How to Wash Suit Trousers

How to Wash Suit Trousers

Suit trousers are typically made from high-quality, smooth fabrics such as silk, wool and synthetic blends. They make great workwear and can offer a sophisticated edge on a night out.

However, like other clothes in your wardrobe, trousers must be cleaned at some stage. But how should suit trousers be washed?

Can you toss the trousers in the washing machine alongside your t-shirts, or have you got to take care of them in a different way? Read on to find out.


How to Wash Suit Trousers

Tip: Always do a patch test with your chosen cleaning solution before you use it.

Step 1: Read the care label

Checking a Clothing Care Label

Find out how the trousers should be cared for before you attempt to clean them. All you need to do is check the tag attached to the inner side of the trousers.

The symbols you see will tell you how to wash the item and how not to wash it. If you’re not sure what each symbol means, see our guide to UK washing symbols.

Suit trousers are often made from delicate materials that require a specific type of care.

Sometimes the trousers can be cleaned by a domestic washing machine, other times they need to be hand washed or dry cleaned.

Not reading the care instructions on the tag or sticking to the information you’re given could lead to you ruining your trousers by shrinking, discolouring or snagging them, for example.

If the tag is worn or missing, you can do a quick patch test to determine if you can clean your garments at home or if they need to be taken to a dry cleaner.

To carry out the test, dab a wet cotton wool bud on a discreet patch of your trousers.

If the dye transfers from the trousers onto the cotton bud, take the trousers to a dry cleaner. If nothing happens, you can wash your trousers at home. It might be better to hand wash them, though, just in case the material can’t withstand being machine cleaned.


Step 2: Clean your suit trousers

Based on the information you got in Step 1, you can skip to the appropriate cleaning method below.

Note: Before you clean your suit trousers, you should brush them down with a suit brush just to remove loose lint from them.

Washing machine

Machine washable trousers include cotton and polyester. If your trousers are made from a delicate material like silk, wool, or fine cotton, don’t try this method on them.

Steps to follow:

  1. Empty the pockets on your trousers.
  2. Turn the trousers inside out. This will limit fading and protect buttons and embellishments.
  3. Put the trousers inside a mesh laundry bag. The bag will protect them during the wash by keeping them in one secure place.
  4. Put the mesh laundry bag in the drum. It’s better to wash items of a similar material together, for example, a second pair of trousers in the same colour and material.
  5. Select a gentle cycle with a low spin speed and use cold to lukewarm water.
  6. Add a mild laundry detergent to the washer. Something like Woolite or a non-biological cleaner.
  7. Start the wash.
  8. Remove the trousers from the drum and mesh laundry bag as soon as the cycle ends.

Tip: If you need to treat stains, clean them using white vinegar, an off-the-shelf stain remover or a specialised detergent suitable for the material.

How to wash suit trousers in the washing machine


Hand wash

Steps to follow:

  1. Clean your sink out before you use it to wash your trousers. Remove greasy deposits and chunks of food.
  2. Pre-treat stains with some laundry detergent beforehand. Allow it to rest on the surface for ten minutes, then continue with the steps below.
  3. Fill the sink with cold to lukewarm water. The water must not be hot because the delicate material will shrink.
  4. Pop a small amount of mild laundry detergent into the water. You’ll likely have to use something suitable for delicates, like Woolite.
  5. Agitate the water to create suds.
  6. Remove your jewellery so you don’t snag the trousers during the wash.
  7. Pop the trousers in the water. Ensure they’re saturated with water.
  8. Carefully rub the trousers between your fingers to clean them. Pay attention to the extra dirty parts.
  9. Empty the sink and refill it with fresh, cold water.
  10. Dip the trousers slowly in and out of the water to rinse them clean.
  11. Repeat this rinsing process until the trousers are free from suds.
  12. You can then repeat this cleaning process for your other trousers.

Tip: Wash one pair of trousers at a time so you don’t accidentally dye your trousers.

How to hand wash suit trousers


Dry clean

For suit trousers labelled ‘Dry Clean Only’, you need to take them to a dry cleaning shop to get them cleaned.

It is possible to buy a dry cleaning kit and do the cleaning at home, but this can be tricky and doesn’t always work out right. So, it’s often better to take the trousers to a professional and get them to do the work for you.

You can find a dry cleaning store by doing a quick online search. Just remember to read reviews, pick a reputable company, and get a quote for the cleaning work. You don’t want a big bill at the end of the cleaning session!  


Step 3: Dry your suit trousers

To dry your suit trousers, you should:

  1. Place a large, neutral-coloured towel on a flat surface.
  2. Put the trousers flat on top of the towel. Ensure there are no folds in the trouser legs.
  3. Gently roll the towel up with the trousers inside.
  4. Press down carefully on the rolled-up towel to extract moisture from the trousers.
  5. Repeat the steps above with a fresh towel if need be.
  6. Leave the trousers to dry flat on the towel.
  7. Repeat this drying process for the rest of your wet trousers.

You should not put suit trousers in a tumble dryer because the excess heat and agitation can warp, shrink and damage the material. Dry the trousers naturally to keep their shape, look and feel.


Step 4: Iron your trousers

When the trousers are dry, you can iron them. See the instructions on the care label to determine what heat you can use.

Although it may be tempting to skip this step, you shouldn’t because your trousers will have some wrinkles on them, and this can impact the fit and feel of the garment when it’s on.

Also, ironing your trousers ensures they look immaculate and that your pleats (if present) are in pristine condition.


Step 5: Store your suit trousers

suit trousers in hanger

Hang and store your trousers on a hanger to keep them wrinkle-free. If the trousers are pleated, fold them along the pleat. If not, fold them in half.

Tip: You may need to gently tease your trousers back into shape before you hang them. But this isn’t always essential – it usually applies to natural fibred garments.


How to Care for Suit Trousers Between Cleans

hanging and brushing trousers

Suit trousers don’t need to be cleaned after every wear. They will, however, need to be maintained in between cleans. Consider the following:

  • Treat stains as soon as they appear. Aged stains are often difficult to remove and can leave unsightly blemishes if left untreated for a long time.
  • Brush the suit trousers with a soft-bristled brush to remove general dirt. This includes hair, pollen and dust.
  • Air out the trousers. Leave the trousers hanging up on the outside of the wardrobe door so that they have access to fresh air. If you keep your trousers locked up in a wardrobe all day, every day without fresh air, they’ll start to smell stale.
  • Ensure the suit trousers are stored correctly. The trousers should be hung on a hanger in a wardrobe. If they are left in a heap on the wardrobe’s floor, they will become creased and dusty. The trousers won’t look their best if they’re not taken care of effectively.


Can You Wash Suit Trousers in a Washing Machine?

Yes, some suit trousers can be washed in a washing machine. These trousers are usually made from cotton or polyester and can withstand being machine-washed.

However, you must not assume that all suit trousers can be machine washed. For example, trousers made from wool, cashmere and silk can’t be machine-cleaned. They should be washed by hand or by a dry cleaner.

You must always check the care label on your suit trousers to find out how they must be cleaned before you wash them.

By reading the tag, you’ll find out the proper washing instructions for your garment. By sticking to the instructions, you won’t damage your suit trousers during the laundering process.


What Happens If You Wash ‘Dry Clean Only’ Suit Trousers?

professional dry cleaning care label

If you wash suit trousers labelled ‘Dry Clean Only’ in a washing machine, there’s a chance that the trousers will come out of the appliance warped, shrunk and perhaps even damaged.

It’s likely that the intense heat and agitation will put a strain on the material’s fibres and will affect the trousers.

You may be able to reverse some of the issues noted, but this is additional work for you and it doesn’t always end well.

As you’d expect, the more intense the cycle is, the worse these effects can be.

In addition, what the trousers are made from will impact the outcome – some delicate materials are more resilient than others, so they may be able to handle a washing cycle better.

If you’re very lucky and you put your trousers through a gentle cycle with minimal spin and cold water, your trousers may escape the washing machine unscathed. 

Nonetheless, you must always read the care label on your suit trousers and adhere to the instructions you are given.

As a rule, if something says ‘Dry Clean Only’, the item must go to a shop to be dry cleaned.

Of course, you can buy DIY dry cleaning kits, but they get mixed results, and it is usually easier to just take your trousers to a professional.