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India is almost done with her coldest months and that means it is time to swap out those heavy coats and wool sweaters for lighter fabrics. Those fluffy blankets and cosy quilts will soon be replaced by light dohars—it’s time to put away our winter stuff. If packed well, you will have fresh items that are free from damage when you are ready to use them again. So we spoke with professional organiser Rohini Rajagopalan, founder Organise With Ease. To avoid moths, mould, dust and wear and tear, read on for our guide and Rajagopalan’s expert advice to store your seasonal winter items and keep them in the best condition during the off-season.
“Always edit before you store your winter items away,” insists Rajagopalan. “A lot of wear and tear happens when you use seasonal items. There are also other factors like changes in fashion trends and size variations to consider.” This is the best time to declutter and streamline your winter collection. Creatively recycle older items, repair minor damage or donate the excess. We all have limited storage space, so now is the time to get rid of anything you don’t want or need.
Even if the woollen or winter items don’t appear dirty, things like odour, bacteria, body oils, dust, water stains, etc. can damage the fabric when it is in storage. They can also encourage insects or moths to eat away at the fabric. Always clean everything that has been used before storing but make sure to follow the cleaning instructions.
For machine wash, set the water temperature to cool and avoid the spin cycle. Or better yet, use the wool setting on the machine if you have it. Hand washing, however, is the best way to take care of those woollens not marked ‘dry-clean only’. Remember to use a mild detergent like Godrej Ezee Liquid Detergent, which has the Woolmark Certification. Woollens don’t need to be washed after every wear, however, brush your woollen garments lengthwise after every wear and give them a good brush down with a garment brush before packing them away until the next winter.
“The most important thing you need to do before you put away woollen or winter items is to make sure they get a lot of sunning. You must ensure there is no moisture in the fabric, and they have aired out well before you store them,” says Rajagopalan. Remove excess water by gently rolling the items in a towel and then dry flat. Never hang wool items to dry; the weight of the wet wool stretches it causing the garment to lose its shape.
For example, you might not need that ski gear or winter sportswear every year. Put them away in one area or box and label them. Items like blankets, quilts and wool throws should be stored together. Everyday sweaters can be stored in one box while heavier or formal winter items that might not get used all that often in another. “Sort, cluster, store and label so you know what is in which box,” says Rajagopalan.
Before packing away your woollens, make sure the area and storage equipment is completely clean and dry. If you are using suitcases, plastic boxes or metal bins, wipe them down with a wet cloth and leave them in the sun for a while. Vacuum the under-bed storage area, closets, cupboards or lofts. Let them air before packing the seasonal items. If possible, try to seal any leakages, especially in areas like lofts above the bathroom. To make sure there are no tiny pests lurking in corners, spray the area with diluted neem oil which is an effective insect killer. After a few hours, wipe the area down and let it air dry. Baking soda is also an effective cleaning agent and kills mildew. Use it to clean the storage items and overall area. Make sure to completely wipe away your cleaning agents as well. They can be abrasive and damage your woollens.
● If you are short on space, vacuum packing is a great solution. The vacuum sealing helps protect your clothes as well. The see-through bags will make searching for particular items easier. However, they do need to be resealed every so often and they don’t allow the fabrics to breathe. Consistently opening out the items and airing them can help.
● Cotton mul storage bags are really good for storing woollens and delicate clothing. They absorb moisture and let the fabrics breathe, however, take up more space than vacuum packing.
● Airtight storage bins can be quite useful. You get them in all shapes and sizes including those with wheels. They can fit under the bed or be stacked one on top of another in cupboards. Again, they do tend to take up a lot of space.
● To keep the boxes and area free from moisture use dehumidifier sachets and moisture-absorbing items like those available from Absorbia. You can also look at organic dehumidifiers like clove potlis or camphor Rajagopalan suggests. Silica gel packets are also good moisture absorbers. Make sure these items don’t come in direct contact with wool or delicate fabrics.
● You also need to keep pests at bay. Don’t use mothballs, instead try cedarwood blocks which impart a soothing fragrance. They are easily available on e-commerce platforms. Cedarwood is a natural insect repellent, so much so that lining your cupboards with cedarwood or even getting cedarwood storage boxes will keep all your clothing and textiles pest free. However, these boxes will be very bulky and take up a lot of space so go in for the cedarwood block or sticks. You can also look at cedarwood hangers for your daily wear as well.
● Keep in mind that cedarwood also absorbs moisture and can dry out materials like leather or delicate items. Consider cloth sachets filled with dried lavender or neem leaves for these items. Diluted neem oil is an effective insect killer and repellent.
It is essential to check in on your stored woollens every few months or at the very least once in six months advises Rajagopalan. Open them out and let them air dry and get some mild sunning. You should check if there are any pests or moisture that needs to be taken care of. “Take them out, air them for a day or two and refold them but not in the same way as before. These are all low cost and simple tips to take care of your seasonal items but the idea is to do them consistently to make these items last a long time,” she concludes.
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