34 Tips to Make Your Clothes Last Longer

View as:

MAKE CLOTHES STAY LIKE-NEW LONGER

Clothes can be expensive, but what would we do without them? The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that annual household spending on apparel and services amounted to $1,786 per person in 2014 -- not a minor investment, especially for a family. But the good news is that with a little attention to detail, and at no extra cost, it's possible to make clothes last years longer. Try these 35 ways to lengthen the lifespan of your clothing.

GIVE DENIM SPECIAL TREATMENT

Turn jeans inside out and wash separately. If the jeans aren't stained, consider taking Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh's advice to pop them in the freezer, though scientists don't support the no-washing idea.

WASH CLOTHES IN COLD WATER

Hot water wears down the fibers in clothes faster than cold water. If you must choose a setting other than cold, opt for warm water instead of hot.

CUT BACK ON DETERGENT

A new, high-efficiency washer, especially, needs fewer suds to clean. Regardless of your washer, always use less detergent for delicates. Because the machine spins less, soap can be left behind -- and the result is clothing that feels greasy.

KEEP COLORS SEPARATE

Sort and separate clothes by colors, whites, and reds to avoid color bleeding. Don't be tempted to mix colors and toss in a color-catching sheet. According to Consumer Reports, they don't do the job.

TREAT DELICATES WITH CARE

Wash delicates separately from other items. They are called delicates for a reason, and the weight of heavier items, as well as zippers, buttons, and other potential snags, can do irreparable damage.

TREAT STAINS QUICKLY

Treat stains as soon as possible to keep them from setting, and make sure you are treating stains the right way. For example, blue Dawn dish soap (or any other petroleum-based dish soap) works wonders on grease stains but may not help with ink marks.

KEEP STAINED CLOTHES AWAY FROM HEAT

Do not put stained clothes in the dryer. The heat from the dryer will further set the stain. If a grease stain sneaks past you into the dryer, try treating it with dish soap and rewash.

CHANGE YOUR DEODORANT

Avoid armpit stains by using a deodorant without aluminum, and be sure to let the deodorant dry completely before putting on a shirt.

TRY A PRE-TREATMENT FOR SWEAT STAINS

Soak armpit stains in lemon juice for half an hour, then rinse with cold water prior to washing. To clean a white shirt, use a combination of hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and baking soda.

TALK TO YOUR DRY CLEANER

Don't just drop a bag of clothing with your dry cleaner and hope for the best. Take the time to point out all stains and, to the best of your recollection, explain what caused them.

TRY LINE DRYING

Use the dryer as little as possible. While line drying may take longer, it's easier on clothes. Also, if a stain makes it through the wash, it won't be as hard to treat as it would be after being exposed to high heat in the dryer.

CHOOSE THE LOWEST SETTING

If you must use the dryer, choose lowest heat setting possible and promptly remove clothes once they are dry. Excessive drying only results in added wear and tear.

LINE DRY JEANS

This helps prevent fading and saves the fibers from wearing out too soon.

HAVE A BALL

Place several tennis balls (or dryer balls) in the dryer for decreased dry time and less exposure to harmful heat. This is especially effective with puffy items that may take longer to dry.

AVOID WIRE HANGERS

Don't use wire hangers, especially on shirts. This will cause the clothes to stretch and develop bumps at the shoulders of shirts.

TOSS THE PLASTIC

Don't store clothes in the plastic bags that come from the dry cleaner. They can trap humidity or cause clothes to retain a chemical smell. Use cotton sheets or canvas garment bags instead.

FOLD KNITS

Don't hang knits on hangers. Consider folding them and storing in drawers. If you must use a hanger, plastic hangers are the best option.

KEEP CLOTHES IN THE DARK

Store garments away from heat, sunlight, and moisture to prevent premature aging and fading. When you do store clothes, be sure to clean them first – stains can oxidize and yellow the fabric.

DON'T CRAM YOUR CLOSET

Avoid overstuffing the closet. A closet that is too full will cause clothes to become wrinkled. Removing the wrinkles will require an iron or another run through the washer and dryer, causing more wear and tear.

ROTATE CLOTHES EVERY SEASON

Not only will this make it possible to quickly see what's available in your closet, it makes it easier to inspect for stains and wear. Store clean and dry off-season clothing folded in canvas totes.

BYPASS THE DRY CLEANER

Avoid dry cleaning unless absolutely necessary. It's expensive, and the chemicals damage clothing when used too often.

TRY HAND WASHING

Hand wash dry-clean-only clothes and lay them flat to dry. This will help cut down on the amount of times an article of clothing needs to be dry cleaned.

ASK YOUR DRY CLEANER FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Instead of having clothes dry cleaned, consider asking the dry cleaner for laundering and ironing without starch when appropriate for the item.

REPAIR YOUR OWN CLOTHES

Learn to sew on a button, and always save the extra buttons that come attached to new garments.

DON'T TOSS TORN KID APPAREL

Use colorful, iron-on patches to fix torn knees and other holes in kids' clothes. Patches can be found at any fabric or craft store and quickly affixed with nothing more than an iron.

MAKE YOUR OWN SHORTS

Turn faded, ripped jeans into cut-off shorts for summer. Slip them on, measure to where you want them to fall on your leg, then take them off and snip away.

REPURPOSE YOUR T-SHIRTS

Wear faded T-shirts to sleep rather than buying sleepwear. Old T-shirts are comfortable, and using them for nighttime is a great to get some extra mileage out of old shirts.

MAKE YOUR OWN RAGS

Keep old, worn-out clothes on hand for messy projects, such as painting or yard work. Use old cotton garments as rags to clean the car, dust furniture, and mop floors.

CREATE A COVER-UP

Let kids wear adult-size, old cotton shirts as smocks for messy art projects. They may need to be tied up for a closer fit but will cover young kids head-to-toe.

FOLLOW DIRECTIONS

When in doubt, read the label. While not all clothes demand the level of care suggested, such as dry cleaning, whatever is recommended is likely to do the trick.

BE GENTLE WITH DELICATES

Don't wring or twist silk or other delicate fabrics. Use the delicate washing cycle or hand wash, remove promptly, and lay flat to dry.

GET BACK TO BLACK

Refresh the color on black clothes with a simple dye bath. Inexpensive fabric dye can be found at any craft store. Because the dye in the fabric may bleed when washed, wash the item separately.

WHITEN WHITES

Brighten whites by adding half a cup of bleach to the washer, filling it with water, and then adding detergent and clothes. Since bleach can yellow manmade fabrics, choose borax or lemon juice for polyester and rayon blends.

SPRAY FIRST, DRESS LATER

Spray on your favorite fragrance before getting dressed, not after. Perfume can discolor delicate fabrics. If you do notice a stain, treat it with cold water as soon as possible.