8 Ways to Make Your Clothes Last Longer
by Caroline Bower
So you know you’re ready to move toward a more sustainable wardrobe. You’re choosing your clothes more thoughtfully, buying fewer items, and focusing on quality. Maybe you’ve invested in a few higher priced staple items that will last in your closet for many seasons.
What’s the next step? How do we ensure that these carefully-chosen items will last?
Here are a few simple tips to prolong the life of your clothes.
- Wash on cold/delicate
- Warm or hot water puts more stress on the fibers of your clothing, and causes them to fade, stretch out, or lose their shape and integrity more quickly.
- Instead of washing on warm or hot, just run them on the cold cycle. Save the hot cycle for sheets and towels (and even those don’t need to be washed in hot water every time!)
- Air Dry instead of tumble dry
- Tumbling dry your clothing also puts extra wear and tear on the material. Instead of tossing everything in the dryer every time, invest in a simple folding drying rack like this one or this one. Drape your clothes over it, and let the air do its thing. Bonus: you’ll save a ton of energy by not running the dryer!
- If you need to get wrinkles out, you can tumble dry for just a few minutes, and then pull your clothes out and hang them on the rack to fully dry.
- Wash them less (Put them in freezer!)
- Unless your clothes are actually dirty, they may not actually need to be washed! Especially with items like jeans and sweaters, washing them less frequently is a great way to extend their useful life. By only washing them when they’re actually dirty, you’re putting far less stress on the material.
- Believe it or not, putting your jeans in the freezer overnight is a great way to freshen them up! Freezing them kills any odor-causing bacteria, and tightens up the fibers. Try freezing your jeans between washes to make them last longer.
- Steam instead of iron
- Quite possibly my very favorite clothes care item is the steamer. Not only is is a hundred times quicker than ironing, it also puts less stress on the material. You don’t have to worry about scorching the fabric, and it’s far less finicky than ironing.
- You can use a steamer to de-wrinkle almost any material, including silk and wool - just use a delicate touch and test in an inconspicuous area if you’re unsure.
- As an added bonus, steaming kills germs and bacteria too!
- My particular steamer isn’t available currently, but it’s similar to this one. While I recommend the standing option, I’ve heard great things about this one if you want a small handheld option. If you want the top of the line option that’ll last forever, choose this one!
- Mend holes and replace lost buttons
- A simple way to extend the life of our clothes is simply to repair them when they get damaged instead of tossing or donating them.
- Replacing a lost button, or stitching a small hole is a pretty simple task, and there are hundreds of simple videos on YouTube to guide you through some simple mending projects. A basic sewing kit can be ordered from Amazon for just a few dollars.
- Shave sweaters when they get pilly
- You know those annoying “pills” that cover your favorite sweater after you’ve washed and worn it a lot? A fabric shaver will quickly remove those, and leave it looking fresh and nearly-new!
- This is one of my very favorite tools for breathing new life into clothes. With a few minutes and some minimal elbow grease, you’ll be amazed at the difference you see! I love this fabric shaver.
- I’ll be honest - don’t waste your time with the little ones. They just aren’t worth the frustration of the broken blades, dead batteries, and tiny fuzz containers.
- Polish scuffed shoes
- Here’s another simple solution to worn-looking leather. A couple of minutes, and tired-looking shoes will look lively and fresh again. No need to ditch your favorite booties when the leather takes a beating.
- Here are a couple of my favorite shoe care tools:
- For any smooth leather (including belts and purses), this is like magic! Just rub it on and let it soak in.
- Basic black polish is my second-most used item. Just touch up those scuffs, and marvel at the difference it makes!
- For suede, I love this brush to freshen it up and the included eraser to buff out little scuffs and marks.
- Take to clothes to a tailor
- For an absolutely perfect fit, ensuring that your clothes will feel perfect, take them to a tailor. This is not a luxury option, and the cost is generally far less than we might expect. A tailor can alter the length of bottoms and dresses, adjust waistlines, fix necklines, and busts, and more. Ask around locally for recommendations.
- Buy better quality clothes
- This one is a little bonus. Did you know that the cheap clothes at the big box stores are genuinely designed to wear out quickly? They aren’t made to last, because they want to you come back to buy a new one next month when you remember that the last one you bought is looking faded and doesn’t fit quite right anymore. “It’s only $9, right?”
- Sustainably and ethically made clothing brands know that it doesn’t have to be like that. They’re designed to last for many seasons. By spending more up front, you’re ultimately saving a significant amount of money on all of the impulsive Target purchases.
There we go! Thank you for taking baby steps toward more a ethical and sustainable lifestyle. But making little gradual changes, we’re setting the stage for a better world for the generation we’re raising.
I hope this post got your wheels turning! Which tip will you try first?
Note: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase through any of the links, I may receive a small compensation. Thank you for helping me grow my mission to bring approachable, affordable, sustainable style to women like us!