Hosing, dunking, brushing when wet, letting it dry, hovering or dry-cleaning? Horse & Hound’s hunting editor investigates the most effective ways of cleaning your hunting coat
The hunting season is, in the vast majority of places, over. It’s been a good one — but if it had had a theme tune, it would have been “mud, mud, glorious mud”. While there is nothing indeed like it for cooling the blood, the endless cleaning of horses and kit does become a bit tedious.
Now it’s time to store those hunting boots (clean, and with a good layer of polish) and hang the hunting coat in the wardrobe.
But before you do, what really is the best way to clean your hunting coat?
To wash or not to wash?
It’s a question hunting people can argue about for hours. Do you brush it when it is wet or dry? Some recommend dunking it in a butt of rainwater and scrubbing while wet. Rainwater is softer than the stuff that comes out of the tap, and does less damage to the cloth.
“I put mine in the water trough and leave overnight, heave it out, hang it in a stable and leave to dry,” says Ledbury joint-master Louise Daly.
Cottesmore hunt secretary Clare Bell says: “If I have been unlucky enough to fall off, I hose it down in the wash box, then hang above the log burner to dry.”
“Hang it outside on the garden gate and wet scrub it with not too hard a brush and warm water,” says the Heythrop’s Jane Lambert.
If, like me, you live in a flat and the facilities are limited, it might be easier to leave it to dry. I then pick the biggest lumps of mud off with my finger nails, brush the rest with a stiff brush, then sponge the remaining stains. And maybe have a little cry because it is such an annoying job and it gives me arm ache.
Former H&H editor Lucy Higginson says: “I have settled on a blunt knife to remove dried mud blobs first. Then a nailbrush with warm water, blotted up by an old tea towel.”
Mike Lane, master and huntsman of the Atherstone, says: “My hunting coat is over 60 years old. It’s a great old cloth that will take a stiff brush when dry, but if it’s terribly muddy I use the pressure washer standing quite a way back and on a low heat.”
Choosing the right brush to clean a hunting coat
What sort of a brush you use will slightly depend on the type of cloth the coat is made of — modern, lighter-weight coats won’t take being scrubbed very hard with a stiff brush very well. A clean dandy brush might be gentler.
Dressage and showing star Louise Bell says: “Use a good quality dandy brush — elbow grease and a wet brush to finish, then leave to dry somewhere airy but not too hot to avoid shrinking.”
It’s not just mud you need to remove, it’s also horse sweat, particularly round the cuffs.
“The only way to remove it is a stiff brush with very hot water,” says the Ledbury’s Tom Leeke. “Once a season I use a steam cleaner — it brings up the nap beautifully.”
What about dry-cleaning?
Most serious hunting people would throw their hands up in horror, claiming it ruins the cloth and removes its waterproofing qualities. I don’t recommend it for proper, thick, black/blue/red coats, but I think you can get away with it every now and then with a tweed coat.
Journalist Camilla Swift points out: “Don’t dry-clean, but if you must, make sure to cover up your hunt buttons with foil or plastic bags, as the white will come off the lettering and you will have to get the Tippex pen out!”
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Can a hoover clean a hunting coat?
Hoovering seems to be popular.
Becky Blandford says: “I use a suede brush to get the mud off, than use my hand-held hoover all over it. Then I put it on just before I leave to go hunting and my groom gives me another hoover.”
Apparently the upholstery attachment works best…
The Cotley’s Lucinda Eames is another hovering fan.
“Let it dry, brush and then finally hoover,” she recommends.
And what about a washing machine?
You would have thought a washing machine would be a total no-no. But Fiona Garfield, who hunts in Herefordshire, says: “At the end of the season I put it in the washing machine with wool-wash liquid on a cold cycle. It comes out like new; it hasn’t shrunk and is still waterproof.”
I admit that once, after emerging from a bog in Ireland covered from head to toe in liquid mud and knowing that I had to be clean and ready to go again the following day, the mother of the friend I was staying with hosed my coat and then put it in the tumble-dryer. It worked perfectly, but I’m sure if I did it myself it would shrink.
But really, having “staff” is surely the answer. Hand it over in its natural state, and expect it back, immaculate, before you next need it.
“I suggest you interview my valet,” says former Cottesmore joint-master Richard Hunnisett.
That’s more like it.
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