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Tartan Ferret
Giving your kilt a bath!

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 two!


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 aA dedicated kilt hanger 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.

Sagging kilt on wooden hanger  The low-tech clamp hanger

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 question.

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 journey.

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 dinner suit.

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 outfit.

A canvas case for a rolled kilt.  A special kilt carrier


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 results"

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 cloth.

© Scottish Tartans Authority
Scottish Tartans Authority (Scottish limited company no. 162386), c/o J & H Mitchell, 51 Atholl Road, Pitlochry, PH16 5BU
Scottish Charity Number SCO24310

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