Ten Tips to Make Your Clothes Last Longer

As we wrapped up a meeting the other day, a bunch of the Printfresh team began discussing our laundry habits. It turns out, we all do things slightly differently and we all had questions about the best way to make our clothing last as long as possible. Since this was such a hot topic at the office, we wanted to fill you in on everything we learned. Luckily, we have a resident clothing care expert on our team, so we asked Jac Dwyer to share her top 10 tips to help us keep our clothes looking fresh and extend the life of our most beloved garments. 
By Printfresh Staff
September 2021
Ten Tips to Make Your Clothes Last Longer
Ten Tips to Make Your Clothes Last Longer

1. Start with the washing machine

You may not know this but, some washing machines are better for your clothes than others. If you find that your clothes are looking worn out more quickly than you’d expect, your washing machine may be to blame!  If you are in the market for a new washer, you’ll want to look for a top loading machine that has a large drum. They react to clothes better than small stackable units.  This might not be possible if you live in a smaller apartment or condo with a laundry closet, but look for the best you can find. It will help your clothes last longer and might even be more energy efficient, which is also good for the environment.

2. Separate your clothes by color

While it may be tempting to put everything in the washer together, taking a few minutes to separate by color makes a huge difference in the longevity of your clothes. 

The dyes used to make your clothes can easily bleed and run, even when you’ve washed them hundreds of times before, or put everything on a delicate cycle. Not only will this dull the appearance of the original item, but it could ruin other pieces that you have in the wash with it. No one wants to wear a white t-shirt that has been tinted yellow or pink from being washed with other colors too many times!

3. Follow all of the care directions on the label

Care labels are there for a reason, particularly to avoid shrinking or fabric discoloration, so always take a look at the instructions before running a load of laundry.

If the directions are for hand-wash only, you can use the delicate cycle on your washing machine as a perfectly fine substitute. Most modern machines work very well and some even have a separate hand-wash cycle.

When you have more delicate fabrics, like silk or leather, following care directions and finding a professional you trust is especially important. You don’t want to take these fine items to just any dry cleaner and hope they know how to handle it. It will make them last much longer and make your investment in quality pieces go further.

“Cashmere is the exception to the rule. Do not dry clean cashmere – it reacts so much better when washed in a gentle cycle with about 3 minutes in the dryer.” - Jac

4. Treat denim differently 

Be extra careful with certain materials, like denim. Turn your jeans inside out before washing so that their outer dyed surface isn’t mixing with fabrics of other colors. Remember that jeans don’t need to be washed every time you wear them. In between washes, keep your denim fresh and odor free by hanging jeans in your bathroom while you shower (damp steam works wonders to refresh the fabric). 

Some dyed denim can stain lighter colors, especially when it is new, so be careful when wearing new extra dark jeans and a light colored top. Check the label to see if you should wash your jeans before you wear them (and risk staining your other clothes or that light colored couch).

5. Pretreat Stains

Treat stains as soon as possible to minimize long-term effects. This is especially true when it comes to grease stains or other hard to remove substances. You can dab a small amount of stain remover on the spot and let it sit for a bit. Once you’ve applied the stain remover, you can run the item through a regular wash cycle according to the care directions.

When it comes to stain removers, we love a natural option, but a Tide To Go stick can be great to keep in your bag for quickly treating mishaps if you are traveling. Jac’s favorite stain removers are Amway Loc Multipurpose Cleaner, Carbona Stain Devils, and Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover. All work well for larger or tougher stains that are hard to remove.

Ten Tips to Make Your Clothes Last Longer
Ten Tips to Make Your Clothes Last Longer

6. Keep Whites Bright

There’s nothing worse than faded or discolored whites! If you are seeing  discoloration in your whites, add a ½ cup of distilled white vinegar (not white wine vinegar) to your whites wash cycle. You can also create a paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda to dab onto more prominent stains like the yellowing that happens in the armpits of white t-shirts. Both options  are gentle enough on fabrics to replace fabric softener and work as a natural antibacterial for cleaner and fresher clothes.

“Speaking of fabric softener, I recommend staying away from it completely because it causes many fabrics to break down.” – Jac

7. Reduce Dryer Use

Subjecting your clothes to long cycles in a hot dryer can make them age more quickly. Air drying is often the best solution – the sun helps to naturally lighten stains and you can’t beat the smell that fresh weather brings to your garments – but it’s not always practical.

When air drying isn’t an option, Jac recommends trying a technique known as half-cycling. This process will subject your clothes to less intense heat even if you do have to put them in the dryer. Tumble dry everything for half the amount of time that you normally would, shake out each item, and hang them on a drying rack inside. Air drying after a few minutes in the dryer can also help to minimize wrinkles and cut down on ironing time.

8. Learn how to repair damaged clothes

If your clothes suffer some minor damage, you might be able to save them with a little bit of repair work. You can learn basic sewing skills on YouTube to fix any small rips or to stitch a button back on yourself. But for quick or temporary fixes, a bottle of clear nail polish works wonders to stop a sudden tear from fraying or getting bigger, and you can use Crazy Glue to stick a button back on in a pinch. Try not to use either on delicate fabrics, but they’ll make do until you have time towork on a more permanent repair.

“Personally, I always carry super glue in my purse for small clothing emergencies.” – Jac

9. Know when to consult a professional

For small damages or stains, DIY fixes are great. But to keep your clothes in great shape for as long as possible, developing a relationship with a professional is a must. In addition to being helpful for a nip or tuck here and there – they can also fix anything beyond your abilities. Jac recommends always consulting a professional for:

1. Broken zippers 

2. Larger, more complicated projects 

3. Knit fabrics that require special techniques

4. Expensive, finer items 

5. Having a garment’s size adjusted (letting it out or taking it in)

6. Delicate fabrics

7. Hard to remove stains

Not only can a pro help you with some of these repairs, they can also help you make an old or dated looking garment new again. A skilled tailor or seamstress can shorten a long gown or removed shoulder pads from a jacket. Taking classic (but dated looking) pieces and making them into garments that you can hold on to and wear with confidence for decades. 

“Try to form a bond with a high quality tailor or dry cleaner. They can provide great advice and will be able to tell you when it is time to let something go.” – Jac

10. Use laundry bags

One of the easiest changes that you can make to your laundry routine to help extend the life of delicate clothes  is using mesh garment bags. They help to form a protective barrier between your delicates and anything else that you may have in the wash cycle, keeping clothes safe from any fabric pulls or catching on zippers or buttons.

Use a small bag for any undergarments, as this stops any straps from stretching or hooks from getting caught on any other items. Large laundry bags are perfect for sweaters, especially those that are dry clean or hand-wash only, to protect the fabric and help them keep their shape.

Getting more life out of the items you love most

When you’ve taken the time to carefully curate a wardrobe that you love, learning how to properly care for your clothes means that you’ll get to enjoy your favorite pieces for years to come. 

Investing in higher quality fabrics and ditching the fast fashion lifestyle means there’s a little more to think about when it comes to doing laundry, but we hope these simple tips will help you  make your clothes last and keep your items looking as good as new.

Readers share how they keep their clothes looking fresh and make them last longer

We took a poll and it seems that most of you, like Jac, rely on cold water and air drying whenever you can. Here are a few more tips our readers had to share to help you keep your clothes looking fresh and in great condition:

Invest in high quality wood or fabric hangers – Merritt

Always wash in cool water – Carolyn

Less frequent washings – Marissa L. 

Treat them with love – Audrey G. 

What are some of your favorite ways to get the most wear out of of your clothes? Tell us how you maintain your wardrobe and keep your favorite things in good condition in the comments!

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PF MAG: Founder Amy Voloshin is passionate about creating a space that speaks to our brand, shares unique perspectives from pattern enthusiasts and finds ways to promote more sustainable living. Our blog PF Mag covers creative topics on all things lifestyle - including behind the scenes looks, fashion, design, travel, and home decor, as well as interviews with some of the people who inspire us most. 


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