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Home » Frugality, Save Money

You’re Killing your Clothes! 10 Things you SHOULD do to Extend the Life of your Clothing

Last updated by on 9 Comments

I hate buying new clothing.

Outside of the monetary pain, it’s a painful process. At 6’4″, with long legs and a lean stature, it’s not easy to find clothing that fits. Especially when I find most modern clothing styles to be absolutely abhorrent (#realmendontwearpastels).

So I’m very picky about what I buy (although you probably wouldn’t guess that by seeing how casually I dress).

When I find clothes I do like, I want to make them last. I find it quite depressing to find the perfect piece of clothing – comfortable, great fit, looks great on you – only to then see it break down to the point of being relegated to your “paint clothing” pile in the back corner of your closet.

Just about every article of clothing worn regularly is going to break down at some point. But why accelerate it? Why not delay its inevitable decay and get the most life out of that favorite polo shirt or super comfy pair of jeans?

Think of it this way – if you can extend the life of your clothing by 40% with a few simple habit changes – you’ll save 40% of the cost of buying clothing.

It’s a smart frugal measure.

So here are 10 things you can do to extend the life of your clothing.

Before Washing your Clothing:

extend clothing life1. Read the tag for proper washing care of clothing. There are an assortment of laundry symbols (link will show you what they mean) on the tags that look like a foreign language, but they do actually have a meaning and purpose. Also, read the care instructions below the symbols vs. just assuming something should be washed a certain way. In fact, read that label before you buy it. High maintenance clothing that you have to tenderly wash on its own should not be bought at all. I try to avoid dry-clean only clothing due to the extra time and cost involved in upkeep. Not to mention the chemical bath.

2. Sniff Test. An old-school classic, for good reason. Using those good ole’ olfactory cells. You do not need to wash a piece of clothing every time you wear it. This is especially true for pants, shorts, and shirts when you have worn an under-shirt. If clothing is not visibly dirty, try hanging it up inside-out in an open area or outside for a couple hours to allow it to air out. Unless you’ve eaten garlic, that is – there’s no getting that smell out.

3. Treat stains right away to prevent them from setting-in and ruining a piece of clothing. For at home treatment you can also purchase a leave-on stain treatment spray, which doesn’t require washing right away, to set on stained clothing until you are ready to do laundry.

When Washing Clothing:

4. Zip up your zippers and unbutton your buttons. Open zippers can snag on other clothing when in the washer and dryer, wearing it out faster. Zip up your zippers. Unbutton your buttons to minimize wear on folds and prevent loosening of thread around the button.

5. Turn clothing inside out. This helps to ensure the fabric on the visible outside does not face as much abrasion from the washer and dryer that would cause pilling or the fabric to wear out faster. It also helps to prevent fading of dark clothing.

6. Wash like items together. Heavy bulky items like flannel sheets with delicate clothing will cause wear and tear to the delicate clothing. Dark colors should not be washed with whites or light colored clothing due to the potential of dark color dye to stain light colored clothing.

7. Protect dark colors from fading by washing in cold water, using a mild detergent and one cup of vinegar for a large load. Vinegar keeps darks from fading by helping to dissolve the residue from hard water and laundry detergent that can cause fading. Vinegar will also help set color on clothing made with unstable dyes.

8. Reinvigorate faded or stained clothing by using a fabric dye. I once refreshed a faded light blue shirt by using a dark blue color of Rit Dye on it. The first day I wore it to work a friend asked if it was a new shirt.

During & After Drying Clothing:

9. Dry by air to reduce wear from tumbling around in a dryer and save money on the cost of using a dryer (which is much higher than you probably think). Here’s the thing – that lint you remove from your dryer is mostly pieces of your clothing that has been beaten out by the dryer. Every time you dry your clothing, you lose a little bit of it. Do not hang dark clothing in the sun, as it will cause fading over time.

10. Properly store your clothing. Metal hangers (really, any hangers) + gravity are brutal on shirts, especially heavier long-sleeve shirts. Folding is almost always better for clothing longevity.

That’s been my experience on how to make your clothes last longer.

What tips have you used to extend the life of your clothing?

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I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


9 Comments »
  • Michelle says:

    These are all great tips. Usually W washes the clothes and he just throws anything and everything into the washer and calls it a day. Makes me angry! :)

  • Stuart says:

    Great selection of tips.

    I normally follow most of them although I am guilty of using the tumble drier (30 minutes on a low heat really helps to reduce the drying time).

    Another related tip is to avoid storing shoes at the foot of your hanging space as they can make your clothes smell, which means you have to wash them more often.

  • Natalie H says:

    Front Load washers are much less damaging to clothes and use less water, less detergent, and less laundry additives. I traded for one on Craigslist and I have been very happy with it.

    Some detergent can be hard on your clothes. I’ve been using Nellie’s and plan on trying soap nuts once my current bucket finally runs out.

  • Kathy says:

    I ditto Natalie on the front loader. They are sufficiently gentle on clothes that I actually washed my husband’s suits (on the wool setting) and had no problems. Combine a front-loader with air drying (great tip!) and you have t-shirts that are 25 years old that are still wearable…

  • Mike says:

    I’ll have to look into doing some of these for my clothes while I am traveling overseas. They might come in handy in extending the life of what I am taking.

  • Buying quality clothing is essential for these things to work. I find that if I buy fewer clothes, but make sure that what I am buying is classic, comfortable, and made to last, and then doing many of the things you suggested, I can get many years out of my clothes!

  • julia @ howmuchcost.org says:

    Really like this article! I’ve always wondered what some of those laundry symbols mean!! Really like this web site. Going to read more of it, talk to my husband and reorganize our life a bit! Great ideas!!!

  • Nice tips! I own an online clothing store where I recommend a few tips to my customers about how they can take care of their cloths and how they can keep the logos from fading on their shirts. After reading these tips, I will add more information to my products to help my customers even further.

  • kathleen says:

    When we bought our house, the first improvement we made to it was the installation of a water treatment system. It softens the water, and does a lot to preserve our clothing. The soft water means we can use way less detergent to get our clothes clean. Soft water is also great for hair and skin.

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