The way we look after our clothing makes a huge difference to its lifespan. Especially since the largest part of a garment’s life is spent in the hands of the consumer. By simply looking after your clothes properly, you can help to reduce its carbon footprint as well as your electricity bill.
We’ve gathered some useful tips below so that you too can make sure your clothing lasts longer.
Start With Quality
I’m not saying go and buy the most expensive clothes you can find, but spending a bit more on quality, well-made pieces that won’t go out of fashion can help you build a wonderful base wardrobe that will last. Try to look for clues that an item is made to last in details such as tight seams and buttons, the thickness of the fabric and attention to detail. Then you can feel good about adding in a few trendier pieces for the season.
Only wash when dirty
It’s easy for clothes to end up in the washing machine, even when they’re not really dirty. If there are no visible marks or odour, try hanging your clothes inside-out on a hanger to air them out. Or if there’s a small mark, why not try removing it by hand?
Instead of re-washing a clean but wrinkled dress or top, my advice is to hang them up in the bathroom while taking a bath or shower – it will act the same as a steamer.
You may not know this, but too much detergent, soaking and spinning can wear fabric out, so try to wash items only when they really need it.
Read Care Labels
When you do wash your clothes, don’t forget to pay attention to the care label sewn into the side-seam or the back neck. It gives you important information on how to wash, dry and care for the garment so that it stays in good condition.
Get to know your settings
I know, I know, none of us enjoy reading instruction manuals. But reading up on your washing machine model can help immensely, teaching you what each setting is meant for and when they should be used.
‘Delicate’, for example, traditionally works well for lingerie (if you insist on washing it in the machine), but it is also effective for clothing that you want to treat gently and preserve.
Wash dark clothing inside out
Darker fabrics can easily become faded in the wash, partially because they rub against other garments. Always wash dark jeans, black dresses and other dark fabric garments inside out to ensure they hold their colour.
Wash your underwear by hand
Although it does take a bit more time to wash by hand, there’s nothing worse than investing in beautiful lingerie only to pull it out of the washing machine and it’s completely ruined! The underwiring in bras can become misshapen in a washing machine, affecting the support it gives you. If you really can’t be bothered with hand-washing, invest in an underwear bag.
Keep it cool
When it comes to washing temperatures, colder is better. Modern detergents are made to work just as well in cold water and the shorter the program, the less your carbon footprint ends up being. You save 50% on energy when doing a 30-degree program rather then 60-degrees. So choose wisely.
Invest in a drying rack or clothesline
If you don’t have somewhere to line-dry your clothes, they will usually end up in the dryer, which is awful for the garments themselves as well as a huge use of electricity.
A clothesline or drying rack is not expensive and it can help you save massively on electricity costs as well as extend the life of your clothing- a win all around.
Quick Tip: don’t put dark colours in bright sunlight or they’ll fade.
Cut down on machine drying time
The dryer is super heavy on your energy usage, so cutting down drying time can help both your electricity bill and the environment. If you do use it, remember to regularly clean out the lint trap in your dryer and make sure that it isn’t blocked up with lint- making it take longer for clothes to dry.
Iron with care
Your iron works by using heat to loosen the fibers of your fabric, pressing it flat. Unfortunately this can often lead to a scorched white shirt or a hole burnt where you really wish it hadn’t been. Too much heat on certain delicate fabrics can ruin them beyond use, so make sure you are using the right level of heat for the type of fabric you’re ironing.
A steamer is another great option for people with little time. It uses moisture and heat to release wrinkles while clothes are on the hanger and is used by most retail clothing stores, so it has to be efficient!
Storing your clothes
Keep it cool, keep it dry
Too much moisture can encourage mould to grow where it shouldn’t, like on clothes. So please don’t store clothes in a humid bathroom or a moist closet, they should always stay cool and dry.
Give your clothes space to breathe
I know, I know, if it looks like there’s no space, you can usually squish a bit harder and you’ll find a spot to stuff a few more items in. But this can result in wrinkling and fading of fabrics as they rub together constantly.
If you’re struggling to fit any more clothing into your cupboard, maybe it’s time for a wardrobe cleanup? Otherwise, if you really don’t want to get rid of anything, look for other storage solutions so that you can take some pressure off of your poor cupboard.
Fold heavy knitted items on a shelf
Ever notice how a few months after you’ve bought a gorgeous jersey or pullover, you’ll often find that the sleeves and body have become completely stretched, distorting the garment so that it’s unwearable? This is because these heavier fabrics such as wool stretch out when hung out on hangers. The best way to look after them is to fold them neatly on a shelf to keep their shape.
Secure zippers and buttons
It often happens that a wayward zipper on one garment snags or scratches another item in close proximity. Make sure that any metal objects such as zippers or studs, even plastic buttons, are fastened when hanging your clothes up.
Buy good quality hangers
Wire or plastic hangers can stretch out the shoulders of your garments, making them fit oddly on your body. Investing in better hangers, such as wood or plush armed hangers, help to keep the garments shape, making it worth the small investment.
Storing away for the season
When the seasons change, so should your wardrobe. Separate your clothes into those that need to be washed and stored away, and those to be taken out for the new season. This is also a good time to do a seasonal wardrobe clean and will ensure that your clothing can breathe… You weren’t really going to wear that puffer jacket in Summer anyway, were you?
Learn the basics of repairs
Learning how to do basic repairs on clothing, such as replacing a missing button or a loose thread, can make them last longer and save you money. A simple sewing kit is cheap and contains everything you need for a basic repair.
If you’ve never sewn before there are also thousands of online videos that can teach you anything you may need to know from fixing a zipper to sewing on a button or even patching a tear or hole.
Last thoughts on clothing care
Clothing is not made to last forever. Fabric fades and wears out, and even changes shape after a while of use. However, being more aware and careful in how you clean, dry and store your clothing can add years of extra wear to each piece in your closet, lower your carbon footprint and save you money… a WIN all around.