We all know that you can build a long-lasting wardrobe by buying clothes that are good quality and are meant to last more than a few seasons in style. To truly ensure that your clothes last as long as you’d like to wear them, you need to take proper care of them. Here are 5 tips to make your clothes last longer.
- Spot clean your clothes
I know that many people tend to throw their clothes into the laundry bin quite easily and often –whether because they think everything should be washed after 1-2 uses, or because they don’t want to put the garment back in the closet with other clean clothes. Obviously some items need to be washed immediately after the first use, like underwear and activewear, but most clothes can be worn multiple times with just a little effort.
It’s easier to just throw a shirt in the washing machine rather than take the time to spot clean even a tiny little food stain. However, washing your clothes is stressful for the garment for a number of reasons: the fabric wears down, the stitches suffer, the shape can be compromised, etc.
Make an effort to spot clean whenever you can, in order to spare your clothes from unnecessary washes. This is valid also for stains in the back of the neck, which are oftentimes the reason why we feel the need to wash a shirt: buy a natural sponge (those fluffy, yellow sponges that dry up when they’re dry), soak it in tepid water, add a drop of detergent, and brush it gently over the stained area. Rinse off with cold water and repeat if necessary. Armpit stains – another curse for our precious garments – can be easily avoided by buying a deodorant without aluminum (this is the best on the market according to my experience).
- Aerate your clothes
Another way to save your clothes from a trip to the washing machine is to let them aerate immediately after you remove them in order to get rid of any trace of smell. Leaving your clothes hanging will encourage the air to circulate through the fibers, and it will most likely get rid of most smells, including sweat. If you enjoy the smell of fresh laundry every time you wear something, you can put some water in a spray bottle along with 4-5 drops of essential lavender oil or 8-10 drops of orange blossom water, and spray down the clothes while they hang. If your shirts are not completely soaked in sweat, you will probably be able to do this trick at least a couple of times before inevitably sending them to their washing destination.
For jeans and sneakers, as odd as it may sound, putting them in the freezer is an excellent option to avoid throwing them in the washer, as the cold kills the bacteria responsible for the smell. Just make sure to seal everything in a plastic bag if you don’t want your next steak to smell like the gym’s locker room.
- Avoid machine washing
Again, it is way easier to throw everything in the washing machine and come back an hour later to freshly laundered clothes. However, machine wash can be quite stressful for garments, even if you use cold or lukewarm water. Natural fibers don’t like being tumbled around, especially if other items in the machine have stiff, pointy, and hard parts like buttons, zippers, and chains that can potentially damage them. Additionally, elastane fibers suffer from heat, and after repeated exposure they eventually lose their elasticity and alter the shape of the clothes. Avoid machine-washing at least for your favorite items and for those with natural fibers, and prefer a simple soak in lukewarm water. Trust me, most items do not need energetic washing and tumbling to get back to a neat state, and water and a tiny bit of detergent will do the trick.
- Store seasonal items in fabric garment bags
Many people use plastic bags when it comes to storing clothes and making space for seasonal items. While this protects them against insects and moths, you have to consider that humidity is just as harmful for textiles, and plastic bags generate of lot of it – even in the driest environment.
The Hanger Project offers a variety of garment bags made of cotton twill; they’re affordable, breathable, and reusable, and they’ll protect your suits and coats until the time to use them again comes.
- Do not dry your clothes in the dryer
I first encountered a dryer 5 years ago, during my first visit to the States. As an Italian who used to hangs her clothes on the balcony to let them dry, I had no idea such thing as a dryer even existed, until my then-boyfriend-now-husband threw my favorite pair of jeans inside his, and returned them to me two sizes smaller. Since then, I refuse to use the dryer for anything that I care about. I am fine with underwear, t-shirts, pajamas, and everything that is not meant to last a lifetime, but I hang all my precious textile belongings in the bathroom (sadly, in the US I don’t have a balcony to hang my clothes en plein air).
I’ve noticed that the few times I washed and dried my pants, they shrunk to a size smaller, only to loosen to a bigger size the first time I wore them, leaving me with no other choice but to throw them back in the dryer to shrink them again. This happens especially to clothes that have a percentage of elastane in the fibers, as elastane doesn’t react well to heat, and eventually it loses its properties.
This is everything! I hope these tips will be useful to some of you, and that they’ll extend the lifespan of your clothes so that you can enjoy them for years to come.
By the way, let me tell you that you guys in America are really missing out not drying your clothes outside, as there is almost no feeling more beautiful than wearing something that has been soaked up in the sunshine.
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