How to Care for your Kilt
A good kilt is a major investment so it makes sense to
look after it so that it might last a generation or
Kilts should obviously be hung so that they keep their shape and
a couple of new products have come onto the market which make that
task much easier. One is a wider version of a long
established skirt hanger and the other is a very simple and
effective low-tech clamp hanger (STA members can buy one
personalised with our coat of arms).
These two aids are set to replace conventional hanging devices
including the widely used loops sewn into the kilt as used in
ladies' skirts. The weight and width of an adult's kilt usually
results in it sagging badly.
Having fixed on your preferred method, store the kilt in a
plastic garment bag to protect it from moths and dust and then and
hang in the wardrobe. Don't cram it in, but ensure it hangs free
and unsquashed. It might be an idea to include a cedar-wood moth
repellant ring rather than the old-fashioned camphor moth-balls -
the smell of the latter might give the impression that you've just
stepped out of the family crypt for the evening.
If wearing a kilt when travelling, always smooth the pleats out
under your bottom as you sit down. It's a gesture that you'll have
seen women do with their skirts or dresses and it's particularly
important with the kilt. Don't worry about it looking effeminate -
do it with vigour and panache and no-one will think a thing about
it! As you sit down you could give the front of your kilt a bit of
a karate chop so that it settles between your thighs and makes a
home for your sporran. That avoids any involuntary and embarrassing
glances from onlookers asking themselves the perennial
Getting into a car sometimes causes problems for newly kilted
drivers. One of the best - and least revealing - methods is to sit
down on the car seat (having smoothed the pleats out as suggested
above) but with your legs out of the car. Then with one hand
holding the outboard side of the kilt, pivot round, bringing your
legs into the car. The pleats should lie flat for the whole
If you find that method awkward then with a hand on the steering
wheel put one leg into the car and then sweep the pleats out flat
with the free arm as you sit down and bring the second leg on board
all in one smooth and debonair manner!!
For long distances when you're unable to travel with the
garments on a hanger,the simplest and cheapest packing method is to
fasten the kilt buckle, lay the kilt out on a flat surface with the
apron uppermost. Starting from the left roll the pleats towards the
right (fringe) side. Slip the rolled kilt into an old nylon
stocking (or one leg of a pair of tights) with the foot cut off.
Place in your suitcase and even if you have to bend the top a
little bit, it won't come to any harm. When you remove the kilt
you'll have no problems with creasing and it should be ready to
wear. If for any reason you don't happen to have a footless lady's
stockingto hand or an old pair of tights, just fasten the kilt
buckles and laythe kilt flat in the bottom of your suitcase. As
long as you hang it upimmediately at journey's end, it shouldbe
fine. The remainder of the outfit should be packed as a normal
Do remember to pack your skean dhu in your hold luggage if
travelling by air - if it's in hand baggage you're going to have a
hard time gettig through security and may end up being jumped on
and having your valuable skean dubh confiscated.
There are a couple of specialised products available for packing
your kilt - one is a very smart kilt roll that takes the place of
those ladies' tights (which could be embarrassing under certain
circumstances) and the other is a travel bag for your complete
When faced with any light spot-cleaning jobs, Ruthven Milne of
Piob Mhor and his kiltmakers always use a proprietory babywipe
(those sweet-smelling ones for cleaning baby bots!). Ideally, if
you spill anything on your kilt, clean it immediately. Since you're
unlikely to have any baby wipes at the party, just use a clean
cloth and warm or cold water and take the worst off. If cleaning a
stubborn stain later, use the babywipes or, failing that, a
proprietary spot cleaner but do test it on the inside of the kilt
to make sure the cleaning doesn't leave a bigger mark than was
there in the first place.
Some kiltmakers advocate not sending your kilt to a dry-cleaner
- they say the process takes the stuffing out of it and if they
press it, you may end up with disastrous results. Ruthven Milne
recommends the dry-cleaning route but suggests you check out your
dry cleaner first - make sure they know what they're doing.
Warning: don't send your kilt to the cleaners without first basting
the pleats: basting is putting a tacking stitch right round the
bottom of the kilt to hold each pleat in place. Make sure each
pleat is the same width all the way down!
American kilt expert Bob Martin advocates washing a really dirty
kilt with cold water and then hosing it down! In his book "All
about your Kilt" (available in our online Shop) here's how he
suggests you do it!
1. Spot clean the cloth by putting undiluted
Ivory Snow liquid or its equivalent on each of the very soiled
areas and rubbing it in thoroughly. If the soilage is acute, a soft
brush may be called for. Fill the bath tub with about 8 inches of
cold water, adding 12 capfuls of the soap. Swish the kilt around
thoroughly making certain it is entirely soaked.
2. Then fold the kilt as it's worn and lay it in
the soapy water face down (front apron down), as this is where the
main soilage usually occurs. Let the kilt soak for about 30 to 45
minutes. Pull the kilt from the bath and, holding it over the bath,
let the dirty water drain off.
3. Now hang the kilt on the clothesline with
enough pins to ensure that it doesn't sag or fall to the ground and
get dirty again! Douse it completely with a garden hose making sure
that all the soap is removed within each pleat - outside and
inside. It's very important that ALL soap be removed.
4. Let the kilt drip-dry, preferably not in
direct sunlight. If the kilt is washed in the AM, it will be dry in
the PM, rain not withstanding.
5. Please note below how simple the pressing of
the pleats can be. And remember . . . you needn't worry that the
kilt will shrink. It's HEAT and/or AGITATION that shrinks wool.
Since we're talking of cold-water washing with a minimum of
agitation, no change will take place.
Bob ends this rather drastic advice with the warning:
"Now, although this method works well for me, I am not able to
personally control the process outlined here when YOU do it and I
must therefore disclaim any and all responsibility for any adverse
We think this might be fine for a coarse everyday kilt but
wouldn't dream of trying it on one that we were going to wear to a
Buckingham Palace Tea Party!
As the pleats don't lose all of their press when they're
cleaned, it's only necessary to identify the edge of each pleat and
then press on that same line. Use a steam iron with a pressing