Caring for clothes, shoes and accessories

In an increasingly disposable world, CHOICE rediscovers the art of caring for jewellery, shoes, clothing and leather goods.
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While price may influence the longevity of an item of clothing or accessories, there are several things that consumers can do to keep their items looking nicer, for longer. 

It’s important to consider how you’re going to protect your clothes, jewels and shoes before you wear them, and to think carefully about storage options and cleaning regimes. 

In this report you will find information on how to care for:


In Australia, care labelling is regulated under a mandatory national standard. The standard covers clothing and goods made from textiles, plastic-coated fabrics, suede skins, leathers and furs. Manufacturers must provide information on appropriate and adequate care of the article, which when followed will not cause damage. 

However, as CHOICE discovered during our investigation into drycleaning, labels are not always accurate. In addition, Jo-Ann Kellock, CEO of the Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia (TFIA), says many consumers don’t read care instruction labels properly.

Philip Johns, CEO of the Drycleaning Institute of Australia (DIA), agrees. “We don’t expect the consumer to know about care labelling, [though] we are pleasantly surprised when they check the label.”

According to the DIA, “there is some risk involved in using any care process not recommended by the manufacturer. Hand-washing involves manual removal of soils with water, detergent and gentle squeezing action.

“A care label that calls for machine washing, in a delicate or gentle cycle, indicates that the soil can be removed with water, detergent or soap, slow agitation and reduced time in a washing machine… [washing clothes incorrectly is] in violation of the care label instruction and places responsibility on the cleaner rather than the manufacturer.”

Clothes marked “dry-clean only” can shrink, change colour or lose shape if washed with water. Clothes that ought to be hand-washed only may do the same when dry-cleaned.

Robin Monkhouse is a costume lecturer at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) who has more than 10,000 pieces of clothing under his control. “You have to decide whether something can handle a washing machine, even on a gentle cycle,” she says. “If I’ve got something very delicate that I don’t want to get torn or ripped I’ll hand-wash it, but it’s time-consuming.”

For a list of care labels you might see while out and about, check out Drycleaners Web. And for information on how best to clean different types of fabrics, Kellock recommends visiting Garment Care.

Cold storage

The oft-quoted adage is that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. By that logic, a lot of our clothing is spending a lot of time in the wardrobe.

Kellock believes “clothing shouldn't be treated like a disposable item” and recommends a common-sense approach when deciding whether to fold or hang up items. “Some things stretch on a hanger and others crease a lot if folded.”

According to Monkhouse, the key is keeping down the number of clothes in your closet. “If you have too many clothes and they’re all stuck close together in there, that’s what pests love.”

For clothes that do need to be hung up, Monkhouse says it is important to use the right type of hanger. “For special clothes, I use a very good wooden hanger. If I’m hanging up something fragile I put wadding on the hanger so the garment sits quite lightly.” She says that for some pieces, it’s worth investing in a good garment bag. “They’re good for wedding gowns, something you won’t wear again but want to keep – but they are expensive.”

Monkhouse also points out that wool and silk are particularly susceptible to pest attacks. “Funnily enough, the more expensive and high-quality the wool is, the more moths love it – such as cashmere, for example. They prefer dirty fabrics. If your fabrics are clean, it’s much harder for them to destroy.

“If you haven’t cleaned something properly or if there’s sweat residue, that’s where they’ll go. Moths particularly love the crotches of men’s woollen period suits! If I haven’t opened up a suit for a while that’s where they’ll start eating, so we dry-clean everything and I move things around. I get the moth ball satchels as well, which I hang on certain areas where I know moths hang around.”



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