Nick, London: Do you have any practical tips for dealing with stains on clothing and other practical tips?

Sure. First, some practical tips to deal with problems if you are on the road and not within reach of a good haberdasher.

Situation: Unshined shoes.
What to do: First, try rubbing them lightly with a cloth or towel. Much of what appears to be a dullness in the leather is often accumulated dust. In fact, this should generally be done every morning before putting on your shoes. The old rubbing-the-toes-on-the-back-of-your-trouser-leg trick also works, though it doesn’t deal with much other than the toes.

If you’re desperate, eat a banana. Then use the banana peel to give a temporary shine to your shoes. It’s not ideal, but it won’t damage the leather, being natural. Avoid any “quick shine” products as they normally contain silicone, which is effectively giving your shoes a plastic coating.

Situation: Popped a shirt button
What to do: Use a safety pin. What do you mean you don’t carry a safety pin? Well find one and use it to fasten the shirt, making sure that both ends of the pin lie flat against the shirt.

Situation: Spilled wine on yourself
What to do: Using a dry white napkin, soak up as much liquid as possible from the surface before it’s absorbed, then dab on cold water so the stain stays damp and doesn’t set. Never rub. If the stain is on a suit or tie, ask someone to recommend a good dry cleaner and go immediately. If it is on a shirt, put straight in the wash.

Situation: Your zipper is stuck
What to do: Check to make sure no fabric is caught; if it is, try pulling the zipper up and then down again. Finally, rub the tip of a graphite pencil along the zipper. Graphite powder is a great dry lubricant.

Situation: Static cling
What to do: Find a wire hanger in a nearby coat closet and rub it along the clingy area; the metal will remove the charge.

And one more non-clothing tip…

Situation: Bad breath in the middle of a party
What to do: Find a glass of water and a lemon. Squeeze as much of the lemon into the water as you can. Either drink it or, if you’re hidden away in a corner somewhere, gargle it.
Next week, some general maintenance tips for your suits…
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Easy and Elegant Life

If you manage to get a spot of water on your tie, take the back blade and rub the spot — it will transfer to the back. Weird, but wonderful.

Easy and Elegant Life

I believe that the tie must be silk, yes. Using another piece of silk or your pocket square would probably work, too. I’ve only used the back blade of the damaged tie for fear of ruining another article of clothing.


I’ve had great success in removing wine from natural fibers with a product from a New York brand called The Laundress. It’s called Stain Solution and I never travel without it.

Claus M

Fresh wine stains also come out almost completely if you immediately cover the stain with an abundant amount of salt (of course, the practicality of it depends on where the stain is or on whether you can take the garment off). If applied immediately, salt absorbs most of the liquid.