I think that everyone can agree that the quality of clothing has declined steadily over the years, and that although that $5 t-shirt seems like a good deal at the time, when it is unravelling and/or shrinking within a month, it’s actually not (for you or the planet). I understand that most of us (me included) cannot afford to purchase only luxury cashmere and linen clothing, but taking the time to properly care for clothing can extend its lifespan and allows you the full value of the clothing. Yes, you may have to put a little bit more time into caring for your clothing, but I can promise it will pay off in the long run. These 5 clothing care tips will help you maximise your wardrobe!
1) Purchase Clothing You Can Care For
Every piece of clothing has it’s own wash and dry instructions that need to be followed. I recognise that I am not willing to dry clean clothing on a regular basis. Not only do I not want to budget the money and time to frequent a dry cleaner, I also don’t want to have the by-products of dry cleaning directly on my skin. So, I only purchase items that require dry cleaning if necessary, and hopefully only outerwear. It makes complete sense to me to dry clean my wool pea coat, as that is how it is meant to be cleaned, I wear it to more formal events where I need to look polished, and it doesn’t sit on my skin directly. In the same vein, if you never want to have to hand wash clothing, you should probably skip wool and like fibres.
Get into the habit of checking every garment’s tag for care and cleaning instructions before even trying it on or putting it into your cart- if you aren’t going to care for it in the proper manner, it’s not a great deal. This isn’t to say that you can’t learn how to hand wash pieces when needed or make the time to take something in for dry cleaning, but it’s time to be realistic with yourself and your commitment to garment care.
2) Wash and Dry According to Instructions
For some reason, proper clothing and garment care has been one of the biggest areas that seems to have been left behind in the twenty first century. I’m nearing thirty, so I’m not too old in the grand scheme of life, but my parents taught us from the time we were knee high that if something is supposed to be washed in cold water that it is washed in cold water, that if something is meant to be hung to dry that it is hung to dry, and that if it is dry clean only that it is only dry cleaned. They had three small children who were up to their eyeballs in shenanigans and craziness, and still managed to fit in hanging clothing to dry.
The biggest “time saver” that I hear and see people using is putting clothing in the dryer that should be hung to dry- in the long run, taking an extra 5 minutes to hang your clothing is possible for literally 99% of us, and will actually save you time in many cases because there will be no wrinkles to iron out. (I know that some people will say they just wear things wrinkled but I’m not going to touch that…) Manufacturers have not told you to hang your clothing to be assholes and steal your time, they have done so because it is needed for the fibres in your clothing. The heat and friction from a dryer will break down the fibres that literally hold the piece together, and can also contribute to fading.
3) Wash When Needed
I used to be in the bad habit of leaving some clothing far too long to be washed- there wasn’t an incredible amount of dirt/sweat on them, but they were lighter coloured shirts that didn’t necessarily fit into my other loads of laundry that I figured could wait a few weeks before washing. Well, removing the dirt/sweat was no problem, but it took an extra two spin cycles to actually get the wrinkles and creases out… Lesson learned. If something is needing a wash, just get it done- you may either need the piece, or you may not be able to “rescue” it when you do wash it.
Also, take a few moments and get to know when which garments need to be washed- for example, tops should be washed every one to two wears, but jeans should be washed every five to seven wears (if not longer, depending on who you ask). Washing every piece of clothing after one wear when it isn’t needed is actually incredibly hard on fibres, and once again, cuts down on the lifespan of the garment. If it is too much to remember off the top of your head, you may want to print off a chart to keep near your laundry hamper or washing machine.
4) Store Appropriately
Much in the vein of washing clothing appropriately, ensure that you are storing clothing appropriately. You can save yourself a lot of time and energy by hanging your shirts and blouses- you don’t typically have to iron a shirt that has been hanging since washing. On the flip side, hanging a wool sweater instead of folding it and laying it flat will leave the garment stretched out and sagging because of the weight of it. Those skirt and pant hangers can be a god-send depending on the fabric of the skirt/pant, too. Unfortunately, most garments don’t always include specific storage instructions but they typically match the drying instructions! Hang to dry? Hang to store. Lay flat to dry? Lay flat to store. Tumble dry on low? Fold and place in drawer. Once you are more comfortable with fabrics and washing instructions, the storage piece becomes second nature!
4) Repair Clothing
I am going to guess that for most people, clothing repair is the most foreign aspect of this post- very few people actually know how to repair their clothing if something happens to it. My number one recommendation is to purchase a small sewing kit and watch a few basic sewing tutorials on YouTube. Things like hemming pants or applying a patch to a hole might best be left to a tailor who professionally sews, but minor fixes like re-sewing a button, sewing up a ripped seam, or removing pills are easy enough for anyone to learn and successfully do with a little bit of practice.
When you receive extra buttons with clothing, KEEP THEM. Preferably all in the same place with a small piece of tape identifying which garment it is from when you get there. And try to buy multi-coloured packs of thread, because when you absolutely need to quickly sew a button on or fix a seam, you very well may not have the colour that you need and those things are actually very noticeable. These are very small and easy fixes that once again extend the life of your clothing with less than ten minutes of your time and minimal effort. How many garments have you thrown away because of a missing button or two or a small tear?
Turns out that de-pilling a sweater can be as easy as 2 minutes with a 50c razor!
I am going to share some of my repair tricks in the next few months to hopefully make your life a little easier- I promise that most repairs take 5 minutes or less, and become habit in no time.
What is the hardest part of clothing care for you?