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:
1. 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.
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?