How To Make Your Clothes Last Longer
So now that we’ve addressed what sustainable fashion is, why it matters, and how you can get started, let’s talk about your current closet. Overall, three key points to adopting a more sustainable wardrobe include consuming less, taking better care of your existing clothes, and shopping sustainably.
Have you ever given any thought as to how you were taking care of your clothes?
How you launder, store, and care for your clothes can have a significant impact on keeping them looking good (and wearing well). Ready? This is a beginner’s guide to making your clothes last longer.
Part 1: Laundering
We have to wash our clothes. There’s no way around it. We’re living organisms that produce sweat and carry bacteria; in order to pass in today’s society, as well as for health and hygiene standards, keeping clean is a huge part of our everyday lives.
That being said, not every single garment needs to be washed after every single wear. Think about what your clothes through every time you put them through a wash cycle--the physical trauma, the potential for fading, the loss of elasticity, the changes in shape...the first rule to laundering is to wash less.
1. Wash Less:
Being mindful of how often you’re washing a piece of clothing can extend its life as well as conserve precious resources (water and electricity). Unless something is visibly dirty or you can catch a whiff of it, challenge yourself to wear your garments at least three times before tossing them in the laundry.
Another way to think about it is to keep this helpful guide handy unless you become familiar with how often garments should be washed (originally sourced from buzzfeed)
This of course doesn’t apply to garments that are worn close to the body like intimates or socks
2. Read Labels and Be Mindful of Material:
Each garment usually comes with a small tag with instructions on how it should be cared for. As we were taught in elementary school, please read the instructions before taking action. 😜
Get familiar with different fabrics and how they like to be treated. I have a guide on this coming out shortly, but for the time being, you can reference DIY Network’s article for more information.
3. Implement Best Laundering Practices:
Follow these general guidelines for best laundering practices.
Separate your clothes. Put your intimates in a delicates bag (or use an old pillow-case) and use a guppy bag for items that contain synthetic fibers to help prevent microplastic pollution.
Use the right laundry setting for your load size. It doesn’t make sense to set the washer to the full load size if you’re only washing a couple of garments.
Use less detergent (cheat by using half of the usual amount and adding ½ cup of baking soda), swap for a green detergent (just be mindful of greenwashing), or use a completely natural alternative.
Use cold water when possible to conserve energy and prevent potential shrinkage. Keep in mind that you should always use hot water when washing intimates so that pathogens are destroyed.
Always button your buttons and zip your zippers to prevent snagging.
Turn jeans, dark garments, and printed t-shirts inside out to preserve color and prevent cracking.
4. Air Dry Often:
Air drying saves energy and prevents shrinkage or any other heat-related wear on your clothes.
Use a clothing line or clothing rack (if you’re like me and have limited space) to air dry.
Intimates and active-wear are particularly sensitive to drying machines. The heat is known to break down elasticity so always air dry these garments to prevent unwanted stretching.
If you DO have to use the dryer, here’s how to choose the right dryer cycle.
Part 2: Storage
Now that your clothes are nice and clean, this is how you should store them so that they don’t experience any trauma while in your closet. 😢
1. Store In A Cool & Dry Environment:
A general rule of thumb is to keep your clothes in a cool and dry environment away from pests and bacteria.
Avoid cramming clothes into tight spaces as the rubbing between garments can lead to wrinkling or color fading.
Keep garments out of damp places like your basement or your bathroom to prevent the growth of mildew.
Store clothes in shaded areas to prevent fading from over-exposure to light.
2. Implement Best Storage Practices:
Follow these general guidelines for best storage practices.
Buy better hangers. Plastic and wire hangers are cheap and will stretch out the shoulders of your garments. Wooden hangers are a great alternative that will last longer and prevent snagging.
Fold heavy sweaters and store them on the shelf. This one was a game changer for me! Store heavy garments on shelves because if you hang them, the fabric will start to stretch and by the time winter rolls around again, you’ll have a way-too-large sweater.
Prevent clothing moths from making holes in your clothes by storing them with a small block of cedarwood or spraying them with lavender. If you find a beautiful vintage garment but are worried about potential moth larvae, stash the garment in a bag and stick it in the freezer for a few days to kill any eggs or larvae. Additionally, store expensive items in cotton suit bagsteo prevent moth damage!
Again, button all your buttons and zipper all your zippers!
If you rotate through your clothes, store them in tightly sealed plastic containers.
Part 3: Care Techniques
Laundering and storing your garments properly will do wonders in keeping your clothes looking good, but what about the in-between moments? Here are a few additional tips that you can incorporate day-to-day so that you increase the overall lifespan of your garments.
1. Stain Removal:
Stains are the bane of my existence! I know, I know, we’re all human and life gets messy, but if a stain were to never appear on my clothes again, you wouldn’t find me complaining...
Carry a stain removal pen. The sooner you address a stain, the more effective the treatment will be.
Reference this for the ultimate stain removal guide. They’ve literally got different stain-causing elements and treatments sorted a to z.
2. Learn Basic Mending:
Basic sewing skills can help to elongate the lifespan of your garments. Rather than throwing your garments to the side when a button falls off or a small tear occurs, you can make a simple repair and it’ll look good as new!
Youtube is a great resource for basic techniques. Additionally, you can make learning this skill a social event by attending local classes if they’re available in your area!
When in doubt, take your clothes to a tailor or a cobbler. They can help with more complicated altercations such as getting zippers replaced, seams fixed, and taking fabrics in and out.
3. Clean Between Wears
If your clothes are starting to smell a little between wears, spray them with a quick refresher of vodka and water! Think of this as dry shampoo for your clothes. The yoga studio I go to actually uses this to treat the aerial silks and believe me, those get pretty sweaty after classes.
Use three parts vodka and two parts water if something is aggressively stinky or inverse the ratio if the scent is only slightly musky.
4. Take Care Of Your Shoes
We haven’t talked about them at all, but using treatments on your shoes can extend their lifespans by quite a bit!
Look after the leather of your shoes. Make sure to gently wash the grime off every few weeks and apply leather conditioner so that your shoes can maintain their pliability for longer.
Beeswax is a fantastic natural means to waterproof fabric shoes.
Stuff newspaper or packing paper into your shoes to help them keep their shape.
5. Use a Dye Bath To Maintain Color
This is relatively straightforward, but if your colorful garments are fading and you’re not ready to part with them, bring them back to life with a dye bath!
The only pointer I have to offer is to please be mindful and use natural and non-toxic dyes.
I hope this guide was useful in giving you a starting point to make your clothes last longer. Increasing clothing wear decreases overall textile waste and in turn, makes a positive impact on our environment.
One final point I’d like to make as a tangent, is that as you’re building your sustainable wardrobe, be mindful of the clothes that you’re purchasing. High quality, natural-fiber clothes is a great choice for the environment and can help make the maintenance/care for these new garments easier.
Which tip did you find most helpful? Do you have any questions or tricks that you’d like to share? I’d love to learn more!