Of course most Vintage Tack Roomers will have a butler* to ease them directly from steaming hunt clothes into a steaming bath (via a hot cocoa & brandy). Ho ho ho. But for those of us who don't have a Jeeves waiting to clean our hunt coat we're going to have to do it ourselves. Again and again, and again.
So how best to do it?
Being a bit conservative we're not going to suggest some of the ideas we've heard such as dunking it in a horse trough, pressure hosing it, or DIY dry-cleaning kits but we love hearing your experiences so get in touch if you've got a tried and tested method.
We suggest the following:
Place your wet and possibly very muddy coat on a good quality, supportive wooden coat hanger and hang it in a warm room to dry slowly away from direct heat. A door frame can serve as a useful drying rack, giving the coat plenty of space to let the air evenly inside and out.
If your coat is covered in horse slobber or mud that is really stubborn you might want to use a damp cloth to sponge the worst of it off before drying. A rule of thumb is to use as little water as you can. But cavalry wool twill is hard-wearing and those sheep know all weathers - they're no stranger to a bit of rain.
Resist the temptation to hang your coat over things like log burning stoves, Agas or heaters as too much direct heat can cause the coat to dry too quickly which may result in fabric damage. Hanging it over your oil heater may also result in you burning down your house, so that's best avoided too. Although it will certainly mean you have bigger things to worry about than whether your hunt coat is ready for Saturday...
Once your coat is dry use a natural bristle clothes brush to remove the dried mud and dirt. A double-sided brush with both stiff and soft bristles on opposite sides of the brush head is a great piece of equipment. First, use the stiffer bristles to remove the bigger pieces of mud, and then use the softer bristles to remove the residual dust. Natural bristles will do a better job of working themselves into the twill wool pile and are less abrasive than synthetic bristles.
We recommend the final brushing is done in daylight outside. Indoors in winter you'll think you've done a great job of brushing it down only to arrive outside at your Meet looking dusty in the daylight. Ideally travel with a soft bristle brush in your lorry or trailer for a final brush down.
If your coat needs a real cleaning overhaul you might want to have it dry-cleaned once or twice a season. If in doubt talk to your dry-cleaners about the coat. And DO remove any hunt buttons before dry-cleaning as the process will leach the engraving. Some people suggest covering the buttons with tin-foil as an alternative to having them taken off.
If, in the unfortunate event, you fall like a pancake in a field of pig slurry then ignore all the above advice. Simply use a match and firelighter to set fire to your coat (take it off first) and call us on 01403 700 953 and buy a new one. Or a new old one. Really.
Out of season, hanging your clean coat in a suit bag with a bag or two of lavender with cedar oil will help keep moths at bay. Keep a regular eye on your hunting clothes through summer. If you suspect moth then roll your coat up in a bag and pop it in the freezer for at least 12 hours to kill any larvae. They cannot survive a freeze, don't like dry, fresh air and don't like to be disturbed so airing your cupboards regularly and having a shake out of your beloved hunting kit will help keep them whole.
QUICK TIPS FOR COAT CLEANING
-Hang your coat to dry slowly away from direct heat
-Invest in a natural bristle brush for cleaning (a double-sided coat brush with stiff & soft bristles is perfect)
-Final brush in daylight
-Limit any dry-cleaning
-If you do dry-clean remember to remove, or cover up, engraved hunt buttons
-Leaving your coat crumpled in the foot well of your car for three days
-Hanging your coat over an oil heater and setting fire to your house
-'Showy' falls - needlessly making the cleaning harder
* Sometimes this heavenly creature answers to the name of 'Mother'.