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Making your clothes last that bit longer is a brilliant way to start living more sustainably. It can save you time, money and space in your life. But more importantly, it also helps save the planet by saving energy, reducing your carbon footprint and cutting consumption. So what are the best tips on how to make clothes last longer? Here is my ultimate guide on how to ensure that the clothes that you buy go further and stay looking fresher long term.
How To Make Clothes Last Longer – An Ultimate Guide
Before we start I do have to say – you are never going to get clothes that last forever. If you wear clothes, they do go through wear and tear everyday. But by implementing some of the following tips and strategies, you can have clothes that last for years before they need replacing. I still have clothes in my wardrobe and drawers that I have worn for the last 10 years, and I like to think that some of the following rules have helped me to achieve that!
A frightening statistic is that the average lifetime of a piece of clothing in the western world is just over 2 years. Over a third of people plan to wear a piece of clothing over 30 times, but 40% of people admit to throwing items away after 10 wears or less. Usually, people throw away items because they are faded, grey, or due to damage or loss of shape.
So what could you do to keep the clothes in your wardrobe last longer?
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
1. Do You Really Need These Clothes?
It may seem obvious, but before we start, prevention is obviously better than cure. Do you really need to buy so much?
Are those clothes in your wardrobe all being used? Do you really just buy what you need – or are you an impulse shopper?
One of my really bad habits when I first started earning a salary was buying clothes just for the sake of it. I used to go clothes shopping in sale season and just bought clothes because they fitted. Never really going with a plan of what I needed for my wardrobe, I bought a lot of clothes that ended up in my wardrobe with tags on a year later!
So my first tip is to think before you buy. Plan a capsule wardrobe with classic coordinated pieces and styles that never go out of fashion. You can always find a couple of fashionable pieces each year to keep abreast of the latest look. But actually true style never dates!
By having a capsule wardrobe, you leave space for everything to be seen. And that way you know that when a particular garment is reaching the end of its life, and you can plan to just buy the item you need to replace it.
2. Buy Quality Clothes
Quality in clothes does not always mean that they last. But they do have a tendency to be made well, and certainly made better than cheap clothing.
Furthermore, if you have spent a lot on an item of clothing, it does mean that you are more likely to look after it, and may even consider mending it if it tears, or replace the button if one is lost. The cheaper item of clothing is more likely to be consigned to the trash can.
If you do buy clothes, check the seams are well made and that there are no places where the stitching may break. If you see a weakness in the clothing, do not buy in the first place, and your clothes will inevitably last longer.
3. Avoid Getting Your Clothes Dirty In The First Place
My next big tip is to protect your clothes when you are wearing them wherever possible. Use an apron when cooking. Use a napkin when eating. Have play clothes for the children. That way, your clothes stay pristine for longer and don’t need washing quite as much!
How To Wash Clothes When You Want Them To Last
4. To Wash Or Not To Wash?
That is the question. The more you wash clothes, the quicker they do wear out, that is for certain. And in fact, some synthetic clothing fibres shed plastic polluting microfibres when they are washed, so the less they get washed the better.
You could get away with brushing some clothing. Wool coats and suits for instance may be fine just being brushed instead of cleaning.
But certainly the idea here is to wash your clothes less often. Maybe even try wearing them 2-3 times before washing. And some items, like sweaters and cardigans, that aren’t right next to the skin or sweat glands, can probably be washed even less frequently.
5. Spot Wash Where Possible
Also, instead of completely washing the whole garment, why not just spot wash the affected area? This will save the garment from being fully washed and help make it last longer in the long run.
However, do be away that some items, such as silk and satin materials may end up with water stains, and you may be as well hand washing the item. See no.7 for the care instructions.
6. Use A Stain Remover
If you do have a stain on a garment, do try getting it out with an appropriate stain remover. There are a host of stain remover pens and potions on the market. Again, check the care label and make sure that it is the appropriate one for the fabric. Also be aware that a lot of stain removers are chemical agents. Maybe think about trying a more natural solution, such as lemon juice, white vinegar or salt. But again check that the natural solution is not going to damage the fabric by trying it on a small inconspicuous portion first.
And do remember, if a stain doesn’t come out the first time you wash a garment, don’t let the garment dry or the stain may ‘set’. Try an alternative stain removing method whilst the garment is still wet!
7. Look At The Care Label
When you do wash, do take a look at the care label. These washing instructions do give you the best way to take care of the item.
So separate out your washing basket accordingly, and wash similar items together. And train everyone in your home to do this too. (Anyone else had a partner shrink their favourite sweater? Just me?)
8. Get The Optimum Wash Load Size
At the same time as you are sorting your washing, it is important not to wash too small a load, which wastes energy. Or wash too large a load, which doesn’t wash effectively. Don’t overfill or underfill your washing machine if possible.
9. Wash On A Lower Or Cold Temperature
And whilst we are still on the washing cycle, washing on a lower temperature not only saves energy, but it saves you money and stops clothes from fading and shrinking so much.
Washing on a cold or cooler temperature is a great idea. A 30 degree wash is fine, but did you know that 90% of the energy a washer rises is used on heating the water? SO by lowering the water temperature in your washer, you are not only getting your clothes to last longer, but you are reducing your energy wastage.
10. Think About A Gentle Hand Wash
As I mentioned above, hand washing can often be the gentlest way to wash a garment. If you can wash it in a cold wash, the fibres of the garment do not get as agitated and worn as they do in a washing machine. And so this should lead to less wear and fading of the clothing.
11. Close All Buttons And Zips Before Washing
It may take a little extra time, but by closing all zips and buttoning up all the garments, you prevent your clothes from snagging in the wash cycle.
12. Wash Dark Items And Prints Inside Out
This is a no-brainer, but dark items and prints really do fade in the wash. So to help prevent this as much as possible, it is a good idea to pull dark items, jeans and printed items inside out.
Also, a print on a t-shirt is less likely to crack and split if the t-shirt is washed inside out.
13. Wash Delicates In A Pillow Case Or Delicates Bag
With certain fabrics or garments, it is worth investing in some special delicate garment wash-bags. These can prevent these particular items from being snagged whilst being washed. Items such as tights, silk camisoles and lace undies last so much longer if washed inside a pillow case or special delicates bag.
Now I will admit, I do not use fabric softener, as I feel like I am just adding chemicals to my wash. But a fabric softener can reduce friction in the washing machine. The softener coats garment fibres with a lubricant to make them less clingy. This means less wear and tear in the wash to make clothes last longer.
But don’t add too much softener or you run the risk of it dulling the clothing. And maybe again try an eco friendly brand or natural solution.
15. Be Careful With Bleach
If you do use bleach, be very careful when using it, as any solution dropped on clothes can lead to an inevitable white stain in seconds. That being said, if you do inadvertently drop solution down your clothes, try to wash the garment immediately, and be careful not to mix the garment in with other laundry, as you may cause the bleach to run into other clothing too.
16. Wash Your Washer
Finally, in this section, from time to time it is a good idea to wash out your washer on a hot cycle with a limescale and deep cleaning solution. At the same time, remove mould and build up from the seals. This stops this residue from building up and spoiling your clothes.
How To Dry Clothes To Make Them Last Longer
17. Air Dry Instead Of Tumbling
Tumble drying clothes makes them fade quicker. Tumble drying can cause overheating and shrinkage of the fabric in our garments. So the more you can air dry clothes, the better.
18. But Air Dry Dark Clothes Indoors
But that being said, dark clothes tend to fade more in hot full sunlight. So if possible, drying dark clothes on a dryer indoors may be a better idea if you want to stop them from fading.
19. Dry Woolen Items Flat
It is always a good ideas to dry wooden items flat, as this stops the weight of the water in the wet garment from pulling the item out of shape. Buy a mesh screen to lay over the bath tub, or get an indoor dryer with a dedicated flat drying section.
Does Dry Cleaning Help Your Clothes Last Longer?
20. Dry Clean Only When Necessary
Again, dry cleaning involves chemicals. So it isn’t good for the planet. And furthermore it can fade your clothes.
21. Dry Clean All The Suit Together
Which is why my next tip is that if it is necessary to dry clean part of a suit outfit, that you should dry clean all parts of the suit together. If one part of the suit fades, it becomes less likely that you will wear it again.
Does Ironing Help Clothes Last Longer?
22. Watch The Heat Of The Iron
Again, if you are like me, you may never care to iron at all! And one good reason for this is a hot iron can totally shrink and fade a garment. So again, check the care label. And use only as hot an iron as is necessary to get the wrinkles out.
23. Consider Steaming
In fact, instead of ironing, why not consider using steam from the shower room or a dedicated steamer to smooth creases?
How To Store Clothes To Make Them Last Longer
24. Rotate Your Clothes
Try to wear all your wardrobe. We are all guilty of wearing the same 10% of our closet, but if you rotate the clothes you have, and keep enough space to see everything, it may help to make the clothes you do have last longer.
Consider keeping a winter and summer wardrobe where you store clothing in dedicated vacuum bags or containers, tucked under the bed or in a separate closet for six months of the year.
25. Mothproof Your Closets
There is nothing worse than finding moth holes in your favourite sweater, so invest in some mothballs or moth preventer sachets. Looking for a natural solution? Try cedar wood, peppermint oil, cloves and thyme or lavender bags.
26. Store Clothes Well
Make sure that your clothing wardrobes are clean, dry and dark to ensure that your clothes are left looking in tip top condition. Do not leave clothes exposed to full sun, or worse, partially exposed so that you end up with sun faded areas.
27. Get Better Hangers
Make sure that your clothes don’t get pulled out of shape by ill sized hangers. Make sure that the garments are fully supported and are on hangers of the right shape if you want to keep them looking better for longer.
28. Fold Heavy Clothes Rather Than Hang Them
Got heavy sweaters, shirts or dresses? Consider folding them and storing flat rather than hanging them. Thus the weight of the garment does not pull the item out of shape.
29. Keep Shoes And Bags In Dust Bags
You are given a dustbin with expensive shoes and handbags for a reason! It stops the bags and shoes from rubbing, getting marked and being damaged. So use them. Not been given a dustbag? Use an old pillow case. Or stack your shoes in their original boxes on your wardrobe floor.
30. Stuff Soft Shoes And Use Boot Savers.
Have long boots? Stop them from folding and save the leather from creases and cracking by stuffing the legs with paper or using long boot protectors. Similarly, stuff soft shoes with paper to stop them from collapsing inwards.
31. Waterproof Your Leather Goods Regularly
It is so important to waterproof your leather bags, shoes and coats before use, and topping this up regularly to help prevent them from getting stained. I swear by Collonil Spray, which is what Mulberry bags are recommended to be sprayed with. I have a spray version of this and it has lasted me ages!
Similarly, do waterproof your suede coats, bags and shoes with the corresponding suede protector. It will save so much time and heartbreak if anything does spill on these expensive items!
32. Defuzz and Depill Your Woolens
One of the easiest ways to spruce up an old sweater is to depill all those little bobbles that may have appeared whilst wearing. It can immediately rejuvenate a wooden garment!
So I would definitely recommend an electric depiller for your woollens.
And I even use these for my woven garments. My cats tend to leave pulls in some of my garments, and they are quickly removed with my depiller.
33. Get A Lint Roller
And if you do have animals, I cannot recommend a washable lint roller enough.
How Can I Make Black Clothing Last Longer?
Black and dark coloured clothing is certainly one of the first to fade. So by washing on a cooler cycle, washing inside out, checking the label, not tumble drying as often and drying indoors you are doing as much as you can to stop it fading to grey. But there is more you can do to help black clothes go on for longer.
34. Get Out The Dye
Got some faded jeans or a plain black garment that has gone grey? Why not dye them with a washer dye ball? These can be found in most supermarkets, and are a great way of revitalising old faded black clothing.
Similarly, have an old faded garment that you fancy reviving? Why not try a vibrant colour change using a bright coloured dye. It may just be what you need to keep the garment going that bit longer.
35. Watch Deodorants and Perfumes
Certain deodorants cause white staining on dark clothing. So do try a non stain version.
Similarly, all perfumes, hairsprays and make up can cause stains on clothes. So be careful with the war paint and hair lacquer if you want to protect your clothing and make it last longer. Maybe consider not getting dressed until all your make up is done.
How Do I Make Cotton Clothes Last?
Like dark coloured clothing, cotton is best washed on a cool wash, and dried in the shade. Another tip is to wash cotton clothes with a cupful of white vinegar. This prevents cotton clothes from fading.
How To Make Cheap Clothes Last Longer
This may not be possible. As I said right back at the start, cheap clothes are not made to last sometimes. In fact the whole point of fast fashion is to ensure you keep on buying clothes every season, or at least multiple times in a year. Check the seams are good. Buy classic pieces instead of the latest look. And maybe consider my last few ideas.
Alternative Ways To Ensure Your Clothes Get Worn For Longer
36. Learn How To Mend Your Clothes Well
Learning some of the ideas on how to mend your clothes will really help you to make your clothes last longer. Got a small hole or a button come off? It can be mended really easily rather than thrown away. Saving a garment from landfill, and saving you money.
37. Have A Clothes Swap
Why not host a clothes swap with friends? This is a brilliant way of making sure your clothes last longer, even if you won’t be the one wearing them.
38. Do A Fashion DIY
Think you can repurpose your clothes to make something else you can wear? Have a go. Maybe turn an old t-shirt into a sleeveless or crop top version. Or turn some old jeans into a skirt.
39. Donate Your Clothes To A Charity Shop
Again, you won’t be wearing the clothes in future, but that doesn’t mean they won’t ever be worn again. Save any good clothes from landfill by donating, and help a charitable cause out at the same time.
40. Upcycle Your Clothes Into Other Things
And finally, if all else fails, why not upcycle your clothes into other useful items? As you may know, this subject is probably one of the closest to my heart. And I have a large number of posts on what you can make. Either making new clothes, or items that you can use around the home. And this can save you even more money.
I hope that you have enjoyed these tips and tricks, and that you can make your clothing last longer by using some of them. Is there any that you have found particularly helpful? Any that you know of that I may have missed?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Comment below, or find me over on my social media channels.
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