Good day to everyone! Hope the new year has been kind thus far, and may we keep the good times rolling!
In my previous article, I discussed the “why” and “how” a kilt should be worn. Hopefully many of you now have your new wardrobe additions, so I shall take this time to address several things that must be taken into consideration with new-found kilt ownership, namely care and cleaning.
Our primary form of kilt care is prevention; after all, if we avoid the things that get our pleats in peril, then we haven’t got much to worry about now do we? Be mindful of sitting on pavement or chairs that could have dirt/spills on them. Be sure to spot-treat any dark liquid (beer, scotch, juices) by dabbing with a damp cloth or a Tide-To-Go pen to prevent any heavy staining. Do your best to avoid rough paper towels as they can cause the wool of your tartan to start pilling and can pull dye out of your fabric.
Traditionally, kilts of any and all kinds should only be dry cleaned. I generally suggest only this method, even if your particular kilt states machine washing is fine. This may take a little extra legwork in taking your kilts to a dry cleaner and picking them up later, but you will greatly preserve the color and life of your kilts by not roughing them up with harsh detergents and vigorous tumbling in the wash. It will also keep your pleats much nicer and prolong the life of your buckles and the shape/fit of your kilt. Luckily, though, given the nature of our garments, kilts rarely require more than one a month, or bi-monthly washing. I personally have my kilts cleaned once every other month, or once every 30-60 wears. Of course, if the liner and waistline get a little on the “ripe” side, you should have your kilt cleaned. After all, if we are going to dress sharply, we should only smell of fine scotch and finer aftershave, no?
I highly suggest having an in-depth conversation with your dry cleaner to ensure they are fully aware of how to care for the kilt. Most dry cleaners will say “sure no problem,” but they will treat it as a pleated women’s skirt and can seriously ruin your kilt. Dry cleaner chemicals can rough up and crack leather buckles, and the presses they use can flatten and square your kilt, ruining the fit. Kilts naturally taper into your waistline, so I strongly suggest asking the cleaner to never press your garment for you. Press them yourself when you get them home.
To avoid the risks involved in dealing with professional cleaners, there are safer alternatives. We can keep our tartans clean at home. Personally, I don’t have access to a dry cleaner I feel comfortable surrendering hundreds of dollars of my day-to-day clothing to, so I did some research and I’ve discovered the best system for keeping kilts as fresh as day one. After an initial investment, these methods are even cheaper than professional cleaners and with the same results.
MANDATORY SUPPLIES YOU WILL NEED:
- Tide To Go Pen (or other bleach-free spot treat pen)
- Woolite At-Home Dry Cleaner
- Meltonian Mink oil (or your favorite all color leather conditioner)
- Damp Cotton Cloth and Iron (For after cleaning pressing)
- Steam cleaner (I personally use a Steamfast SF-510)
- Dritz Sweater Stone
Start by preparing the kilt for our home cleaning process. Our primary goals here are spot treatments of any highly visible stains, and the protection of our buckles and straps to prevent drying and cracking/warping. Apply a generous coating of Mink-oil (or your favorite leather conditioner) to the straps of your kilt to protect them from the heat of the dryer. Next, use the Tide-To-Go pen to lightly treat and loosen stains, then blot them with a cloth to start pulling them out of the wool. Finally, take two or three of the treated kilts and, with the Woolite Dry-clean At Home kit’s moist towelette, put them in a dryer on medium heat for 20-30 minutes.
BE CAREFUL WHEN REMOVING YOUR KILTS FROM THE DRYER! Your buckles will be extremely hot and you could get burned while handling your freshened kilts. By now the mink oil should be well-soaked into your leather straps and they will be nice and supple. The Woolite dry cleaner cloth should have removed the stains and eliminated any odors previously present. But you are not yet ready to darn the pleats and resume your status as the “Noble Highlander of your domain” just yet! Those pleats must be redressed and we must inspect the kilt for any pilling of the wool, and decide if they are severe enough for removal.
For pleat restoration, lay the kilt flat on a table or ironing board. Place a damp cloth over the first pleat from apron and press. Do not drag the iron across or down your pleats. Repeat the process over the length of the pleat and each pleat until finished, then press the waistline and apron nice and neat. Finally, take the Dritz Sweater Stone and gently rub it across any severe pilling of the wool. I do not suggest using any other method such as electric shavers or a razor/tape method, as these will over time just create unsightly holes in your kilt. The steam cleaner mentioned above can be used to supplement the home dry-cleaning cleaning process and does wonders for a quick freshen up of the fabric if need be.
Voila! We have successfully revitalized our kilts to all of their freedom-inducing glory! Close your buckles and neatly hang your kilts using purpose-made kilt hangers (these feed through your belt loops on the back of the kilt) or just clip them into a pants hanger and hang until it’s time to wear them again. You can also place them lengthwise in a drawer designated specifically for your kilt. Each kilt washing will save you, on average, about $6 USD and save a ton of money from having to buy new kilts when they fall apart due to improper care!
May your pleats be crisp, and your scotch be neat!