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28 May

The Ultimate Guide To Making Your Clothes Last Longer

For eco-conscious fashion fans, making clothes last longer is the first step to an ethical and sustainable wardrobe. Not only does it save us time and money, it cuts our consumption and helps to reduce our carbon footprint.
There are so many things we can do to keep our cherished pieces looking fresh and new. Get in to these good habits with our ultimate guide to making your clothes last longer.

1. Buy Quality Pieces

Would you rather buy one $300 jacket to last you multiple seasons or five new $100 ones each season? As well as being better for the planet, people and animals, higher quality pieces will often last longer due to superior materials and construction. Make a note of  wardrobe staples that will (hopefully) last you the distance, and don’t be afraid to spend a little more on them. You’ll value them a lot more, and they will last you longer than items that are trend-focused.

2. Use a Delicates Bag

You may have already cottoned onto this one, but unfortunately, when I first moved out I had to learn this the hard way. Instead of having your delicate underwear or garments rip in the washing machine, invest in a few delicates bags that will help preserve the lifespan of your intimates.

3. Carry a Stain Removal Pen

Those of you who are really organised may like to keep a stain removal pen in your handbag. This will allow you to tend to stains as they happen so that those red wine or grass stains are less likely to ruin your favourite garment.

4. Wash Less

Now don’t screw up your nose! We’re not talking about walking around in public with a swarm of flies hovering close by! Think about what your garment goes through every time you wash it; tumbling in a washing machine with loads of other pieces. Not only is it likely to be drained of its colour and have elastic stretch, it may end up in a hot dryer only to shrink, fade and sometimes fall apart altogether. Unless something is visibly dirty or on the nose, take the challenge to wear your garments at least three times before they hit the laundry.

5. Don’t Dry Clean Often

This tip is particularly relevant for men who may be tempted to dry-clean their suits and personal pieces more than necessary. Other than the huge expense of dry-cleaning, the process involves the use of harsh chemicals that not only harm the fabric but the environment too! This causes expensive pieces, such as suits to wear out and fade a lot faster than they should. Alternatively, hang the item in the bathroom whilst you shower. This allows the steam to refresh your outfit without the help of any chemicals.

6. Get it right in the washing machine

Putting a wash on when you don’t have a full load obviously wastes water, but at the same time, cramming your whole wardrobe in and overfilling the machine isn’t good for your clothes. Not only do the clothes not wash properly, they will also rub against each other and cause damage and fading. Another tip to prevent fading is to wash on cold.

7. Reduce the Amount of Detergent

Other than being harmful for the environment, a large amount of detergent can actually make your clothes more dull and stiff. Instead, use ½ the prescribed amount of detergent and ½ cup of baking soda, which acts as a detergent booster. This will make your clothes just as clean as regular detergent and will help you lower your home footprint too!

8. Wash Dark Clothing Inside Out

To avoid all your favourite dark garments from fading, wash them inside out to preserve their colour. The same goes for t-shirts – turning them inside out will prevent the print from cracking and/or fading.

9. Use a Clothesline or Drying Rack

If it’s not drizzling outside, the sun does a much better job drying your clothes than your energy-consuming dryer. Other than being a lot kinder on your electricity bill, using a clothesline or drying rack will avoid overheating and potential shrinking of garments in the dryer. This is particularly relevant for intimate apparel and active-wear, with heat known for breaking down the elasticity in garments, causing unwanted stretching.

10. Store in a Cool and Dry Environment

Clothes are just like us – they don’t want to be kept in confined spaces and are often vulnerable to over-exposure of light. This means avoiding storing your clothes in places like a moldy basement or your bathroom, where bacteria can grow and ruin them. By giving them a little breathing space in your wardrobe, you will also avoid wrinkling and colour fading from clothes rubbing against each other. Store suits on a hanger in a breathable canvas bag, to ensure less creasing and avoid mould or other nasty stuff.

11. Fold Heavy Sweaters on a Shelf

Now this may seem pretty straightforward, but for those of you don’t already do this (I’m guilty too!), it can make a real difference. If you’re hanging heavy sweaters, the fabric will start to stretch and you’ll be left with a sad, droopy jumper that you won’t want to wear. A little extra tip: store your sweaters with lavender, bay leaves or scraps of cedar wood in Summer to prevent finding a few unwanted moth holes by the time Winter hits!

12. Buy Better Hangers

Most plastic and wire hangers will stretch out the shoulders of your garments and leave you with saggy clothing. Despite being a little more expensive, wooden hangers will last longer and take better care of your garments.

13. Know Your Iron

For those of you who stay well away from your iron (*cough*), you may be doing your clothes a favour! Many people don’t set their irons at the right temperature for specific garments. This can result in shrinkage and – if you’re like me – burning straight through your favourite lace dress. A good rule of thumb is that you’ll get most light creases out by setting the iron a setting or two below what’s recommended.

And if you think you can ditch the iron completely, try to give your clothes a good shake before you hang them out. If you then give them plenty of space on the line you’ll avoid heavy creasing in the first place.

14. Use a Dye Bath

Most garments fade over time and lose their colour (especially if you’re a serial washer). If you’re not quite ready to let go of your favourite black jeans or white t-shirt, why not give them a dye bath to rejuvenate their colour? All you have to do is add some coloured dye to a bucket with the directed amount of water and voila – your clothes will look as good as new! Make sure you only use this method on block-coloured garments, and always wash with like colours the first few times so the dye doesn’t run.

15. Learn Basic Mending

How many pieces of clothing have you thrown away after a strap comes loose or a button falls off? Instead of tossing it or taking it to your local dressmaker, learn a few basic mending tips that will save your garment and your money. Luckily I’ve been hoarding free hotel sewing kits!

Have you got any sure-fire ways to making your clothes last longer? Let us know how in the comments below.

Editor's note

Images via Unsplash. This article was first published in May 2015 and updated by the editor in May 2018.

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