it from moths and maintain its smoothness.

What to Do if Your Suit Has Already Been Machine Washed

If your suit has been machine washed and suffered damage, don’t panic. There are steps you can take to try and rectify the issue:

  1. Steam the suit: Use a steamer or a steam iron to gently steam the suit. This can help relax the fibers and remove wrinkles.
  2. Iron the suit: If steaming doesn’t work, try ironing the suit on a low heat setting. Place a clean, thin cloth or towel between the iron and the suit to avoid direct heat.
  3. Mend any tears or holes: If the suit has developed tears or holes, you can try to repair them by hand or take the suit to a professional tailor.
  4. Alterations and repairs: If the suit has been significantly damaged, consider taking it to a professional tailor for alterations and repairs.

Remember, the best way to avoid damage to your suit is to follow the care instructions on the garment’s label. Most suits are dry clean only, and machine washing should be avoided. However, with careful handling and proper care, you can keep your suit looking its best for many years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a regular brush to clean my suit?

No, it’s recommended to use a suit brush specifically designed for suits. A regular brush may be too harsh and cause damage to the fabric.

Can I use any type of detergent for spot cleaning?

It’s best to use a mild detergent for spot cleaning. Harsh detergents can cause color fading and damage the fabric.

Can I use a regular iron if I don’t have a steamer?

Yes, you can use a regular iron on a low heat setting to remove wrinkles. However, always use a clean, thin cloth or towel between the iron and the suit to avoid direct heat.

Is it necessary to use a wooden hanger for storing my suit?

While not strictly necessary, a wooden hanger is recommended as it helps maintain the shape of the suit. Plastic or wire hangers can cause the suit to lose its form.

Can I repair a torn suit myself?

Minor tears can be mended at home if you’re comfortable with sewing. However, for significant damage, it’s best to take the suit to a professional tailor.

Can I machine wash a polyester suit?

Polyester suits are generally more durable and can often be machine washed on a gentle cycle with cool water. However, it’s always best to check the care label before washing.

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