26 super easy tips | How do you make your clothes last longer?
We all want to make our clothes last longer, right? So why not start taking steps today to make your clothes last as long as possible?
Whilst we cannot promise to make your clothes last forever, we can confidently say that there are many tips to extend the lifespan of your clothes. Not only will this save you money and keep your favourite items looking like the day they were first bought, it is essential for any eco-conscious fashion fans looking to make their wardrobe more ethical and sustainable.
Read on to find our 26 top tips to make your clothes last longer… point 15 is my favourite ;)
How many times is the average piece of clothing worn?
Although the average piece of clothing is worn around 120 times before it is disposed of, this figure has almost halved over the past 15 years.
In developed countries, clothes are worn even less. Encouraged by social media, poor quality fast fashion, trend hypes and our throw away culture, we have gotten used to easily replacing old clothes without consideration for the environment. A survey of 2000 women in the UK found that respondents wore each item they owned an average of just 7 times before binning.
P&G, the fabric care experts, found that Americans throw away more than 40% of clothes after less than 10 wears, with 70% claiming the main reason to get rid of clothes was because the garment lost its shape, faded or started to look old.
Yet it is very easy to prevent your clothes from wearing out. With our increasing habit of buying new clothes, this has never been more important.
How many clothes does the average person own?
The average UK household owns over £4000 of clothes, around 30% of which is not used. By taking simple steps, we can extend the lifespan of our clothes by months, if not years.
By extending the usable lifespan of our clothes by just 3 months, we would reduce our carbon, water and waste footprints by around 5-10%.
But why do my clothes wear out so quickly? By sticking to these 26 tips on how to make your clothes last longer, you will preserve clothes for years!
26 tips to make your clothes last longer
1. Buy quality clothes that last
Let’s start with a simple fact, if you buy only cheap, low quality fast fashion, your clothes likely won’t last long. Buy nice or buy twice. Yes, the price tag of high quality items can sometimes be off putting, but see it as an investment preventing you from needing to repurchase next year. It’s the first step you must take towards building a more eco friendly wardrobe. Better quality clothes last a lot longer than cheap fast fashion, so don’t be afraid to splash out on staples that you will love for years to come.
2. Buy a stain removal pen
Hands up if you’ve ever got too excited and spilt a drop of red wine on yourself, or got grass stains on your new top when out for a walk. An easy way to be prepared for any eventuality is to carry a stain removal pen. It’s happened to all of us, and it will happen again. So be prepared next time it does and avoid ruining a perfectly good item by attending the stain immediately before it has time to set.
3. Use a clothes line or drying rack
Have you ever wondered if air drying clothes makes them last longer? The answer is a resounding yes, air drying clothes helps clothes last much longer!
Hot tumble dryers can easily lead to shrinkage, whilst stretching intimate or active wear. The best way to avoid this is to naturally let your clothes air dry. Anyone who pays for the electricity bill knows how much impact a tumble dryer can make. Not only is using a clothes line cheaper by saving energy, it is also one of the best ways to ensure your clothes don’t wear out.
4. Use a delicates Bag
When I was younger, I noticed that my mum always used a delicates bag. I thought it was normal. However, over the years I realised that it wasn’t that common. Delicates bags are an easy way to stop delicate garments or underwear from ripping or being damaged in the washing machine. Without one these items are left to fend for themselves, rubbing against zips and hard materials every time you do a wash. A delicates bag is a cheap and easy way to preserve the lifespan of your intimates.
5. Avoid washing your clothes too regularly
Eww you have to wash your clothes regularly, right? Wrong! I get it, nobody wants to smell, but washing your clothes too much is very bad for them and a sure way to accelerate fading, stretch elasticated items, and slowly start to break down the fibre of the fabric. In short, overwashing clothes will wear them out and make them fade much more quickly, so don’t wash them everyday.
How many times can you wear clothes before washing? The best test is the good old fashion smell test. If it smells or looks dirty, then wash. With the exception of socks, underwear and sports clothes, you can likely wear something a minimum of 3 times. For outerwear, jumpers or trousers, this can be much higher.
Take Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh as a truly dedicated non-washer, he hasn’t washed his jeans for over 10 years!
Want a quick tip to make your clothes last longer without washing… pop them in the freezer overnight and you’ll be surprised what a difference this can make.
6. Use fabric refreshers
One way to make clothes last longer is to avoid overwashing them, however clothes that you wear less often can sometimes smell stale. A good way to avoid this is to use simple tricks, such as fabric refreshers, scented paper sheets, or placing natural scented products like lavender bags in your closet. It will revitalise the smell of stale clothes and mean you don’t have to wash them as frequently.
7. Turn down your washing machine
Everyone knows this, but do we all do it? Gone are the days when we had to wash at 60 degrees, a cold wash or 30 degree wash will do just fine.
Washing at a colder temperature helps prevent clothes fibres from breaking down. It can also reduce colours running and fading over time, and will prevent shrinkage. Just as importantly, colder temperatures reduce the amount of microplastics released from plastic based fabrics such as nylon, acrylic or polyester clothes.
It goes without saying that colder temperatures help reduce the amount of energy required per wash (not to mention it saves you money). According to the Energy Saving Trust, washing accounts for 60-80% of a garments total environmental impact. By washing clothes at 30 degrees rather than 40, you can reduce energy used by up to 40%. Learn to use the correct water temperature.
Illustration: Alison Czinkota. © The Spruce, 2018
8. Use less washing detergent
“One scoop, two scoops, ahh a little more won’t hurt.” We’ve all done this before, but overloading washing detergent is not only expensive, it can actually make your clothes more dull and stiff over long periods of time. In fact, you could likely get away with using half the prescribed amount of detergent.
Want something a little different? Try adding baking soda as a natural detergent booster. Try to also switch to more environmentally friendly detergents, which are made from natural ingredients with the environment in mind. Add scented wardrobe sheets, lavender or fabric refreshers to stop your clothes smelling stale and needing to be washed as often.
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida
9. Skip the softener
It’s really not necessary to use fabric conditioner or softener. Fabric conditioners add boat loads of extra chemicals, dyes and fragrances to your clothes, coating the fibres with a waxy residue. When this builds over time, it can lead to coloured clothes fading and accelerate fibre breakdown. Want an alternative? A small amount of vinegar can be added as a substitute, and keep your cupboards well ventilated and lined with scented paper to retain that fresh linen smell.
10. Don’t dry clean unless you have to
This one might be more relevant for men who are in the habit of regularly dry cleaning suits. Other than being a very costly habit, dry cleaning involves the use of harsh chemicals that slowly damages the fibres of your smart clothes, not to mention are bad for the environment. Help your most expensive clothes last longer by dry cleaning less often.
Looking for a nifty alternative? Hang them in the bathroom whilst you shower. The steam will help creases fall out and refresh the outfit without requiring chemical cleaners.
11. Don’t overload your washing machine
Adding too many clothes to your washing machine may seem efficient, but it will actually make your clothes wear out more quickly.Not only will it fail to wash them well, the tightly pressed clothes will rub against each other and create friction, causing more damage and fading.
Nor is it better to do small loads of laundry, as this will waste water, energy and money. Like Goldilox and her porridge, you need to get it just right.
12. Separate your colours
The oldest mistake in the book, but we’ve all been there. To avoid colours from running and turning your favourite white top pink, separate colours and whites before you wash. Always use a colour catcher, it’s amazing what wonders these work.
Quick tip to make your clothes last longer, if you have bright new clothes (or heaven forbid, a new cheap pair of fast fashion jeans *cough, we’ve all been there*), pre-soak in a bowl overnight and you will see just how much the colour runs. You may wish to wash these separately for a few cycles.
13. Wash strong clothes and printed tops inside out
No one likes a printed T-shirt that fades or cracks. But how do I keep my shirts from fading?Preventing this is very simple, just turn that top inside out before washing. The same can be done with strong colours and jeans. Washing inside out will preserve their colour and prevent your clothes from fading, meaning you can wear your favourite shirt for longer. The longer you wear your clothes, the more sustainably you will be dressing.
14. Use a dye bath
Gone past the point of return with your now faded top? Why not try bringing it back to life with a dye bath? Just add coloured dyes to a tub and leave your clothes to soak. A word of warning, wash with similar colours after you have added the dye as your colours will run!
15. Tie dye your old clothes
Have any old white clothes lying around? One great tip to make your clothes last longer is to try tie dying. Yes, tie dyes are definitely back in. They’re fun, easy to make and you can tailor to your own personal design preferences. Get good and you might even be able to sell a few! What’s more, it’s a great way to sustainably bring old clothes back to life which might have been sitting at the back of your wardrobe unloved.
During the summer we wanted to bring a smile to your face and new life to your old t-shirts by offering to tie dye your old clothes for free! https://cariki.co.uk/products/free-tie-dye
16. Avoid damp, closed or over-exposed light places when storing clothes
Have you ever left a picture in the sun for a few years? The colours start to fade. In the exact same way, dark or coloured clothes will soon start to fade if you leave them in direct sunlight for too long. Similarly, your clothes need to breathe, so storing them in enclosed spaces where they can get damp or smelly will mean you need to wash them more frequently, which won’t help them last as long. To make clothes last longer, store them in well ventilated wardrobes out of direct sunlight.
17. Fold heavy clothes rather than hanging
Many of you likely already do this (some of you might have a folding chair like me which seems to collect clothes through the week). But why does folding clothes make them last longer? Hanging heavy clothes will cause them to stretch and lose their shape, making them lose that nice fit you love. One of the key reasons we throw away clothes is because they no longer fit, so keeping their shape will allow you to wear for longer.
18. Buy better hangers
Again, super simple but super effective. Plastic or wire hangers can stretch the shoulders of your favourite clothes making them look saggy and unattractive. Better shaped wooden hangers will fit the shape of your clothes more snuggly and help your clothes look good for longer.
19. Turn down your iron
If you’re like me and avoid ironing at all costs, you might actually be doing your clothes a massive favour. Ironing can be a quick way to ruin clothes if you don’t know what temperature that material should be ironed at. Keep it simple. Read the advice on the label and turn down the iron a few notches below what it advises. Better to be safe than sorry.
20. Learn how to repair your own clothes
If you want to know how to dress more sustainably, one of the best things you can do is learn how to mend your own clothes. Don’t be daunted, it’s actually a lot more simple than you might think. Online there are thousands of articles which teach you all the basics of sewing, stitching and mending your old clothes. Just spend a few hours and you will be able to refashion old items into stunning new clothes you’ll want to wear forever.
21. How can you tell good quality clothes? It’s all in the seams!
You can normally tell whether clothes are good quality by a few simple tests. Checking the seams is a great place to start. Orsola de Castro of Fashion Revolution explains that “When clothes are cheaply made, the seams are often shabby.” Try also holding the item up to the light and applying a bit of pressure, you shouldn’t be able to see the light through any joints in the fabric.
22. What fabrics last the longest?
No clothes will last forever, but you can preserve clothes for years if you look after your clothes properly. A great place to start is by buying strong fabrics that will last. But what fabrics last the longest? Unfortunately there is no one right answer, as all fabrics have their own unique properties.
Some experts believe that synthetics are the strongest and most durable fabrics and so recommend buying these. Others feel that natural single component fabrics such as 100% cotton last longer. There are benefits to both. Synthetics might often be one of the toughest fabrics, but they are less breathable than natural fibres so need to be washed more often. Plus synthetics release plastic microfibres, which have been linked to ocean plastic pollution. We at Cariki prefer good quality natural materials that are well made and sustainable, such as 100% organic cotton.
23. Treat your clothes
It’s worth getting your hands on treatments to protect your clothes and shoes. Two good brands are Nikwax to coat your boots and shoes, and Polygiene for your clothes. Polygiene is an antimicrobial spray with eco friendly credentials which will stop your clothes from smelling and reduce the need for washing, whereas Nikwax will help prolong the life of your shoes by adding a protective waterproof layer. Let us know your favourite brands which help prolong the life of your clothes in the comments below!
24. Find a local tailor
We’re all busy, so finding a local tailor is a great way to make your clothes last longer and a top tip for any sustainable wardrobe. Tailors are not a thing of the middle ages, local professionals are actually easy to find and more affordable than you might think. Plus you are supporting a local business who will be very grateful for your custom.
A good place to start is by taking any ripped clothes to your local dry cleaners, who will likely be able to fix small tears. I recently found a local cobbler to fix my favourite leather belt, which cost just £2! If I hadn’t asked in their shop, I would never have known they could help!
25. Wash your washer
Now I know what you are thinking, why would anyone wash their washing machine? Well they actually build a layer of soap scum that is just as likely to deposit residue on your clothes as clean them. This is really easy to resolve, just buy a wash additive or better yet, for a natural solution add lemon juice or vinegar to your drum and spin on the hottest cycle.
26. Don’t dry stains
For any resistant stains you are trying to remove, don’t tumble dry unless it has completely gone. All you will be doing is heat setting the stain and making it impossible to get rid of. If the stain still exists after the wash, set it aside and spend more time on it later.
Do leave a comment if you have other suggestions to make your clothes last longer.
If this was a helpful article, then you might also enjoy reading about our 27 ways to dress more sustainably and build your own eco friendly wardrobe.
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