How to Make Your Clothes Last Longer

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Have a favorite t-shirt? Whether it’s fast-fashion, vintage, or secondhand – Read on to learn how to keep it looking fresh for longer. The tips below are tangible actions that you can take to make that happen, from minimal effort to most. How far will you get?

Tip #0:First and foremost, cherish your clothing. By caring for something, you will naturally maintain it better, whether your body or a thrifted lace dress.

  1. Wash only when you need to. If it’s smelly or stained, wash it. Otherwise, who can tellsmell? Washing’s three cleaning factors (agitation, chemicals, and temperature) all contribute to wear and tear, so it’s best to wash only as much as you need.
  2. Wash your laundry in cold water. To reiterate, washing machines use three variables to clean: mechanical, chemical, and heat. Cold water prevents bleeding, shrinking, or fading and is a safe bet to keep fabrics intact and long-wearing. So when in doubt, wash with cold water. The agitation and detergent will cleanse your clothes! Check out this infographic for more fabric care, or read on. Note: if the water is TOO cold (ex. tap cold in the winter), then the detergent may not dissolve; the Warm setting might be better here.[link]
  3. Wash your laundry at a low spin speed. Spinning is used to remove water at the end of the cycle, like wringing. Higher speeds are useful for thicker fabrics and removing more moisture. But with poorly-sewn or delicate fabrics, higher speeds can spell disaster: the entanglement and tugging can pull seams apart.GIF 2: Washing on a lower spin speed just means there might be a little more water in the garment at the end – but bonus: less creasing! [ref]
  5. Use fewer chemicals. Aggressive chemicals like bleach can drastically degrade natural fibers like wool and silk. Nowadays, many clothing is synthetic, which can still cause discolouring at a minimum. Residue on clothing from detergent.It’s also worth saying that using too much detergent doesn’t clean clothes any better – it can actually do the opposite, like leaving residue on clothes and clogging up your washing machine. Make sure you measure your detergent according to the bottle’s instructions!
  6. Keep clothes out of the sun. Like your skin, UV light can damage clothing fibres and white-wash dyes. You can see this happen with patio furniture that gets left outside for a long time or to a sheet of paper sitting by the window. Synthetic fabrics like nylon are not exempt. Thicker yarn and tighter knits have greater resilience, but they would still benefit from a little less sun. A faded mural. [ref]
  7. Skip the tumble-dryer. Tumble-drying is not only a huge consumer of energy, but the excessive heat can also seriously mess up your garments – whether it’s shrinking the garment, degrading the fibres, or killing the elasticity. Tumble drying clothes is like blow-drying hair: don’t overdo it, and use minimal heat if you have to! Consider line-drying (in the shade, thanks to Tip #5) instead! If you have no choice but to tumble-dry, run the cycle on low heat for minimal damage.
  8. Use a laundry wash bag. If you can’t get over cold water or low spin speeds, try using a mesh laundry wash bag as a last line of defense to prevent pulling and tearing in the washing machine.ref: WalmartPutting garments in laundry bags minimizes snagging and catching on things like velcro and zippers, especially with delicate fabrics like laces or knits. [ref] You can get these in sizes ranging from big enough for bed sheets to small enough for bras.
  9. Fit your fit: hem and cuff! One-size-fits-all is probably the world’s greatest marketing lie – so get your clothes hemmed and fitted. You can hem by hand if you learn how to sew (sneak peek for Tip #9). Here are 3 different types of “blind hems,” which means you can’t see it from the other side – or if you’re really getting into it, you can do it with a sewing machine. HERE. Not a fan of needles? Try using hemming tape or getting it done professionally at an alterations shop; google “seamstress” or “alterations.” Simple hems can cost around 10 USD.
  10. Learn how to sew. Before you roll your eyes and move on, remember that a skill is something you can learn and keep for the rest of your life. A hole in a bag then becomes just a nuisance, not a deal-breaker that renders the purse into the trash. As a kid, I remember my grandmother repairing socks and pillows with just a needle and thread, even at the ripe age of 70. In high school, my backpack ripped all along the zipper – I went at it with a sewing kit, and 10 years later, I’m still using the bag. not convinced? Check out these 6 basic stitches [link] that’ll get you through 90% of any repairs you need to do. (Tip #9.5: watch in 2x speed.)

Where’s Tip #10? You tell us! Blaze your own trail on the path to sustainability and resource efficiency.

Thanks for reading and stay susty. ✌️♻️



Updated, December 23, 2021

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