The right TLC can make your clothes last longer
It took a lot of resources—personally and industry-wise—to produce what's in your closet. So now that you've built a wardrobe, take care of the investment. The way you look after your clothes will have a significant impact on how they look, how they wear and how long they last.
Here are eight rules to follow to make your clothes last longer...
1. Avoid dry cleaning
It's estimated that 90 percent of clothing that's labelled with "dry clean only," can safely be laundered at home. Often, manufacturers place the strictest cleaning instructions on clothing to safeguard them against any laundry mishaps.
"Dry cleaning" is a misleading term and, technically, isn't accurate. While it's true that dry cleaners don't use water during the cleaning process, they do use liquids and those liquids are often dangerous chemical solvents. The most common solvent is tetrachloroethylene, or more commonly known as PCE or Perc.
While your favourite silk shirt might come back from the dry cleaners free from pasta sauce splashes, it'll also be loaded with chemical residue, which you'll be putting directly against your skin the next time you wear it. Consider laundering your clothes at home and save the dry cleaners for clothes that need extra care, like pieces that are lined or have embellishments such as embroidery, piping, sequins, etc. If you get to know your fabrics and arm yourself with at-home cleaning products, you can save yourself a lot of money while reducing the amount of chemicals released into our environment.
2. Lessen your laundry
We're used to doing the weekly wash, but that doesn't mean everything needs to be washed weekly. Washing and tumble drying will clean your items, but they're also mechanical forces that put wear and tear on your clothes. So critically asses your pieces before tossing them into the wash. Are they really dirty, or do they simply need to be aired out? Or could the garment just benefit from some targeted spot cleaning? (Plus, you'll be saving energy by running your appliances less frequently.)
Save the dryer for sheets and towels; for clothes, the dryer is actually very damaging, leading to fading and shrinking. If you're absolutely dependent on the dryer or you live in a particularly damp environment, consider half tumble drying, half air drying, or tumble dry on the coolest setting possible.
For woolens, cashmeres and other knits, always hand wash in cool water. Knitted fibres like these are very delicate and are not only prone to felting in the washer (when they become hard and matted, due to repeated mechanical pressure), they can stretch out easily or go the other way and shrink. Wool and cashmere are protein fibres so wash them with shampoo (which is made for hair, another protein fibre) or other laundry detergent specifically made for these materials.
3. Spot clean
If all your garment needs is some targeted cleaning, there are extremely effective products and techniques to keep your clothes looking pristine in-between washes. If it's a fresh stain, using a non-oily eye makeup remover works wonders; you probably already have a bottle or two of these in your cabinet. Place a cloth under the fabric, then gently blot the stain with another cloth dampened with the eye makeup remover. Repeat until the stain is removed. For dried, older stains, don't worry—there's still hope. Use a dedicated stain solution and always follow the directions on the packaging. But generally, you'll apply the liquid directly onto the stain, gently massage in the product, let it sit for five to 15 minutes, and then rinse out.
4. Avoid heat
Too much heat can be damaging to your clothing. For example, washing in hot water can lead to shrinking and colour bleed. Learn to love your drying rack instead of tossing things into the dryer, which can also lead to shrinking and fading. And while there's nothing like a crisp shirt, save your iron for when you absolutely need those precise pleats and creases. Instead, use a steamer, which is not only a lot faster at releasing wrinkles, it does so with gentler heat. Pressing a hot iron over clothes is similar to running a flat iron over your hair repeatedly, resulting in similar damage: dull, broken, damaged fibres.
If you must use the dryer, you can save time, energy and money with eco-friendly wool dryer balls. Dryer balls help improve air flow while absorbing moisture, making your clothes dry faster. And unlike single-use dryer sheets, dryer balls can be reused for multiple loads and help extend the life of your clothing.
5. Store properly
For your closet, invest in better hangers. They'll keep your clothes in better shape, especially around the shoulders. Lightweight wooden hangers will work for most items, but you'll want sturdier ones with moulded shoulders for heavier outerwear. Thin, flocked hangers are really popular now, but they're so thin they don't properly support clothing and people end up packing them in so closely together there's no air circulation in the closet. And visually, because they take up less space that wooden hangers, it only encourages people to fill in the space with potentially unnecessary clothing.
Never hang your knits, which are delicate and prone to uneven, damaging stretching. Instead, roll or fold your sweaters, giving them room to breathe.
6. Tailor and repair
To reduce our landfill, consider tailoring or repairing a garment before throwing it away. It's amazing how some simple tailoring hacks can transform a garment and make you feel like it's brand new—or even better, bespoke. The garment will not only look better, but will make you feel more confident in a way that clothes can do when they simply sit well and move well. Get your skirts hemmed, your trousers nipped in at the waist and your sleeves shortened. And if you're so inclined, watch a few YouTube videos and learn how to sew on buttons, repair loose seams and patch up small holes.
7. Know your fabrics
All new clothing looks great. That's because of sizing, a type of starch applied to new clothes that make them look crisp, smooth and fresh. But once washed, your garment could look drastically different depending on the fabric content. Some fabrics are inherently more delicate and high-maintenance. If you know that doesn't fit your lifestyle, skip over the silk shirts and knife-pleated skirts. Some are more prone to wrinkling, so if that causes you anxiety, avoid linens. Viscose, while beautifully drape-y and a vegan alternative to real silk, is highly unstable when wet and is prone to considerable shrinkage, so size up and know to handle it gently and minimally when it comes to cleaning.
8. Use an eco-friendly detergent
Choosing a gentle, environmentally friendly laundry detergent will not only help your clothes last longer, but will also directly benefit the environment. For example, eco-friendly laundry brand Tru Earth offers a zero-waste laundry strip that is an ultra-concentrated, hypoallergenic, liquidless detergent that you just toss in the wash. It makes doing the laundry easier, healthier, more economical and much kinder to our planet.
Additionally, Tru Earth laundry strips have a dramatically smaller carbon footprint than liquid and powder detergents. The packaging uses zero plastic, and because the strips weigh so little, Tru Earth reduces transportation fuel consumption and global-warming carbon emissions by 94 percent compared to today’s leading-brand liquid and powder detergent. Recently, the B.C.-based company hit a major milestone of eliminating 2 million plastic jugs from going to landfills.