Making your clothing last longer not only makes good financial sense, it’s better for the environment as well. You save yourself the time and effort of buying replacements, and you’ll look great with less effort than you think. All it takes is making some basic changes to your everyday habits.
It Starts at the Store
1. Take into account your ability to do upkeep on your wardrobe. If you don’t like to iron, then don’t go for linen or cotton items. Instead, try our corduroy, Tencel denim, wool, jersey, regular denim, and our lightweight printed garments, as those fabrics need less overall care. If you are uncomfortable with dry cleaning, either because of the expense or because of the toxic chemicals used in the process, simply avoid clothing that requires “dry clean only.”
2. Buy high quality items that you know will last. Buy the best you can afford, because it’s actually less expensive than having to re-purchase cheaper quality garments when they quickly wear out. A properly cared-for high quality garment should last you through several seasons. Make sure that the items fit well, and that they are made from durable fabrics.
3. Third, buy items in the same general color palette so that almost anything will match anything else. This actually expands your fashion and style options with fewer pieces taking up space in your closet. You can mix and match freely instead of having entire outfits of clothes that only match one other piece. Go for classic designs rather than jumping on the latest trends and you will always look timeless.
If you have trouble coming up with a palette of colors to suit your taste, it helps to start with one key piece, and build from there. There are lots of ‘color palette generators’ to be found online where you can upload an image and it will generate color suggestions for you. I uploaded a picture of our Tencel Denim Jacket (US, UK, Canada), and a website called “Color Hunter” gave me the following palette to work from. This is one site from many, so have fun!
Take Care from the Get-Go
4. Don’t do as much laundry. Washing your items with unnecessary frequency tends to wear them out faster. Instead, change your clothes as soon as you get home into something that you don’t mind accidentally spilling coffee on, or receiving peanut butter fingerprints from tiny hands. Take them off, and hang them up. Keep them on nice fat hangers—-not the thin wire kind. Broader, nicer hangers protect the shoulders of your garments from wearing out prematurely.
5. If you wear undershirts, this can also help to prolong time between washes, as the undershirt will protect clothing from sweat stains and even improve the way some fabrics drape over the body.
6. When you do have to wash your garments, follow the care instructions on the label. Are the care instructions in symbol form? No problem! Here is a handy chart you can reference. When you wash your clothes, zip the zippers, button the buttons, and wash things inside out. This reduces the wear and tear on other garments. Also, don’t wash very delicate items with coarser fabrics, as this can lead to damage. And, sort according to color: lights with lights and darks with darks. That way if one fabric bleeds a little bit, it won’t ruin that lovely beige skirt that you just invested a large amount of time, effort, and money to acquire.
7. Washing in cold water not only saves you money, but can also help many fabrics hold up better over time. There are even special detergents for cold water, if you are convinced that your clothing just isn’t getting quite as clean as before. With detergent, make sure you are using the proper amount, as extra detergent can stay in the fabric, causing damage to the garment and irritating your skin.
8. Use These Clothing Helpers!
A. a lint roller. Taking a quick sweep with one of these will give your black trousers a new look in no time.
B. extra buttons. It’s inevitable—buttons will come off, so as soon as you get that new garment home, stash those extra buttons in one special place so that your new sweater doesn’t quickly become useless. It’s actually very simple to sew on a button, and here’s a link to a quick tutorial to get you started.
C. patches! As soon as your little one’s jeans start to develop small holes, you can pick up some fabric patches that are attached by ironing, sew a patch on from a different fabric, or just stitch up that hole yourself using a needle and thread.
D. A clothesline or drying rack. Avoiding the dryer is not only environmentally friendly, it saves a lot of wear and tear on your clothing. Easy to construct, you can even dry your clothing indoors if you are an allergy sufferer, or simply do not want your clothing bleached by the sun or rained on. If you love the feel of clothing from the dryer, try to avoid over-drying and remove the clothing while still damp.
For Stains and Storage
9. Treat the stain as quickly as possible after it occurs. This will make it more likely that it won’t set into the fabric. For food and grease, try dish soap. For ink, using a napkin, try dabbing a bit of hairspray on the spot to lift the ink. For blood, hydrogen peroxide often works.
10. Un-crowd your closets! If your clothing is all mashed together, it causes wrinkles and creates more work for you. Pare down to key wardrobe pieces that you can layer, interchange easily, and are seasonally appropriate.
Don’t hang your sweaters. This causes them to sag and may stretch them out of shape. Instead, lay them flat to dry and fold them when you put them away.
For clothing that is out of season, it doesn’t hurt to store it in plastic tote containers to keep it safe from moths or other insects who would find your wool to be a feast. Instead of mothballs, try cedar blocks. They smell better and don’t emit toxic chemicals.
When you pare down your closet, don’t just throw out your old, stained, or unwanted clothes. If they truly are unwearable, use them for dust rags, craft projects, or patches. If they are still in good shape, then donate them! There are sure to be a number of charities in your local area that would welcome your donation.
For further reading and tips, check out the SHUKR guide to fabric care:
Many thanks to these websites for inspiration and guidance. Please visit them for more tips and in-depth discussions regarding clothing care:
16 Ways to Make Your Clothing Last Longer (Without Spending Big) on WiseBread by Andrea Dickson
How to Make Your Clothes Last Longer on eHow, by Christine Sostarich
Tips to Make Your Clothing Last, by Fabric Link
7 Frugal Tips to Clean and Care for Your Clothes, by JT on The Smarter Wallet