How to make clothes last longer

Christina Sylvester ·

Do you know how to wash your clothes so they last longer? We share our tips on how to make clothes last longer and whether fabric softener can help.

We’ve chatted before about the difference between fast fashion and slow fashion. Although the tides are gradually turning, the vast majority of clothes sold still tick the fast fashion box. They may not be quite as good for the environment, but fast fashion items are more affordable and can still stand the test of time with the right care. While fast fashion pieces are not generally designed to last as long as slow fashion pieces, they are well worth looking after to maximise the life you get from them.

So, how can you make your clothes last longer, no matter what they are made of? Here we dive into how to make clothes last longer, looking at how to take care of them, particularly when it comes to laundry! The good news is that there are lots of simple tips and hacks to help you look after your favourite pieces of clothing.

1. Think quality over quantity

Our first tip starts before you even make a purchase. If you can, aim to buy higher quality pieces, such as designer items or more sustainable clothing. These higher quality pieces use fabrics which are created to last, along with excellent manufacture and craftsmanship. In turn, this will ensure that they stand the test of time with less effort from you.

Over time, slowly start to build up a collection of high quality, timeless wardrobe staples. Of course it's not always possible to splash out on high-end clothes, and fast fashion certainly brings more affordability. But try to strike a good balance of quality and affordability where possible to ensure you get the most out of both your clothes and your money.

2. Be prepared

Pop a stain remover pen in your handbag and you’ll always be ready to combat the stains before they settle in. Whether you’ve shifted off the rug at a picnic and acquired a grass stain, or splashed a drop of red wine on your top when your friend made you laugh, you’ll be able to fix things quickly.

3. Store them well

Clothes need space along with cool dry air. Oh, and they like the dark. So don’t over cram your wardrobe and let your fabrics breathe. This also helps to avoid wrinkling or colour fading.

Make sure you know how to store different items. Your gorgeous chunky knits need to be folded on a shelf, whereas your strappy dresses need hanging room. You should use thick shouldered hangers.

If an item isn’t worn regularly, make sure it’s covered in a clothes protector bag.

4. Learn some fixes

Whether you’ve popped a button or a strap has become too loose or broken, being able to carry out simple fixes will ensure you don’t abandon the piece at the first sign of wear and tear. Of course, you could use a local dressmaker or repair service, but being able to carry out these fixes yourself is really handy.

5. Do less laundry!

Yes, we are giving you permission to do less washing! Washing is tough on clothes, even if you follow all of our tips below on how to wash clothes so they last longer. It’s important to follow these tips, but you should always consider if something really needs a wash.

Washing drains colour, exposes it to wear and tear, causes stretching and exposes the fabric to heat and moisture, which is all quite tough. So, only wash things if they smell or are visibly dirty. The same applies for dry cleaning too: save it for when it’s actually needed.

How to wash clothes so they last longer

The vast majority of tips on how to make clothes last longer are about how to wash them carefully. Here we channel our inner grandmother and share with you a few lessons that are worth taking on board.

1. Keep your delicates separate

You need a delicates bag. This protects the individual items from the harsh onslaught of the washing machine. But, importantly, a delicates bag also protects your clothes from things such as bra hooks.

2. Sort it out!

Sort your washing rather than chucking it all into one wash and hoping for the best. At a very minimum, if you want to keep your whites looking white, they should only ever be washed with fellow whites! It’s worth getting familiar with the laundry labels in your clothes and adding this information to your sorting process.

3. Turn things inside out

T-shirts with prints and bright or dark coloured garments should always be washed inside out. This ensures the prints stay put and the colours don’t fade as much.

4. Balance your load

It’s important to only run your washing machine when you have a full load, for the sake of the environment. However, don’t overstuff it. Your clothes need space so that they aren’t damaged (and so that they get properly clean).

5. Wash cold where you can

Many machines and detergents are now designed to work with a cold wash. Opt for cooler settings wherever you can and this will help to prevent your bright coloured clothes from fading.

6. Go easy on the detergent

You don’t need tonnes of detergent, and certainly nothing like as much as the detergent packet instructions will lead you to believe. It’s harsh on your clothes and on the planet. You can use around half of the amount written on the packet. If you think you need more, you can add some baking soda which will do the trick.

7. Air dry as much as you can

Tumble dryers are convenient but they aren’t great on clothes, particularly if they contain any elastic – think activewear and underwear.

8. Fabric softener does not make clothes last longer

Does fabric softener make clothes last longer? No. It does the opposite. It adds more chemicals and a waxy film to them, building up over time and actually breaking down the fibres. If you really are desperate for a softener, vinegar works well.

9. Use a dye bath occasionally

If you’ve got a favourite item that’s looking jaded, a dye bath can give them a new lease of life. This works really well on plain bold colours. Black jeans particularly love it.

10. Iron it out

If you iron your clothes they should stay in a wearable condition for longer meaning you don’t need to wash them so often. Just be careful to follow the care instructions and don’t go too hot.

Look after your clothes following the above tips and they will last much longer. Keep them all to yourself, or sell on excellent second-hand clothes knowing there’s more life in them yet.

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