In January of this year, I embarked on a 100 day challenge of wearing the same dress every single day. It was a decision I made because I craved more simplicity in my wardrobe and less wondering if things still fit or looked good. This dress made me realize that my happiness with a smaller, more basic wardrobe is greater than when I owned hundreds of clothing items. And because I’m wearing the same dress everyday, a light gray dress even, I’ve learned how to take better care of my garments. Today I’m sharing how to make clothing last longer!
When we make our clothing last longer, we not only want fewer things in our wardrobe, we also have less need to replace items that wear out quickly (I see you there fast fashion). Taking good care of clothing in my capsule wardrobe has made me value quality materials over cheap “disposable” clothing.
There are loads of ways to take of your clothes, so these are just a few of the things that we do to make sure our clothing lasts longer before replacing it or buying anything new.
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How to Make Clothing Last Longer
Wash less often – wear garments more than once
Washing your clothes less often is the easiest way to make your clothing last longer. Another benefit of washing clothes less often is the total amount of laundry you do in a week will (probably) go down.
Like I explain in my 30 days of wearing the same thing, my laundry was cut down by a third. This is partially due to wearing the same thing every day, but also because I chose to spot wash. When you wash your garments less often, they shed less of their fibers.
Making your clothing last longer by washing less often, you will find that you take preventative measures to avoid washing. This includes putting an apron on while cooking, wearing an undershirt, switching to an aluminum free deodorant preventing underarm stains.
The method that we use to make this as easy as possible is simply hanging clothes up. I designated the front part of my closet to hold items that have been worn once, but aren’t ready to be washed. The items further back are clean and haven’t been worn at all. My husband folds the majority of his clothing. So he has a small pile of mostly pants on a bench in our bedroom. Or he’ll fold them up and put them in a drawer if he wore them for a short period of time.
The key to wearing clothes more than once (and doing less washing) is letting items air out between wears. When you hang or drape clothing the garment can breath and will retain less odor.
And of course, underpants and socks are not included in this “wear more than once” category! Please wash those after every wear 🙂
Washing less often also helps out the environment
Did you know the lint in your dryer is from fibers coming off of your clothing? Similarly, fibers come off of your clothing in the wash! The smallest of these fibers make their way through the filters in your washing machine all the way to lakes and oceans. Why? Because some water treatment plants don’t have filters small enough to catch these tiny fibers.
This may not seem like a big deal – it’s not that much lint in the dryer, so how much could really come out in the wash?
But factor in all the people all over the world washing their clothes. About 60% of our clothing is made from plastics rather than natural fibers. All of this means that the clothing we put on our body contributes greatly to the plastic pollution problem that we see building up in our world’s oceans.
Whether you’re considering a low waste lifestyle or just trying to make your clothes last longer, the case for washing less ticks both of those boxes.
Wash clothing on the hand wash or delicate cycle
I don’t know about you, but I like for my laundry to be done lickety-split. Unfortunately, those “speed wash” cycles aren’t doing our clothes any good. The faster the drum of your washing machine spins, the more stretched out the fibers of your clothing can become. So when I wash my more delicate items (like my wool dress), I use the hand wash cycle.
The hand wash cycle can help make your clothing last longer by slowing the drum speed to prevent stretching. Wash with cold water and that’s even better!
Line dry instead of using the dryer
When you want your clothing to last longer, line drying the clothing will help tremendously! If you put your clothing in your dryer, you’re subjecting that garment to heat and friction. Those two elements wear the fibers of the garment down and create the lint you see in your lint trap.
Line drying clothing isn’t just great for your clothes, it’s beneficial for your bank account and the earth! You use less electricity or gas which costs you less money. And when you use less energy, there is less demand for it to be created – that means it’s better for the environment.
In our house, we are still working on what method works best for us to line dry items. We use this folding rack that we purchased when we cloth diapered our son. Some people like to hand everything from clothing hangers or drape garments over the back of chairs. Others like to line dry outside. It’s up to you on how you want to start line drying your clothing!
Treat stains immediately
As a naturally messy person, I have learned that treating stains right after they happen is the best way to keep you clothes looking nice. Or better yet, prevent them from happening in the first place!
Since purchasing higher quality clothing items, I have taken to wearing an apron while I cook to prevent food from splattering directly on my clothes. And when I do drop food, makeup, or anything else that can stain, I rinse my clothes out immediately.
If you’re looking at getting a particularly stubborn stain out, I recommend looking at this stain removal guide from the Cleaning Institute.
Wash like textures together
I was taught to do laundry by sorting into colors – light, dark, whites, and jeans. While that’s practical to an extent, it won’t necessarily make your clothing last longer. If you wash by texture instead of color, you can increase the life of your clothing.
In our laundry, for example, I sort it into three categories: delicates/hand wash only items, soft items, and items with zippers or Velcro.
We normally don’t have enough to warrant three loads of laundry. That means I put delicates and soft items together. This includes dresses, undies, socks, athletic clothing, t-shirts, pajamas, etc. Things that are soft to the touch. The second load is items with zippers. This load contains jeans, hiking pants, jackets, and coats.
But why sort by texture?
Sorting by texture reduces the amount of friction in the wash and the likelihood that a soft garment will get snagged by a zipper or Velcro. Less shedding of fibers equals a longer life for your clothes.
Mend damage to make clothing last longer
One of the best ways to have a more sustainable closet is to mend damaged items to make your clothing last longer. I’m personally a big fan of wearing things out. This means I’m not afraid to stitch together seams and patch holes. We’ve replaced the soles of our sandals and stitch belt loops back on.
Why throw out a piece of clothing if it can be repaired?
Even if you are not able to mend the item yourself, ask your neighbors or Buy Nothing Group for help. I’ve mended a co-worker’s pants before! You don’t know if someone else has the skill of making basic repairs until you ask!
The most common repair I make these days is sewing up the knees of my son’s pants. Even the pants we purchase brand new get holes in the knees quicker than I’d like! But I’ve accepted that rather than purchasing new pants every time this happens, that I’m going to mend them instead. They’re perfectly good again after three minutes at my sewing machine.
If you’re looking to mend a particular item, but aren’t sure how, search for it on YouTube – there is probably a tutorial out there for you!
If you’re looking to be sustainable with your clothing choices…
We’re pretty new to the the whole sustainable living, low waste movement. Even with our newness, I’ve come to realize one HUGE thing: the most sustainable option is what you already own.
That fact doesn’t just apply to clothes. It’s the most sustainable for your housewares, furniture, exercise equipment, gardening tools, and just about every consumer good you own. Only when it is time to purchase something new should we look for a sustainably made option.
When it comes to clothing, wear what you already have. If you don’t like it, can you alter it in any way (dying the fabric, adding buttons, cropping it, make it more fitted)? And if you can’t do any of those things, please donate your clothes responsibly. There is a whole post HERE on what to do with your items when you declutter.
There will be more to come about how to choose clothing that will last longer and is more sustainable! In the mean time – love your clothes, be creative, and shop intentionally.