Time to change clothes

How to properly store summer attire and care for winter wardrobe

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Right now, your wardrobe may still be a commingling of cashmere and cotton, khaki shorts and flannel trousers. With the weather seeming to flip-flop between fall and winter, a live-in meteorologist/wardrobe consultant might be in order.

But the time has come to pack up the clothes for sunnier days and break out the winter wardrobe. Whether your closet is monstrous or minuscule, you should store and protect seasonal clothing properly.

Are dry-cleaning bags OK to use? How about cardboard boxes or suitcases? Here's what the experts have to say about how to make the annual closet transition.

All about storage

It's important that clothes are clean before they're packed up. Soiled garments can attract bugs. And stains, if not removed before storing, set and appear over time.

The Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute recommends that seasonal garments be kept in an uncrowded garment bag in a cool, dry place. Fold knits and store in a chest or drawer.

What about moths? Most of us can remember the smell of mothballs in grandmother's attic. While they do their job, there are alternatives with less odor.

Eric Reese, a dry-cleaning store general manager, says cedar (bags, spray, chips or wood) is a good choice because it fends off moths and smells better than mothballs. French lavender is also a nice-smelling bug deterrent.

Reese adds that if you're surveying winter sweaters, be mindful that merino wool, in particular, attracts moths.

"It's an unforeseen problem. If a moth gets in the [merino] wool, a spot can look like spit [which is the saliva from the moth]," Reese says. "When the garment is dry-cleaned, the material deteriorates and washes away. Customers don't always see the damage until it's too late."

It's also a good idea to let a dry cleaner know of a particular stain on a garment so a "stain sticker" can be placed before cleaning.

"We like to be made aware of what we're dealing with," Reese says, "because there's different treatments for different stains -- proteins, sugar, wax, glue, water-soluble [beverages], household chemicals and oil-based stains."

Where clothes are stored is not necessarily as important as what they're stored in.

Anna Wallner and Kristina Matisic are co-authors of The Shopping Bags: Tips, Tricks and Inside Information to Make You a Savvy Shopper (Dutton). They advise against storing anything in cardboard because it attracts bugs.

"Look for empty spaces. For example, the inside of a suitcase is a good storage place," Wallner says. "You also can put racks and shelves in your garage or use a rolling rack."

Matisic adds that plastic containers also are suitable for storing apparel. Both authors advise putting the heavier items on the bottom and working your way up.

Clothing should be removed from dry-cleaning bags before storing or hanging in a closet. Matisic says the bags are stifling and don't allow clothes to breathe.

"This allows for moisture to get in, which breeds mildew," she says. "It's better to store clothes in cloth bags or remove the bags before hanging in a closet."

Winter ready to wear

Once the seasonal switch has been made, there are tips for caring for winter apparel, especially items that require special handling such as leather, suede and fur, which most dry cleaners contract out.

Just because you wear an item once -- for example, a cashmere sweater, silk skirt or wool trousers -- it doesn't need to be cleaned immediately unless it's soiled.

Stephanie Cumberland, owner of Presenting You, an image and wardrobe consulting business, says it's best to give garments a rest between wearings. "After a day, many wrinkles will vanish, especially if you hang it properly and avoid closet crowding," she says. "Scents and wrinkles get trapped in clothing if they're not allowed to breathe.

"With superficial wrinkles on leather, put the iron on low -- with steam -- and apply gently to the lining side only," she says.

With trousers, men and women should hang pants from the bottoms rather than in the middle. The extra weight helps pull out wrinkles.

Cumberland says some garments that normally require dry cleaning can be spot-cleaned if they come in direct contact with the skin.

"For an underarm stain, turn the item inside-out, pull the lining [if there is one] away and spot clean that area," she says.

Investment pieces such as cashmere sweaters need special care. While most labels say to dry-clean cashmere and most wools, there are gentle cleansers, such as shampoo and a product from The Laundress company, that can be used with the washer's delicate cycle. Always dry flat, then store sweaters with tissue between the folds.

"A manual de-piller, which is available at fabric stores, is good to have for areas that rub together, such as underarms, where the long and short hairs of a sweater get wound together," Cumberland says.

Leigh Grogan is a reporter for the Sacramento Bee.

Wardrobe tips

Store velvet inside-out to prevent crushing. And roll it so that the "needles" are facing each other.

Men should invest in a longer raincoat -- something below the knee -- to keep trousers from getting wet.

Shoe trees, especially in cedar, wick moisture to maintain the integrity and shape of the shoe.

Don't apply fragrance or hair spray directly to clothing, especially wool. The scent won't smell the same on clothing as on skin, and it's not good for the fabric, especially if the product contains alcohol.

Consider the snag factor when wearing jewelry. Have you ever had a dangly earring get caught on a turtleneck sweater?

Have an area in the home designated as a "mud room." Keep umbrellas, rain boots, rain gear, gloves, scarves and hats there for easy access heading out.

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