How to properly take care of your wardrobe
Today we want to give you a few tips on how to make your clothes more durable.
Whether you’re a total fashionista or avoid the shops at all costs, you probably spend a lot more than you think on clothing. Although kids outgrow their clothing fairly quickly, adults should be able to hang onto theirs for years. But of course, not all clothing items are meant to last forever. They’re bound to wear out, fade, and change shape after repeated use. Still, by being a little more careful in the way you clean, handle, and store your clothes, you can get months and even years of extra wear out of each piece.
1. Buy carefully, with quality in mind
While we cannot all afford to buy overly expensive brand-name garments, it’s always a good idea to purchase quality clothing. By spending more on quality pieces that never go out of style, you create a solid base wardrobe with longevity in mind. Those quality investment pieces last longer thanks to thicker fabrics and better construction. You can then add in cheaper, trendier pieces for a season or two.
It’s also a question of quantity versus quality. When purchasing kids’ clothes, you usually want to go for quantity, since the items are only going to fit for a few seasons. However, when purchasing professional clothes for yourself or a pair of jeans to wear daily, it’s better to invest in one quality item than five poorly made pieces that may need to be replaced in a few months (and think about closet space !).
When clothes shopping, look for clues that an item is made to last, knowing that price isn’t the only indicator. Try to spot attention to details, such as tight seams and buttons. If the material is overly thin, or you see loose threads, buttons, or snags, that item may not be very well made.
2. Wash carefully, with garment laundering instructions in mind
That tag found on the neck or down the side seam of your shirt gives you a garment’s laundering instructions, which are designed to ensure that it stays in great shape.
If you know you hate hand-washing, avoid buying clothes that require special care. You’d be better off spending your money on sturdier items. In fact, looking at laundering instructions should be part of our shopping process. Even if it’s a steal, a piece that requires dry cleaning could cost more in the long run – especially if you choose to ignore care instructions and end up ruining it.
While you should always check the instructions on the tag, these are also some general techniques to keep in mind while going through your laundry:
Wash dark clothing inside-out
Dark-wash jeans, black blouses, and other darker material can become faded in the wash, particularly as it rubs up against other garments. Always launder your washer-safe dark clothes inside-out to ensure they hold their colour. Preferably use darks laundry detergent.
Invest in a drying rack
If you don’t have a place to line-dry your clothes, they usually end up in the dryer, which is a death knell for line-dry-only garments. In the UK, we don’t always have the climate to dry clothes outside, and not everyone is keen on seeing a clothesline hanging in his garden. There are several kinds of drying rack that you can set up in your laundry room or even your bathroom.
Wash metal separately
Buttons and zippers often find their way into the wash, but can become seriously hot in the dryer, which can lead to scorching and melting on your other clothes. Wash clothing with metal components separately and never with delicate clothes.
Is there anything more frustrating than ruining clothes with bleach? While it helps make your whites whiter, it can also stain coloured clothes and damage delicate fibres. Swap your regular bleach for a colour-safe alternative, which is also gentler on fabric. If you accidentally mixed up coloured items that ran on other clothes, use a colour run remover.
Get to know your settings
Read the instruction manual of your washer so you know when to use “wrinkle release” as opposed to “delicate.” Delicate settings traditionally work well for lingerie, but they’re also effective for clothes that you want to preserve and treat gently. The delicate cycle uses less agitation, so there’s less wear and tear. This setting is perfect for lightly soiled stuff that requires a little extra care, or for items that specify the “delicate” setting on the tag.
Treat your delicates like delicates
Really delicate garments such as lingerie should never be put in the machine. Here is how to easily hand wash them:
- Wash like colours together
- Fill a basin with cool water and a gentle detergent
- Swirl the laundry a few times over the course of an hour
- Gently squeeze out excess water
- Dry on a drying rack.
Always rinse swimwear
Swimwear needs to soak in water after every use: the saltwater or chlorine breaks down the fibres and the elastic. Your suits will last much longer if you follow this simple rule.
3. Be extra careful when using cosmetics
Women’s clothing often takes more of a beating when compared to men’s. Why? Because women use cosmetics that can stain and fade garments. By doing your hair and makeup before you get dressed, you can avoid those pitfalls. You can also wear a robe while you go through your daily routine to prevent things like lipstick and bronzer from getting on your garments.
Hair dye and hairspray can also seriously damage clothes. Hairspray is a main culprit for fading, so resist the urge for a final spray before you head out the door. Also, if you dye your hair at home, make sure to wear old shirts while you’re doing it. Hair dyes are generally permanent and can easily ruin a favourite shirt. You can also wrap a thin towel around your shoulders to protect your clothes from your various cosmetics products if you don’t want to mess up your hair by putting on a shirt after it’s done.
When you apply deodorant or antiperspirant, make sure it’s completely dry before putting on a shirt. The aluminium contained in many antiperspirants can turn clothes yellow and cause brittleness.
4. Learn how to remove stains
The longer you wait to remove a stain, the less likely you’ll be able to remove it. This do-it-yourself stain-removal routine couldn’t be simpler:
Wet a cloth with cold water (avoid using paper towels so that they don’t shed on your garment and create more of a mess).
Add a drop of dish detergent to the wet cloth.
Place another cloth beneath the stain if you can.
Press on the stain, over and over, to lift it out. Resist the urge to rub, or you might damage the fabric.
You can let the stain sit overnight, even in water, before putting it in the laundry. Or you can wash immediately after treating the stain.
Below are some additional tips on how to safely remove other kinds of stains at home — on garments that can be safely cleaned with water. Follow each instruction by washing the garment as you normally would.
Blood or ink : With a cloth underneath the soiled area, re-wet the stain with ice cold water. Using a cotton swab or a small towel soaked in a cleaning detergent lightly tap the stain, pushing it onto the cloth underneath.
Dirt : Remove any chunks of mud carefully. Place the garment in lukewarm water and move it around to loosen and remove as much dirt as possible. Apply detergent to the stain and re-soak for half an hour; rinse and repeat.
Tomato sauce : With a butter knife or spoon, carefully pick up any excess tomato sauce. Dab detergent onto the stain and, from the underside of the garment, rinse with cold water (to push the stain out of, instead of back into, the garment).
Coffee : Flush the stain with cold water. Then apply a mild cleaning solution until the stain comes out. If that doesn’t work, try a tougher solution with colour-safe bleach.
5. Be very careful with your dryer
If we were to name the appliance in your home that is the most damaging to clothes, it would definitely be the dryer. The heat can scorch clothes and cause shrinking, fading, and even pilling. However, it’s hard to argue with the convenience it offers.
Check your dryer settings: many allow you to configure temperature, timing, and dryness. You can try lowering the overall temperature and keeping the same dry time, taking clothes out while they’re still a little damp. Or, if you don’t have temperature settings, you could just set the timer for 15 minutes fewer than normal, then transfer your clothes to dry on a laundry rack. Taking clothes out of the dryer before they’re done minimises shrinking in many fabrics such as denim.
6. Iron with care
When you iron, you’re using heat to loosen fabric fibres and press them flat. Unfortunately, you can also end up burning or yellowing the fabric if you’re not doing it properly. Using too much heat on delicate fabrics can completely ruin them, so make sure you always use the right heat level for the type of fabric you are ironing.
Many irons have different levels for various fabrics on the heat dial, but you will find a general guide here.
Another option is to invest in a steamer. It uses moisture and heat to release wrinkles while clothes are on the hanger.
7. Rotate your clothes
We all have a favourite pair of jeans that are snatched out of the dryer as soon as they’re clean, but rotating your clothes means less wear and tear.
One way that you can track your garments is by rotating them in your closet. After laundry day, the clean stuff goes to the back, while the items still in the closet are moved forward where they’re easier to see and grab.
This can be especially helpful for kids’ clothes. Children are traditionally pretty hard on their gear, so rotating it can mean fewer holes in their jeans and less fading on their shirts.
8. Practice good storage habits
Whether you have a walk-in closet or a couple of shelves, the way you store your clothes can make them last for years or, alternatively, leave them looking misshapen and damaged in just a few months. Here’s how to store your clothes to make sure they last as long as possible:
Fold heavy sweaters on a shelf : Heavy garments such as wool sweaters can stretch out when you hang them in your closet. It is better to stack them folded on a shelf so they keep their shape – and save that precious hanger space.
Close zippers and other fastener: This will prevent snagging or scratching the fabric on another item while hanging in your closet. Sharp zipper teeth, studs, and even buttons can catch on clothes and result in damage, so make sure they’re fastened when you hang them in your closet.
Invest in hangers: Free hangers you get from your dry cleaner are not made for long-term storage. Wire and plastic hangers can stretch out the shoulders of your garments, which means they won’t lay nicely on your body. Consider investing in better hangers with wood or plush arms, which help garments keep their shape.
Use cedar or lavender to keep clothes smelling fresh and prevent moth : Cedar is one of our favourite options to keep fabrics fresh, because it provides a natural scent that also helps keep away bugs (although cedar wood shouldn’t contact clothing directly). You can also add dried lavender for similar effects. Stay away from mothballs, which have a strong smell and are toxic not just to moths but also humans and their pets.
Give clothes some breathing room : Even if you’re short on space, resist the urge to pack your closet full of clothes. Squishing a ton of items next to each other can result in wrinkling and fading as the fabrics are constantly mashed together. If you’re having to squish hangers and garments just to squeeze in another shirt, it may be time to look into other storage solutions. Check out our previous blog post on seasonal wardrobe rotation and don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional organiser such as Homefulness: we can help you source the perfect storage solutions for your clothing and set up a smart and space-saving organisation system.