Clothing Conservation - Tips for Making Your Clothes Last Longer

Got a throwaway approach to fashion? Throw it away! It doesn’t matter how little your clothes cost or whether you bought them new or secondhand, you can get more wear out of them simply by looking after them – and that means you’ll need to buy fewer new clothes, which will save your precious dollars and help the environment.

Building TLC for your clothes into your routine also helps you to appreciate them and reminds you of what you already have in your wardrobe, which in turn will help you reduce your clothes spending.

Some of these tips will sound mind-numbingly obvious, while others are more obscure. But sometimes it’s good to be reminded of even the most obvious ways to look after your clothes. After a while, greater care for your clothes will become second nature.

Prevention is better than cure

* Always wear an apron when cooking. This rather obvious tip applies just as much when frying up a quick omelette as it does when settling in for some serious baking, as oil stains are extremely difficult to remove. After a while putting on an apron will become automatic and you won’t have to think about it.

* Use napkins (serviettes) when eating. The same principle applies here; placing a napkin or serviette on your lap before eating will soon become second nature.

* Keep some old, ratty clothes in your wardrobe that you wear just for domestic tasks. You may think it’s fine to weed the garden in jeans, but grass stains are very difficult to remove! Even a bit of housecleaning is better done in old clothes, or at least with an apron.

* Eat and cook mindfully – stay focused on what you’re doing and you’ll be less likely to spill food!

* Always iron clothes according to the instructions. If you’re ironing delicate fabrics, iron your clothes inside out. For extra care, keep a large handkerchief near your iron and place it over a section of fabric before ironing it.

Mindful maintenance

* Check the label on a piece of clothing before you buy it. You may still decide to buy it if it says ‘dryclean only’, but at least you’ll be forewarned that the garment will be more expensive to maintain.

* Sew buttons on properly as soon as they become loose, so you don’t run the risk of losing them (this tip is actually aimed at yours truly, who tends to turns a blind eye to loose buttons).

* Hang your clothes up in dry, mould-free cupboards. Use plastic from the drycleaners to safeguard them from dust.

* Air the room you store clothes in regularly.

* Don’t use mothballs to store out-of-season clothes safely. Store them in cedar chests or vacuum-sealed bags (but you do need to wash them first if you’re doing this). Moth repellents made from herbs and essential oils are another alternative, but I wasn’t able to ascertain how scientifically effective these methods are. This website has useful information on making your own herbal sachets while this website provides info on which essential oils are effective in repelling moths.

* When you’re sitting in front of the TV, use the time productively – use a decomber to remove pilling from pullovers, brush your clothes with a clothes brush, and catch up on your mending.

Wiser washing

* If you’re buying a new washing machine, buy a front loader. It uses less water and is gentler on your clothes.

* Always check the washing instructions on the label. If in doubt, a cold wash is best.

* For delicate clothes and those you want to preserve, consider handwashing for at least the first few months. Wait until you have a few clothes in the same colour and do a batch at a time. Ensure that you’ve dissolved the laundry liquid in the water before you put the clothes in. This is easier to do in the warmer months when it’s easy to take advantage of natural solar power to dry them.

* Don’t wash your clothes more often than you need to. This blogger has some useful information on washing clothes less often. If you work from home and just put on something for a couple of hours to go out in, depending on the weather it may be okay to wear three or four times – or even more! For me it depends on whether I’ve worn clothes next to my skin – I confess that with cardigans and jackets that I wear for only a few hours at a time, I may not wash them for many wears. Use your gut feeling (along with your sense of smell!) to decide whether clothes need a wash or not. Airing clothes is a great way of reducing the need to wash them.

* To keep track of clothes that you’ve worn but don’t yet need to wash, set aside part of your wardrobe space and store them there.

* Jude’s (my mum’s) tip: If your clothes don’t need a wash, hang them up as soon as you take them off at night to air them and prevent creasing.

Delightful drying

* If you have a dryer, try to minimise your use of it. Dryers wear clothes down faster, and can damage the elastic in clothes and underwear. Needless to say they’re also energy guzzlers.

* Line drying is great for clothes, although not for woollens and anything that will stretch. Hang the clothes their full width, pull them down to minimise wrinkling and include space between each one to maximise drying. If it’s a hot day, don’t leave clothes that can fade out in the sun too long. Also, check your line on a regular basis for worn-out plastic, as this can expose the wire and lead to rust.

* Don’t keep your pegs on the clothesline – store them in a peg bag in the laundry.

* Dry woollens on a flat surface after gently removing excess water. Place a towel on a large square drying rack, and carefully arrange the garment on the towel so that it’s as flat as possible. If the day is warm enough, place the drying rack out in the sun. For quicker drying, turn the garment over when one side is ‘done’!

Savvy stain removal

* There is loads of information on the web about getting rid of stains, but be careful. Try more gentle approaches first and then proceed to more drastic solutions if these fail. Test substances out on the fabric first if possible. Don’t use hot water on the stain in the first instance and don’t rub the stain if the fabric is delicate, as this may damage the fabric permanently. If in doubt, it might be worth taking the garment to the drycleaners.
Useful sources of information regarding stain removal can be found here and here, while this is a good article on using green methods to remove stains.

Until next time!

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