Clothes: keep 'em clean
Care labelling is regulated, and the standard covers clothing and goods made from textiles, plastic-coated fabrics, suede skins, leathers and furs. Manufacturers must provide information on care of the article which will not cause damage. Delicate items usually suggest hand-washing at the lower end and dry-cleaning only at the upper end.
Hand-washing involves manual removal of soils with water, laundry detergent and gentle squeezing action.
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.
And generally, it's best to follow the instructions than take a risk with throwing the delicate item into your washing machine.
Storing your stash
Much of our clothing spends a lot of time in the wardrobe. Most professionals recommend a common-sense approach when deciding whether to hang or fold items: some things stretch on a hanger and others crease if folded.
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 where pests will breed.
For clothes that do need to be hung up, it's important to use the right type of hanger. For special clothes, use a very good wooden hanger. If hanging something fragile, put wadding on the hanger so the garment sits quite lightly. 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're expensive; although reputable stores will usually give you an inexpensive one with a relatively expensive purchase.
Wool and silk are particularly susceptible to pest attacks. The more expensive and high-quality the wool is the more moths love it – cashmere, for example. And they prefer dirty fabrics, so if yours are clean it'll be much harder for them to destroy.
If you haven't cleaned something properly or if there's sweat residue, you've basically given the moths a target to aim for! Moths particularly love the crotches (we know!) of men's woollen suits. If you haven't opened up a suit for a while, that's where they'll start eating so dry-clean everything and move the garments around. Get yourself some moth ball satchels as well – you can hang them on the areas the moths are drawn to.
Another problem we all come across when cleaning clothes is lint, whether it's from leaving a tissue in your pocket, pet hair or even a light layer of dust you want to remove. The sticky tape removal method is a favourite for some, as are paper lint rollers. We've also tried silicone rollers for removing dust, lint and pet fur from upholstery, clothing, and hard surfaces. The silicone types impress and will last for a long time without creating waste like the sticky rollers, but they're not without drawbacks. They're relatively expensive, and the inconvenience of having to clean them with water, not to mention cleaning the drain after each use, could be annoying for impatient types.
Leather: looking after it
Coatings are applied to leathers to increase their stain and wear resistance. The principle of good leather care is to maintain these coatings for as long as possible. When allowed to build up, grime, dust, body oils and food stains can break down the coatings, which may change the condition and appearance of your leather item.
Caring for leather goods is a multi-step process – protection, cleaning, conditioning, and adequate storage.
Before applying any leather protection products, you need to know which type of leather you're dealing with – there are several different types, with differing properties. Some are treated to make them water-repellent while others such as suede absorb water.
Absorbent leathers are best treated with a protective product to improve water and stain resistance, though in some cases this darkens the leather. To find out what type of leather your shoes are made from, check on the sole of the shoe or the manufacturer's website.
Water-resistant leathers can be cleaned by wiping their surface with a damp cloth or diluted soapy water. Coloured shoe polishes can cover a multitude of sins, such as scuffs. Suede can be cleaned by brushing dirt and grime with a specialised suede brush, or by a professional shoe repairer.
Leather of all types should be stored in breathable material, rather than in plastic. If a leather item has become wet, hang it to dry naturally, away from direct heat.
Sometimes, professional cleaning will be the only way a leather product can be maintained. In this case, seek the help of a dry cleaner with specialist skills in leather.
Dry cleaning is a complicated process where important oils are removed from leather. Normally these oils would lubricate the leather fibres, keeping them soft, but their partial removal can leave garments feeling firmer and lighter in appearance after dry-cleaning. The dry cleaner therefore needs to put oil back into the garment after cleaning to soften it and bring it back (as near as possible) to its original feel and colour.
Shoes: keep 'em shiny
Longevity of shoes is related to the materials used to construct it. Cheaper shoes will use cheaper components that won't naturally be able to withstand strenuous conditions. Good leather conditioning products can help to ensure longevity, but this can be related to the price point of the shoes.
As with all leather, the process of caring for shoes starts even before you first wear them. Apply a protective balm onto your shoes, but first it's important to identify the specific type of leather used. Applying a good product before slipping them on will keep them ready for a last-minute ball for months to come. Prince Charming will be impressed, while your step-sisters will be green with envy!
Clean leather shoes regularly with a brush for absorbent leathers, such as suede, or a damp cloth for water-resistant leathers. After brushing or washing, apply a suitable conditioner to ensure the leather stays soft, has water-resistant properties and maintains a good finish.
On the nose
Sweaty, smelly shoes can be unpleasant, to say the least. Products promising an end to smelly feet are not the answer, as they tend to wear off rapidly. Prince Charming doesn't get down that way, so it's best to get it sorted quickly.
The key to preventing the smell lies in buying quality products and regularly alternating shoes. Cheaper shoes will be made with synthetic components that don't absorb perspiration readily, so your feet will be swimming in sweat.
Jewellery: handle with care
People forget that jewellery is fragile. They take it for granted and think it can withstand almost anything, but jewellery can be damaged if it's not cared for properly.
Gold items get scratched, particularly those that are worn every day. White gold is a different story. Because it doesn't tend to be particularly bright, most is rhodium-plated. As a result, the plating on a ring or bangle may come off within three to five years, depending on the quality of plating. You can be pretty sure your tiara collection is probably rhodium-plated, for example.
Gold rings and bracelets
Bangles in particular are most susceptible to damage. If you're wearing a bangle or a ring you're probably going to knock it about occasionally and that's going to scratch the gold, which is not very hard. The only way to fix scratches is to have the jewellery polished – taking off a very fine layer of gold – by a professional every couple of years.
Sterling silver jewellery
Sterling silver pieces will keep their lustre for a long time with a little attention now and then. Use a small amount of silver cleaner on your jewellery applying it with a soft cloth and gently rub to remove any tarnish. Then wash the piece with warm water and dry it again with a soft cloth. If you're in a hurry you can buy special silver cloths that you can apply directly to your silver to remove dirt and tarnish quickly. It's also a good idea to keep silver pieces out of the pool (chlorine can make silver tarnish) and away from bleaches if you don't want it to tarnish quickly.
Necklaces and earrings
These don't generally require polishing, and cleaning is usually sufficient. You can often rinse it in soapy water and dry it off with a soft towel and tissue. Depending on the type of jewellery, you can clean it yourself.
Precious and semi-precious stones
Precious and semi-precious stones have varying characteristics and can suffer from poor care. Diamonds and many other stones are relatively easy to clean with a toothbrush dipped in soapy water. Turquoise, amber, coral, and opal doublets and triplets should never come into contact with water, as water can affect the glue. Any stone that is glued into place in an item of jewellery (as opposed to being held in place by metal claws or a bezel) should not come into contact with water.
You can also take diamond pieces to a jeweller to be steam-cleaned or placed in an ultrasonic cleaner. You have to be very careful with some coloured stones because they can't take the heat – get it? Amber, emeralds, garnets, jade, opals, pearls, peridots and rubies should never be put into ultrasonic machines or steam-cleaned. It'll be bad news all round.
Stones set in jewellery can be vulnerable, and as a result jewels can fall out and get lost. Settings should be professionally checked every one to two years in rings and bracelets, as gold can wear down, pieces might be bumped or scraped and settings loosened as a result.
Jewels and perfume
Jewellery and perfume don't mix well; you should apply perfume before putting jewellery on. If you wear a lot of perfume, rinse off or wipe jewellery after you've worn it because it could affect the stone and even the gold. Perfume affects pearls quite badly, and once damaged they can't be repaired. If you're wearing a pearl necklace, don't wear perfume on your neck. Every time you take off a pearl necklace, you should wipe it gently. You can always repair gold, and diamonds are quite hardy, but if perfume starts to eat into a pearl, you'll have to replace it.
How to store jewellery safely
Jewellery can last a long time if it's well cared for. However, items with moving parts that rub together won't last a lifetime. Necklaces with links will rub together and get thinner and thinner, and if they start out extremely thin, they won't take long to wear through. Thick links last longer.
Jewellery can be stored in zip-lock plastic bags, tissue paper, or in their original gift boxes. Don't let jewellery rub against other jewellery. Stones can be scratched, and diamonds in particular will scratch other stones.
Costume jewellery can be particularly susceptible to damage, as plastic, glass and wood tend to be less hardy materials than precious metal and stones. It should be stored in a dry location without direct sunlight.
To prevent oxidisation and discolouration, metal jewellery can be stored in zip-lock bags. Costume jewellery should also be kept away from perfume. To clean, use warm water and a cloth or toothbrush, and ensure the piece is dried thoroughly before being stored.