While it’s true nothing lasts forever, most things we own can last a lot longer if we properly care for them, our clothes included. Caring for our wardrobe helps us look more put together, saves us money when compared to buying new items, and it’s notably better for our planet as a whole.
10 Ways to Take Care of Your Clothes
1. Buy quality clothing (aka no fast fashion)
There are a number reasons to forgo fast fashion in favor of more sustainable clothing, but one reason that may go overlooked has to do with caring for your garments. When you purchase from ethical, eco-friendly brands, the fabrics are typically higher quality than what you’d find from major retailers. Slow fashion tends to use naturally durable materials that require very little care, which means the lifespan of each piece is much longer, as well.
2. Pass on the dryer when possible
Dryers can certainly be convenient, yet it’s often in our best interest to avoid this appliance. Not only does using a dryer reduce fabric strength and cause pilling, but the amount of energy they require can cost you a lot of money and have a negative impact on our environment. Air-drying, on the hand, has real advantages for your clothing, from preventing static cling, to avoiding shrinkage, to reducing overall wear and tear the dryer may cause.
3. Wash your clothes less often
Chronically over-washing is a waste of resources, time, and money (thanks to significant utilities costs for water and electricity). Plus, common sense tells us the more we wash our clothes, the more they lose their quality — which is why there’s now so much support behind washing less frequently. Items like underwear or exercise clothing will inevitably need to be cleaned more often, but before you start casually tossing other garments into your laundry basket, consider whether they’re truly dirty or if they might benefit from a simple spot clean.
4. Let your garments breathe
In conjunction with numbers 2 and 3, giving your clothes some room to breathe is always a good idea. When we let our closets live on the floor, it invites all kinds of dirt and germs to take hold, and provides an opportunity for wrinkles to develop, as well. But by opting out of washing and instead hanging your clothes along an open rack, air can circulate around and through the fibers to freshen things up and help each piece retain its natural shape.
5. Be careful with the iron
At times, ironing can be essential to our clothing maintenance, and yet it still comes with its fair share of challenges. Without the right technique, you can damage your clothes in a few different ways, like transferring rust stains from a dirty iron or burning a hole in delicate fabrics if you pick the wrong setting. It’s recommended to iron clothes when they’re slightly damp (as water eases out the creases), but a few safer options are to steam clean or purchase wrinkle-free garments.
6. Remove stains right away
Spills are just a part of life, but that doesn't mean we have to let them ruin our day or our clothes. When food or drink ends up on our outfit, it’s important to act immediately; once the stain forms a chemical bond with the fabric, it’s more likely to become permanent. If you’re at a coffee shop and spill latte on your shirt, the best approach is to head for the bathroom and gently dab water on the area until the stain is saturated. Then, when you’re back home, treat the spot with whatever solvent (salt, vinegar, lemon juice) or cleaning agent you have on hand.
7. Wash your clothes inside out
During normal wear, clothes come in contact with our body as we move and sweat. By turning these garments inside out before washing, it ensures sweat stains get closer to our detergent, and protects the outer fibers from wearing down or fading as quickly. And on that note, warm water can also break down fibers and cause colors to fade, so whenever possible, washing in cold water is the preferred method for keeping your wardrobe looking sharp.
8. Make minor repairs yourself
At one time or another, most of us have snagged a new shirt on smothering sharp or had a button fall off of our favorite jacket. These situations are definitely inconvenient, but if you learn how to make minor repairs to your garments, you can keep your clothing in top condition for years to come. And if you aren’t comfortable doing this kind of maintenance yourself, look for an affordable tailor who can help patch up a hole or fix a zipper when yours is on the fritz.
9. Close fasteners to prevent snagging
Speaking of snags, there’s nothing worse than pulling your laundry out of the washer and realizing the zipper from your jeans caught on your loose-knit sweater. As frustrating as this might be, you can easily avoid these mishaps in the future. By closing or connecting all fasteners — this means zippers, buttons, strings, etc — you can prevent your garments from catching on one another, and keep them looking good as new with every wear.
10. Empty each of your pockets
It might seem obvious, but emptying out our pockets is a necessary step in the laundering process. Too often, we leave things like tissues, pens, and even lip color in the pockets of our pants or jackets, which can then cause a huge mess if they end up running through the wash. And these items don’t just wreak havoc on the pocket where they’re hiding; they can actually get caught up in the spin cycle and stain other garments in the wash with them.
Why it’s Important to Take Care of Your Clothes
Although kids tend to grow out of their clothing fairly quickly, adults can hang onto theirs for years as long as they implement proper care. Longer-lasting garments means more money in your wallet, so it’s smart to do everything you can to preserve the pieces you own. In addition to taking good care of your clothes, you can also save money in the long run by investing in quality, sustainable pieces you’ll love to wear on repeat.
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Changing the way you wash and care for your clothes is an incredibly practical way to lower your carbon footprint and take initiative in how you care for our planet. If you’re not able to wash your clothes less often, committing to washing full loads of laundry is the next best thing, as it’s much more energy and water-efficient than washing only a few garments at a time. Plus, washing clothes on a cool setting can cut your energy use in a big way, as roughly 75 percent of the energy required to do a load of laundry goes into heating the water — wild, right?
Be socially responsible
When we take care of our clothes, it’s truly a step in being more socially responsible. This practice shows respect for the team or individual who made the item, respect for ourselves and the hard-earned money we used to purchase, and respect for the environment as we ensure more of our clothing doesn’t end up in the landfill after we carelessly toss it out. Lastly, we can actually show respect for the garments themselves. Our clothes keep us warm and protect us from the elements, so why not treat them kindly in return?
When you put a little extra effort into cleaning, drying, and storing, your clothes will enjoy a much longer life and look better every time you put them on. If you take the time to incorporate our suggestions into your ongoing laundry routine, we’re sure your clothes will be in great shape for seasons to come!