The Closet

Whether you went all out in a spectacular costume or kept things simple as a ghost or a cat, the special care required to keep Halloween costumes clean can easily be overlooked.

Costumes are often made of inexpensive materials, like acetate or acrylic, and feature basic structure and stitching that are designed for one-time wear. So what happens when you find a great costume that deserves some extra mileage in future years? Carefully cleaning and storing your costume will ensure it can be re-used for the next spooky party.

Our guide will help you properly care for your Halloween costume so that it continues to trick without getting ruined by any treat-induced stains.

Pre (trick or) treat

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While you’re enjoying some candy, a melting chocolate bar or dripping caramel from a candy apple may make its way onto your costume. To take care of any Halloween food stains, pre-treat with a stain remover formula and let it soak for about 30 minutes. Costume fabrics usually aren’t particularly breathable, so you’ll also want to pre-treat areas where perspiration stains have occurred (such as under the arms and around the neck).

Keeping clean

Machine wash

Check your costume’s label for recommended washing instructions. If your costume is made out of cotton, polyester, acrylic or nylon, and doesn’t have special embellishments, it can likely be machine washed in cold water on the delicate cycle.

Hand wash

Costumes made of tulle or spandex can be gently hand-washed at home, even if they have sequins or plastic attachments. However, careful consideration must be taken when you’re cleaning these items yourself.

  1. Flip the costume inside out before placing it in cold water with a gentle laundry detergent.
  2. Knead the material in the water for a few minutes, then rinse thoroughly.
  3. Gently squeeze the costume to remove excess water, but take care not to wring it, which can weaken the stitching.

Professional care

Costumes labeled as “dry clean only”—especially with special embellishments or trims made of fur, leather, suede or feathers—should be taken to a professional, who will be equipped to provide a thorough cleaning.

Dry and iron

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Avoid the dryer, which can shrink a costume made of inexpensive fabrics (like acetate and polyester) by up to two sizes or ruin the material altogether. The dryer can also loosen the elasticity in spandex or nylon. Most costumes should be hung to dry, but ones with a distinct structure should be laid flat to dry in order to preserve their shapes.

If you need to remove any wrinkles, iron on the lowest heat setting. High heat can damage fabrics like acrylic, rayon and polyester. Always keep the iron moving so that you avoid overheating and ruining the fabric

Next season storage

To ensure that your favorite Halloween costume looks just as good next year, be extra diligent about storing it properly.

  • Delicate costumes with attachments or different parts should be hung so the material doesn’t stretch. Place them in a plastic garment bag and store in the closet until next year.
  • If your costume is made of a durable material, fold it carefully and store it in a sealed freezer bag to keep dust and mold out.
  • Costume accessories like broomsticks or wands should be wrapped in bubble wrap and kept safely in a box.
  • Stuff hats with paper to maintain their shape.
  • Place wigs on a styrofoam wig stand and keep them tucked in a sealed bag or box.

Halloween costumes aren’t meant to be worn all the time, but you might want to keep your favorite outfit on hand for future parties. By taking special care of your costume, you’ll make sure it gets a chance to scare again.

Photos: Eugenio Marongiu /, jp26jp, Tarzhanova /