Useful Tips for Longer Living Clothes

Useful Tips for Longer Living Clothes

09 Feb 2021

It's a fact the longer you have an item of clothing, the more you grow to love it. Investing in good quality clothes upfront and then maintaining them is satisfying, saves money, and helps look after the planet. Here are some useful for tips to make your clothes last longer.

Check the label before washing

Seems so basic we weren't sure whether to include it, but it’s easy to forget when you’re rushing through your washing after a long day. Sometimes the symbols can be a little hard to decipher, but it’s worth the effort in the long run and will save you from the despair of taking a ruined item out the washing machine.

Don’t wash your clothes as often

"Basically, in life, rule of thumb: if you don't absolutely have to clean anything, don't clean it." - Stella McCartney

Washing your clothes wears them out. The combination of heat, detergent and being thrown around, or “agitated” to use the industry term, in a washing machine is damaging. Unless you’ve been particularly active, or spoiled them somehow, it’s unlikely you need to change your t-shirt or shirt after a single day’s use. They might even last three or four wears; jumpers and cardigans even more. Sounds a little gross, but the sniff test works well. Another advantage of not washing your clothes as often: less laundry!

Some tips for how to neutralise odours from clothes between washes:

  • Air them outside after wearing (or at least outside your closet)
  • Hang them up in the bathroom when you take a shower (steam kills bacteria)
  • Spray with a solution made from three parts vodka and two parts water.

Wash at low temperatures

A sure-fire way of preserving your clothes is to wash cold or lukewarm, so 30 or even 20 degrees centigrade. The NHS (UK’s national health service) recommends that towels, bedding and underwear should always be washed at 60. But, unless heavily soiled, everything else can be happily washed in cold or warm water. Doing so will reduce fading and shrinkage, and you will also save on your energy bills.

Wash inside out

Any garment with a print or decoration should recommend this on the label, but it’s good practice to wash everything inside out. Washing clothes inside out means colours won’t fade as quickly. This is especially true of dark jeans and tops. It will also help with removing odours, so is perfect for workout gear too.

When washing, separate by colour and fabric

Such is the range of different fabrics used in clothing now it is probably more important to separate by fabric than it is by colour. This means that you can select a wash setting that is best for that fabric type e.g. “delicate” vs “normal”. Some fabrics don’t wash well together. For example, gym clothes and fleeces shouldn’t be washed together as the latter will cast fibres onto the former. Separating by colour is still advisable too but, as we’re washing at lower temperatures now, not so much of an issue.

Avoid the tumble dryer wherever possible

Tumble drying your clothes can cause them to shrink (this writer, for one, has had this painful experience). In fact, a study found that the dryer shrinks clothes twice as much as washing. But, further to this, the agitation from the tumble drying process causes microscopic wear to your clothes—check out the dryer’s lint compartment for evidence. Line drying outside is considered to be the best option.

clothes drying

Treat stains quickly

Whoops! You just dropped a spot of something (probably food) on yourself and it’s not a good look. As you’re probably already aware, it’s important to treat the stain quickly, so either carry around a stain removal pen or, if it is food or organic, soap or washing up liquid works well.

Jeans - to wash or not to wash?

How to best take care of jeans is a debated topic. Remember when Levi’s CEO, Chip Bergh, said he went 10 years without washing his jeans? Well, reading a little deeper, he does wash them just not in a washing machine. From personal experience, jeans don’t do well in washing machines, particularly black ones. Jeans can be kept looking fresh by wiping clean when needed and regular airing to neutralise odours. When they reach the point where you feel like they need to be washed, then the most gentle method is to soak in a lukewarm bath with some light detergent, rinse well and line dry. They wind up feeling all nice and soft.

Use a liquid detergent

Experts recommend using liquid detergent because it works better in colder water (which is what we want to be washing your clothes in). It also causes less agitation, and therefore wear, on clothes whilst they’re being washed.

Store in a cool, dry place

Mould is catastrophic for clothes. You might have seen it, it’s horrible. To prevent mould growing on clothes, it’s important to store them in a cool, dry place. It’s also important to make sure clothes are completely dry before putting them away. Other top tips are not packing together clothes too tightly and leaving the closet door open when possible so air can circulate. Your nose can help here. If your wardrobe and clothes smell musty then it’s likely you have a moisture problem and this should be dealt with.

Invest in some decent hangers

Clothes love to be hung properly, it shows them off and will also help them keep their shape over time. This is especially true for jackets when those cheap wire hangers definitely won’t cut it. Trust us, you’ll feel the difference when you put them on. Here’s some research into which hangers are best for which clothes.

clothes hanging up

Give your footwear regular TLC

Your shoes are hard walkers, sorry workers! They put in the hard miles and appreciate regular tender loving care to stay looking, and smelling, fresh. Footwear care is worth a whole article in itself but, in general, make sure to wipe off dirt regularly so it doesn’t set in and then and treat appropriately e.g. with suede/leather/material appropriate protector.

Mend regularly

Accidents happen and even the best quality garments will pick up wear and tear over time. If you notice damage simply mend promptly. It’s also worth making the effort once a year to go through clothes that you wear regularly and check for damage. You can then either make small repairs yourself or take to a tailor or cobbler for their expert skills.


Invest in better quality upfront

Even before you’ve purchased a garment you can set yourself up for a longer partnership. In general, investing a little more into a garment will mean it’s better quality and will last for longer. But that’s not always the case.

Some good indicators of quality clothes:

  • Tight seams - look for tighter, more frequent stitching at the seams
  • General neatness - do patterns match up at the seams? Are hems and button holes neatly finished?
  • There is a detailed care label with plenty fo information about the material
  • Positive customer reviews.

Steps for removing candle wax from clothing

We added this in because, contrary to what you might think, it's not the end of the world but does require a specific method.

  1. Don't panic. It's important you wait for the wax to dry
  2. Scrape off the top layer with a blunt knife. You’ll be left with the wax which has been absorbed into the fabric
  3. Heat up an iron on a medium-low heat
  4. Place a tea towel under the item of clothing
  5. Put a paper towel over the wax stain and press the iron on top. This will melt the wax which will then be absorbed into the paper towel
  6. Repeat until all the wax has been lifted using different parts of the paper towel as they become saturated with the wax
  7. Wash as normal (might not even need a wash).

Removing sweat stains from clothes

Sweat stains aren’t a good look for garments. They’re not caused by the sweat itself, but by chemicals in your antiperspirant. It’s best to keep on top of them but they’re a pain to get out! Like with any stain, it’s best to pretreat with an OxiClean or a vinegar and baking soda combination. More on that here.

Final thoughts

Nothing lasts forever and clothes are meant to be lived in after all. There's no point buying something to have hang folornly in your closet.

Caring for your clothes properly maximises your return on investment and helps protect the planet as well. With the right selection and then proper care, it’s possible to own clothes that last for decades. We're also seeing a move toward circular fashion, where brands will take back clothes and recycle them into new garments.

Remember, the best thing you can wear is a smile!

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