16 Ways to Make Your Clothes Last Longer Without Spending Big

By Andrea Karim on 30 September 2008 (Updated 8 June 2011) 79 comments

With everyone trying to stretch their dollars further these days, it makes sense to take care of the things we have, rather than buy replacements. This goes for clothing as much as anything else we own and use on a daily basis.

As a reformed clothes-horse, I struggle to prevent myself from shopping for new duds on a daily basis. These are ways I've found that have helped me hang on to clothes I already have. (See also: To Buy or Not to Buy? Criteria for Thrift-Store Clothes Shopping)

1. Know Thyself

The first step in maintaining a wardrobe is to be aware of your cleaning limits and your clothing habits.

If you can't afford to dry clean clothing, don't buy dry-clean-only clothes. If you despise ironing and avoid it with all your might, don't build your wardrobe around French cuff shirts or blouses that need starching. You'll only regret it later when you can't be bothered with the cost or hassle of upkeep, and you'll either have to get rid of the clothes, or wear them wrinkled.

2. Color Wisely

If you have a habit of spilling coffee down your front, there's no shame in wearing lots of chocolate brown, charcoal gray, and navy blue. Dark colors hide a multitude of clumsy moments.

3. Folding vs. Hanging

Make sure that you don't fold clothes that need to be hung and don't hang clothes that need to be folded. Sweater stretch on the hanger and dress shirts don't do well folded, unless you are an expertly masterful folder of some kind.

4. Dress for The Task at Hand

It can be tempting to simply get messy chores done while wearing whatever it is we wore at work, but that's a fast way to ruin work clothes. There's a reason why moms frequently make a distinction between their kids' "play clothes" and "school clothes." If tackling a potentially dirty project, don't do it in a dress shirt and slacks. Change into your grubbies before you get muddy. Also, wear an apron while cooking. I've ruined many a lovely dress over a pot of simmering bolognese.

5. Stop Laundering So Often

It's really easy to want to wash an item of clothing after having worn it just once. But washing is the fastest way to help the fibers break down. The fewer times you have to wash, the longer it will last.

If you are too lazy to rehang worn (but clean) clothing, it's OK to drape it over surfaces like your dresser or a chair, just as long as you don't drop it on the floor. Once clothes are on the floor, they will HAVE to be washed before being worn again, but a draped shirt will live to see another day of wear.

The following items can also help you wear a shirt or a pair of pants more than once before washing:

  • Tide To Go Pen: These little pens cost less than $5, last for a long time, and will save your blouse when you manage to drop a dollop of marinara down the front. Coworkers and friends are always wowed by how quickly this trick works to remove stains from fabric. I use a Shout stick stain remover as well, on large stains, but the Tide pen allows you to use the stain treatment without having to wash the clothing item immediately thereafter.
     
  • Lint Roller: Sometimes a pair of black slacks doesn't really need to be washed — it just needs the cat hair removed from around the cuffs. My white dog really loves to jump on my lap whenever I'm wearing dark colors (it's like he knows), and it's not that he's dirty — he just sheds like it's going out of style. I have lint rollers in every room of my house, and they keep my slacks looking professional. I also keep one at the office to pick up stray hair and fluff that inevitable lands on my back and shoulders during long days spent scratching my head.
     
  • Deodorant: Your shirts will smell better and stand up to multiple wearings if you yourself don't stink.

6. Keep All Those Buttons

Every time you buy a new clothing item that comes with spare buttons, immediately put the buttons in a jar or box reserved entirely for buttons and spare thread. It's easy to lose track of these important surplus buttons, and it's one of the fastest ways for a cardigan to become useless.

7. Wash in Cold Water

People who wash their clothing in cold water will notice a drop in their energy bills very quickly. In addition, many fabrics (especially nylon and elastics) hold up better when subjected to less heat. Cold water detergents are designed to remove dirt even without the help of hot water, but even normal detergent will work well. Also, even though I try my hardest to be a stickler for the environment, a good capful of bleach will do amazing things for your whites — it's almost like having new clothing.

[Some parents might note that it is very difficult to remove grass stains from a kid's pants using cold water washes. To this I respond: this is why children should be dressed from head to toe in black. Not only can you imagine that they are little ninjas (or French poets, if they are pouting), but it'll save you the pain of trying to remove all kinds of goobery stains from their clothing. Those of you who would like to note that I am not, in fact, a parent, and don't know what I am talking about, I would just like to say this: you are right. I'm still planning on having black-clad children of my own, no matter what you say about how adorable they look in t-shirts with froggies on them.]

8. Obey the Laws of Color Separation

At the end of a long day, with loads and loads of laundry facing you, it can be tempting to just throw the reds in with the blues, but try to keep like colors washed with like colors. Reds and blues fade easily and everyone knows how one red sock can turn a whole load of whites a light shade of rose. Try your best to keep dissimilar colors apart in the laundry.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

9. Zip Up Jeans/Hoodies Before Washing Them

Unzipped zipper edges on pants and hoodies are often very rough, and if left unzipped during the washing and drying cycles, they'll chew up the rest of your clothing in no time! Make sure that all zippers are zipped to the top before tossing them in the wash.

10. Be Considerate of Your Underthings

Don't tumble-dry your over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders. Bras and underwear made of fabrics and fabric blends (especially nylon) besides cotton don't do well in the heat of a dryer. Hang or drape them to air dry instead. And those little mesh bags that your mother used to nag you to use when washing delicate brassieres? They really do help to keep bra straps from wrapping around other clothing while in the wash. Be sure to fasten the bras, too, to prevent hooks from catching on delicate knits or sweaters.

11. Slip into Something New

Consider wearing some of the more traditional underclothes that have fallen out of fashion as of late — slips, body shapers, and undershirts will both help your clothing drape better over your body, and also protect clothing from sweat stains and friction that can cause wear and tear. I recently spent $70 on a body slimmer by Spanx (I used to buy the cheaper ones called Assets), and not only do I look slimmer, but the darn thing actually helps improve my posture. Also, it keeps my wobbly thighs firmly encased in fabric, which means that the insides of my pants don't wear as quickly because my thighs don't rub together as much.

You obviously don't have to spend nearly as much for a cotton undershirt or a silk slip, but these things keep clothing away from your skin, and it doesn't matter if they get stained, since no one else is going to see them. Undershirts, slips, and camisoles can help your clothing last longer.

12. Notice Your Surroundings

Those Aeron chairs, while comfortable, really rub the seat of your pants the wrong way. If you are noticing increased wear on your clothing, look around to see what part of your work or home environment could be contributing to it. The edge of your desk might be wearing down your shirt cuffs. Look for small ways to improve your position so that your clothing isn't taking a beating while you are working.

13. Clean and/or Polish Your Shoes Frequently

Polishing may seem a bit tedious, but frequently wiping down your shoes with a barely-damp cloth with prevent dirt from settling into cracks permanently, and to keep leather from getting too dry (which causes cracking).

14. Don't Wear Dress Shoes While Driving

I've ruined many a pair of dress pumps by doing nothing more than driving — the back of the heel rubs against my car's floor mats, and before long, my black shoes are spotting fuzzy gray patches on the back where the carpet did its work. I'm not high-class enough to wear driving moccasins, so I just wear sandals or Crocs in the car and put my shoes on once I arrive at the office.

15. Patch Early, Patch Often

Blue jeans are usually the first items of clothing to develop little holes in them. You can patch clothing by buying fabric patches and applying with heat-activated adhesive, sew a cute patch over a tiny hole, or just stitch it up with a little needle and thread.

16. Reinforce Hems

Even cheap clothing can last a long time if you reinforce the hems with a simple stitch on a normal sewing machine. Skirts, pants, even underwear will wear longer and better when the hems are less flimsy. You don't have to be a talented seamstress to hem a pair of pants - anyone can do it with a little practice. In addition, once a shirt's wrists are looking ragged or your slacks are starting to wear at the hem, you can always take them in a bit. Hemlines rise and fall every season, but you can probably safely remove a half-inch from your favorite jeans without anyone noticing. This keeps hems nicer and overall appearance neater.

Any reader tips would also be appreciated!

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Guest's picture
Sarah

Be careful with the deodorant- it could actually make your clothing wear out faster!

Take it from the chemists

There's also some anecdotal evidence that antiperspirants create worse stains than deodorant. Living abroad in a country without air conditioning has taught me that whatever personal care item you apply, it will have a much greater impact on your clothes the more you sweat or do any kind of strenuous physical activity. A basketball coach I know actually says it's better not to use antiperspirant at all if you're planning on sweating. If you sit at a desk, it doesn't matter nearly as much.

Guest's picture
Johan

Sarah's absolutely right. I managed to ruin a nice Banana Republic polo by using a type of Old Spice antiperspirant in combination with Tide's "color-safe" bleach. The bleaching was activated only in areas of the shirt that had absorbed the antiperspirant, and was subtle, so I didn't notice it until five or six washings. By that time, it was too late.

Guest's picture
Kimmer

No mention of avoiding the dryer? I only have a measly drying rack, but am hoping to get a full fledged clothes line next spring.

Guest's picture
steve

If you are looking to put up a clothesline, I thought I would share my experience.

Realize that you only need the line, you don't need fancy pulleys and stuff. I recommend the cotton clothesline over the plastic stuff, although I've used both. I prefer cotton because it performs well using traditional knots, is easily unknotted, and can be used for other purposes if you just take the line down.

You can put a line up using just a couple of simple knots. You may need two half hitches to secure it around one support, (or tie a loop into it and loop it over a hook) and you can use a trucker's hitch to tension the line.

You can spend up to $100 putting a clothesline up, or you can just buy $9 worth of cotton clothesline, look up those knots, and you are good to go.

BTW, I prefer to set up a line inside as I have inconsistent results drying outside (due to weather). I always know it's not going to rain in the house, so I don't need to think about it. Attics are a good place for a line, also covered porches and, if you have the space, between two door openings that are a good distance apart (tie the line around the upper hinges of the doors).

Guest's picture
katy

wearing an apron while eating at home saves me when I drip coffee or dressing down my shirt. and putting clothes inside out helps a little with fading in the wash.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have to wear a chef's jacket when I cook - I've ruined many a shirt just by a random splatter on the sleeve.

Guest's picture

This probably sounds like overkill, but I always keep an extra set of clothes in the car. I have some of those Shout Wipes packets, which definitely help, but when I'm at the office, and I spill coffee on my shirt (which happens more often than I would like!) the best thing I've found is to change into my spare shirt, and then rinse the stained shirt in cold water as quickly as possible.

And back when I used to have a husky, I used to keep a couple of lint rollers in my car at all times too. My friends definitely appreciated it for when they had to ride in my car!

Guest's picture
Guest

Air dry when possible. Just look at all the lint in the drier and you can understand your clothes are slowly (or quickly) disappearing when you tumble dry. Air drying causes less wrinkles, is MUCH gentler on your clothes, and is 100% free!

Guest's picture

I absolutely agree. Air drying saves clothes for a longer time which is why I air dry most of my clothes. It also saves electricity, which would be used in great amounts by a drier.

Thank you for the tips, Andrea. I appreciate it.

Guest's picture
Beth

It's old-fashioned, but the best thing I did for my wardrobe was learn how to sew (I'm lucky that my mother taught me as a young girl). I've saved a lot of money over the years by fixing my favourite clothes. I have also saved money by buying "damaged clothes" that I can easily fix.

Buttons are also key. Sometimes an outdated jacket or blouse can be given new life by changing the buttons.

Guest's picture
Guest

If I lose one too many buttons from a shirt, I will replace the missing button with the top button, which I never use & is usually hidden by the collar.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have a comment on dryers vs line drying. While it is certainly true that drying your clothes in the dryer can be hard on them, wearing some clothes after they have been line dried can be uncomfortable! Tumbling things for a bit and then hanging them is a nice compromise. Also, I find hanging clothes on a hanger when line drying produces better results than using clothespins, because it distributes the weight of the garment more evenly.

Here's my question: Does anyone know what the truth is, when it comes to all the hype about newer detergents that are made for dark clothing, or designed to "preserve" your clothes? I have always suspected that shampoo was a decent substitute for detergent that is meant for hand washing, but I have no actual proof for such an assertion!

Guest's picture
maria

before everyone starts dressing their kids in black, I have a suggestion that worked for me. Murphy's oil soap. This will even get grass stains off of polyester white baseball pants and anything else you have a stain on. Get the stain wet and spray liberally with Murphy's and let sit. If it is a really ground in stain, repeat the above and then wash as usual. Stains are all gone. Another tip. Ink stains. I once had a pen explode all over my winter jacket. A wonderful woman told me to spray it with hairspray and then blot. Not really believing but willing to try I did as suggested. It was like magic! I am talking a big, blue ink stain on a cranberry colored coat...all gone.

Guest's picture
Reese

This is a great article and I really like the tips other readers have mentioned.

I would like to ad one more, repair your clothing. I'm always some what baffled when friends will throw away perfectly good clothing just because it needs a zipper fixed or has a missing button. If you can't sew (zippers can be tricky), then take it to a tailor! The cost is minimal to fix a zipper and you get more wear from the garment. If you lose a button and can't find a match, you can replace all the buttons (buy extras for later.) Also, having dress shoes re-heeled will give them a new life and costs a lot less then buying new shoes.

Guest's picture
Guest

I use the dark Woolite-ish detergent and it does make a difference in keeping your darks from looking faded. If you wear a lot of black cotton, you know it looks faded pretty quickly, but a semi-annual Rit Dye-a-thon of your black clothes makes them look practically new!

I also wash in cold water and line-dry my clothes; linen gets pretty stiff, but can be tumbled for a few minutes when almost dry to soften it up.

This works pretty well; I have clothes that I bought new and are now older than many of your readers.

Guest's picture
14k

Hello, what brand of Rit Dye you use for Dark clothes and Black clothes? -thanks

Myscha Theriault's picture

Some great tips, both in the article and from our readers. I think I am now going to stock up on a bulk supply of lint rollers once we get our dog back with us from the sitter . . .

Guest's picture

My husband is an environmental chemistry professor and he says don't worry yourself about a tiny bit of bleach-- it breaks down into salt and water quite quickly, actually. Not like you want to hose your house down with it, but a capful now and then isn't anything to stress over. :)

I agree on the antiperspirant thing--we've found that his shirts get major stank-pit when he uses AP. He switched to just deo (and keeps a spare at work for a touch up later, as he is stinky) and his shirts last years longer. But, a soak in Borax and water can help release the odors if they aren't too bad.

Great tips, and more above, too. Here's one from my college-all-black-wardrobe days. When blacks start to get faded (esp. cotton), I pick up a packet of black Rit dye, put all the blacks in the washer (just solids) and add the dye. It really brings them back! I've also been known to dye a garment I'm not wild about, since I wouldn't be wearing it anyway. Black or dark blue work well and bring new life to older things.

As for other tips, I've been known to pick up a clearance item in a slightly larger size and take it to a tailor. When you pay $10 for a $200 item and pay another $15 for tailoring, it's very worth it! You look great, it's custom-tailored, and you barely paid anything for it. I've found our local dry-cleaner's tailor is great for this. Cheap and very good.

I'd also suggest when hemming pants or jeans, don't cut them off. There comes a point when they do another shrink and being able to let them down again can extend their life for you (or just wear them with boots, which is more forgiving.)

And last: Sharpies. :D I've used them to fill in scuffs on red shoes, color in hem lines on black pants I had to let down again, etc. They come in lots of colors, and though they may not be an absolute perfect match, who's going to look that closely?

OK, I'm shutting up now.

Guest's picture
Guest

Thanks for the tips!

Guest's picture
Dianna

i'm a recent convert to the clothesline, it really is far gentler on clothes. also, i hung my line on my covered porch so the clothes don't get direct sunlight, since i wear a lot of dark colors. if you want to brighten your whites, though, DO put them in direct sunlight, it bleaches them naturally.

and line-hung clothes smell soooooo good! i even do towels and jeans and am used to it now, but if they're too stiff to bear, i put them in the dryer first for 15 mins or so, then hang.

i read somewhere of a guy who was something of a fashionista but had little money, who used to buy secondhand suits of a really good brand, then pay $50 or so to get them custom tailored. this way he had beautiful, custom fitted suits for far less than $100. i thought this was genius!

Guest's picture

Frugal lady that I am, I'm always trying to come up with ways to make my clothes last longer and I've become quite good at it. And since I've looked exactly the same since I was about 16, I still do occasionally wear clothes from high school as long as they still look contemporary.

Dryel or any other home dry cleaning kit is a great way to save on dry cleaning bills. Also, try hand washing and then flat drying your cashmere and merino wool. It actually gets it clean. As for premium denim, also try washing it inside-out on the gentle cycle. This will preserve the color longer.

Also, if you happen to accidentally turn all of your whites that lovely pale rose color, Rit (of tie-dye fame) makes some really good color removers that are dirt cheap. Their rust remover is also fantastic for those on well water.

Guest's picture
Marsha B

Another tip: turn denim and linen inside-out before washing it.

Guest's picture
wikiwicks

Laundry…one of my favorite topics!

Doing the laundry means...taking it to the machine, sorting, washing, drying, folding or hanging up, and PUTTING IT AWAY WHERE IT BELONGS! Hang anything that needs to be hung right out of the washer or dryer; saves on the wrinkles. Fold clothes immediately out of the dryer; don’t throw the clothes in a laundry basket and take the basket to another area of the house to be folded!

If you’ve left your wet clothes in the washer and they have a funky smell, or if you’ve added too much soap, white vinegar will do the trick. Just run the clothes through the cycle again after adding a cup or two of vinegar. Removes the smell AND they don’t smell like vinegar either!

Save energy. Don’t over dry your clothes. Helps to use the blue dryer balls (Wal-Mart carries ‘em; 2 for 5 bucks) in your dryer; I use 6. Like the old days when Mom would use tennis shoes in the dryer to puff our down coats. They cut drying time, fluff your towels, puff-up down vests and coats, and make clothes look nicer. Don’t use dryer sheets with them; shouldn’t use them anyway.

Clean the lint from your dryer vent after EVERY load! Never leave with the washer or dryer running when you are not home, it’s not safe. Think fires and floods. Before you leave on vacation, turn off the water valves to the washer. There’s constant pressure on the hoses, which could bust and flood while you’re out of town, ugh!

Also, VERY IMPORTANT…install a smoke detector in your laundry area.

Guest's picture
Guest

"Cold water detergents are designed to remove dirt even without the help of cold water"

shouldn't that be "without the help of hot/warm water" ?

Guest's picture
Smig

I must be one of your ninjas grown-up (kind of). Almost everything I own is black and mostly contains elastane, which keeps things in shape so they don't need ironing.

Laundry's a breeze - throw it all in together (bras in mesh bags. If stretch jeans go baggy at the knees but don't need washing, a few minutes in the dryer pulls them back into shape.

Wardrobe decisions are easy. Which shirt should I wear with the black suit? Why, the black one. Buying's easy; if it's not black, I don't even look at it. No odd socks, either; I buy identical ones in bulk.

Guest's picture
Smig

Don't use fabric conditioner with elastane-added fabrics - especially bras - they'll go out-of-shape fast.

I think that's all. :)

Guest's picture
Carolyn

Another miracle on-the-go stain remover that I've discovered are plain old baby wipes. They will take out blood, spilled food, coffee, you name it, easily, quickly, and much more cheaply than the Tide to go or Shout products. I haven't tried them on grease stains or grass yet.

I heartily agree with the advice to choose a wardrobe that suits your life. I hate to iron, so the only types of clothes I buy are ones that can be worn straight out of the dryer.

Andrea Karim's picture

I don't think that drying clothes on a line is a good thing - maybe that was a poor choice for a picture? I find that line-dried clothes are stiffer and they lose color faster because they get bleached by the sun. It's fine for sheets, if you use fabric softener.

I had forgotten about how my old anti-perspirant used to eat through my shirts. The kind I wear now is much gentler. I think it's by Dove. Might not work for heavy sweat, though.

Guest's picture
Guest

If "crunchy" jeans/towels are an issue on the line, throw in the dryer while they are still slightly damp. Then it only takes about 15 minutes to fluff/dry the rest of the way. As far as the sun fading things that are line dried, our clothes line runs north-south along the back of our yard with woods on the west side; so the amount of direct sunlight is determined by the time of day that I put things out. We live in Florida, so in July or August we can have line-dried clothes in less time than it would take to use the dryer.

Guest's picture
JW

Line drying may preserve clothes, but it's an awful ideal for those who have allergies. About 15%-30% of people have allergies, so if you're line drying clothes for a family of 4, you're probably making at least one person's life miserable.

Guest's picture
sterlingsilver

After many years, another lesson I learned regarding business attire was to quit keeping my wallet in my BACK POCKET. Though most common for guys of my generation, long days of sitting at a desk and a fat wallet (lots of cards and junk, not money) will wear a hole right through your pants pocket in no time. This is okay for jeans--not so good for your Dockers. Now I roll with a very small, slim wallet, keeping only what I absolutely need inside...and I keep it in a front pants pocket, where it is more secure anyway.

Another thing I stock up on every Fall are second-hand wool tweed sport jackets, which can be had for $5-$10 each. Pick the best-quality, least worn items in herringbone, houndstooth, plaid...it doesn't matter. I dry clean them and wear them all winter, it's part of my regular evening wear with a black tee and a pair of jeans. When I wear them out (and I do) I give them to a friend who turns them into couch pillows....

Myscha Theriault's picture

I'll have to try that one out. Sounds like one for the budget books.

Guest's picture
Guest

I've used Rit black dye successfully to keep my all-black poly-cotton work uniform looking snazzy. I buy the liquid kind, dump it in the washer, let it fill with water and clothes, then turn it off so the clothes can soak. I usually let it stand overnight, then let it finish the cycle.

*Warning* Wash another load of dark clothes, or run an empty cycle after you do this, to make sure all the residual dye is out of the washer.

A note on stains--treat them as soon as they happen! I like the other poster's idea of carrying a second set of clothes. Nothing will ruin your dress shirt (or your day) like leaving a coffee/ketchup/marinara/ink stain all day, then leaving it in the hamper for a week. If you wash the item yourself, check it before you put it in the dryer. You can always run it through another wash if the stain doesn't come completely out. Drying it will set the stain.

P.S. #24 "Rit" IS the brand name of the dye. My local stores stock it on the laundry aisle, usually at the very top or very bottom of the shelf. There are probably other brands out there that work just as well, I've just always used Rit.

Guest's picture
Nick

Good tips, but hard to understand how air drying isn't one of the top items.

Black is the perfect "color" for all ages.

Bleach can be rough on fibers, shortening their life.

Andrea Karim's picture

and several of the commenters. Feel free to peruse our reasons for disliking it.

Guest's picture
Guest

Microwave your socks (you do not need to wet the socks) for 30 seconds with a cup of water (water in a cup will absorb excess of microwave radiation). Microwaves kills bacteria/fungi so the socks are good enough to be worn the second without washing. The same trick (but remember to have a glass/cup with water) works with stinky towels, etc. Be careful, never leave microwave alone while refreshing your socks!

Guest's picture
Esther

I used it on my daughter's white cotton cardigan, and it stained it yellow! It got out the original stain, but then the yellow spot it left was permanent! I haven't tried Oxi-Clean's portable sprtizer. Does anyone know how that performs on whites?

Guest's picture
Fiona

I read somewhere that patching your jeans on the inside before you start wearing them will save the knees.

Guest's picture
gabriele

We may live in a country where humidity is preventing air drying
of clothes totally. I lived in such a location where the fogs used to moist the clothes from 4 p.m.onwards after they were almost dry. In that case the stuff must get off the line as fast as possible. Almost dry is the best moment for drying off by machine.
It saves money and hardly doesn't harm.

It should never be in the drying machine more than 25 minutes which also means that whet clothes shouldn't go into a drier.
Shake well when the drying cycle is finished to avoid ironing of most stuff because, ironing also causes an earlier death or clothes in my mind.

By the way, an expensive drier does less damage to clothes and makes them last longer than a cheap one. I found this out by experience.

Guest's picture
Anne

I'm a little confused, and maybe it's because I'm an apartment dweller.

Line drying your clothes is just a catch-all term for not using the dryer, right? I have a folding drying rack set up in my bedroom and I occasionally use my shower rod. With my allergies I'd never dry things outside even if I had that option. But using the folding rack saves me money and helps maintain fabrics.

I think more people should be forced to think like those of us who shell out $1 a load for the washer and then another $1 a load for the dryer. Economy breeds creativity :)

Guest's picture
Guest

Line drying is of course essential. Washing and ironing clothes inside out is a good idea as well.

To get out stains up to and including blood and hair color I use hairspray (Navy trick). The cheaper the better, Aqua Net is best. Spray the stain till wet, let dry and wash. On really hard stains don't give up, sometimes a 2nd or 3rd wash will get it out all the way. The hairspray is also good for yellow on white linens and military uniforms or anything for that matter.

To keep colors bright and new looking, on the first wash when you get them home, wash them with a cup of salt in cold. The salt color fasts colors and you will find they last longer.(Navy trick) With rit dye using salt on the first wash after dying will hold the color.

By the way on the subject of making clothes last. I have several t shirts from concerts and such that i like but wore out or shrunk so I stuffed them with batting and sewed them up and now my favorite t's are my favorite pillows.

Guest's picture
Bijan's mom

Someone mentioned this earlier inside a long post, but it's worth bringing out on its own...black Sharpies are really great for touching up black shoes that are showing a little bit of wear, just marker right on them! Also good for black purses that have started to get grey areas from a lot of use. I've been doing this since my poor college student days and I'm still keeping worn-out items I love looking nicer longer.

Guest's picture
Amanda

Try using about half the amount of detergent you usually use in the wash. Detergent residue tends to cling to clothes, especially if you have hard water, and will just attract dirt more quickly. Add a little bit of vinegar to the rinse water, as well-- it'll help remove soap or detergent buildup and helps condition the fabric without making it unabsorbent, as fabric softeners do.

Guest's picture
Jenn

hydrogen peroxide is EXCELLENT for removing blood stains. Pour, let it bubble out, blot, start over till its gone

Guest's picture
Guest

be careful! i would only try this on whites as hydrogen peroxide can easily bleach other clothes. have you tried this with other colors?

Guest's picture
Fiona Bourdot-Clayton

I don't overstuff my wardrobe - a regular inventory helps. Having too many clothes crammed together not only makes it difficult to see what I've got, it can mean that finer fabrics are being damaged by rubbing against coarser fabrics, zips or buckles. It will also exacerbate the destructive effects of any cloth munching pests like moth larvae.
To keep the pests at bay, I use a very little eucalyptus or lavender oil in the final rinse of my woollens (I like it on my sheets and towels, too) and I have sachets of dried lavender in my chest of drawers. The pests do not like the smell. Eucalyptus is a strong smell and a little goes a long way.
I store my shoes on a shoe rack. Leaving them jumbled at the bottom of the wardrobe will shorten their life by damaging the heels and scuffing the leather. I polish my office shoes after every third wear. Even in an office environment, they get dusty and dull looking. It is true that tired or scruffy shoes will let down an otherwise good looking outfit. Letting the shoes air properly is essential if your feet tend to be 'pungent', as is not wearing the same pair every day.
I am very short and like to wear heels with my office clothes to give a better line to skirts and dresses but I always have a decent pair of flats to wear if I need to walk somewhere during the day. Not only can I move faster in flats, it saves my expensive heels from wear. Driving in heels is difficult and damaging to the shoes so flats are a wise choice for this, too.
I always use a smalls bag for machine washing bras and hosiery (in separate bags, natch). I like to buy micro-fishnet stockings as they seem not to snag as easily as the sheer ones. The have an interesting texture and, because they are micro, I don't look like the wrong sort of working girl.
Machine sewn shirt buttons come lose really easily. I hand stitch them on as soon as I see them working lose. It takes only a couple of turns to secure the button.
I use about half the manufacturer's recommended dose of laundry detergent and put a quarter cup of vinegar in my rinsing water to remove any trace of remaining detergent. Detergent in the dry clothes is not good for the fabric, can leave white traces in the folds and may irritate your skin.
I wash most things, including my young son's school uniform and play clothes, in cold water and I am a fanatical pre-wash colour/fabric sorter but it is most important to follow the care instructions on the clothes if you want them (and your significant relationships) to last. My boyfriend has never been entirely forgiven for throwing a precious and pricey woollen top in the machine on a regular cycle.

Guest's picture
Nicole Rose

Fiona!  It has to be you?!  Short and seriously verbose.

I'm on facebook.  Find Me!!

Nicole Rose (Fuhrmeister)

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Guest

Oxi-Clean's portable sprtizer is WONDERFUL. Takes out the stain and does not leave the mark like the other brands

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Guest

I recently returned from a stay in a hotel room and developed what I fear may be bedbug bites. The internet sites all say that any clothing that was in that hotel room should be washed in hot water and put in the dryer to kill any eggs that may have gotten on my clothes. Some of my clothes will be ruined if I wash them in hot water and put them in the dryer.

Someone suggested just putting them in the dryer while they are dry, and that the heat from the dryer will kill any eggs. Does anyone know if doing that once for 20 minutes or so will ruin the clothes?

Guest's picture
steve

Most dryers run around 170F at the high setting. I don't think that will damage your clothes but you didn't say what they are made of.

Generally, any heat treatment temperature over 160 will kill bugs and their eggs pretty fast. I'm guessing even 120 or 130F would do it it you exposed them for a longer period of time.

Andrea Karim's picture

I've done that before just to get wrinkles out of pants. Unless the clothing is heat sensitive and includes instructions like "DO NOT DRY" or "DO NOT EXPOSE TO HEAT", they should be fine.

Sorry to hear about that lousy experience.

Andrea Karim's picture

Thanks for the advice, steve. Much appreciated.

Guest's picture
Palla

"wearing some clothes after they have been line dried can be uncomfortable"

Why? in my country we line-dry all the time and I can't see the cons.

Andrea Karim's picture

A lot of cotton fabrics dry stiff - like jeans or certain t-shirts. I simply like the dryer more because it's the opportunity to get ALL of the dog hair out of my clothing.

Guest's picture

I have always washed my clothes in cold water and I am glad to find someone who does the same thing. Great tips.

Guest's picture
hil

Gently used designer garments and shoes are available on ebay. Because name brand designers use high quality materials and manufacturing processes, the clothing and shoes typically last longer.

Search for your favorite designer or fabric type (for example, "men's shirt 100% silk XL") in ebay and support recycling while building a classy wardrobe.

-Hilary

Guest's picture
PK

I lived the first 24 years of my life in the USA with machine dryers. Then I spent 4 years living abroad in a country where line-drying (particularly on racks due to poor weather conditions outside) was the norm. My little apartment had a washer but no drier; that was the norm for all my friends.

Is there a difference between clothes that have been machine-dried and air-dried? Ohhhh yes.

1) With line/rack drying, you do have to be creative in how you hang things to avoid the 'pulled' look from wet clothes vs. gravity. I agree with a previous commenter that hangers help a lot to distribute the weight of wet fabric, but unfortunately hangers sometimes take up valuable real-estate on the drying rack or around the apartment, so you have to be selective in what you choose to hang.

2) No matter what you dry, for the most part you were get marks left from where the clothespin was, or where the bend was if you draped the item on the rack/line. It's usually not a problem if it's something you'll wear the wrinkles out of shortly after wearing it, like underwear. But it can be a problem for nicer shirts and the like sometimes.

3) In my opinion, there is absolutely a difference in texture. Most clothes (I can't argue for different natural vs. synthetic vs. blends due to ignorance) WILL be significantly stiffer after line-drying. This is not a *problem* per se, but in terms of comfort it can be inconvenient. Now I'm no spoiled brat or anything, having backpacked extensively for months relying on hand-washing EVERything and line-drying almost every time. So for me, having stiffer clothes was tolerable. Heck, if you don't have any other choice, it has no choice but to be tolerable. But the only thing I missed was having soft athletic socks. It's practically demoralizing to stick your feet into something that feels like low-grade cardboard every day for years. Of course once the shoes went on and walking softened them up a bit I didn't notice it anymore, but still. It's still something you negatively notice every single day. When I left there to come home to washing machines, I was so giddy after my first load of machine-dried laundry I probably did rub their softness against my cheek, lol.

But I guess it's kind of moot since it seems like most people who've weighed in on the line-drying suggest tossing the clothes in the machines for a few minutes to soften them up anyway.

I just thought I'd weigh in as someone who's lived both all-machine-drying and all-line-drying.

By the by, great article! I've bookmarked it and look forward to using a couple of the tips I've learned.

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Guest

My dentist taught me that your own spit will take out your own blood. Obviously for smaller spots, but it really works! Pretreating a greasy stain with Dawn dishsoap works wonders, as well.

Guest's picture
Katina

It's the chlorine in the water that makes clothes fade so you need to neutralize the chlorine in the washing machine. You can use an Aquarium Dechlorinator, used for fish, or you can use a product like "Bleach Stop" that you can get at Dharma Trading Company.

Guest's picture
Beth

save money by NOT even using dryer sheets or fabric conditioner. What a scam.

Guest's picture
Guest

From an earth-friendly perspective fabric conditioners and sheets are not good. They contain dangerous chemicals. I am a grandmother and recently learned about using white vinegar as a softener. It also reduces lint on dark clothes. I have been line-drying our clothes for several years, in the basement year round. I hang undies, sox and towels on drying racks and everything that can be hung goes on a hanger and is hung on a rod my husband rigged up - shirts, pants, nighties, sweatshirts, etc. This saves lots of space on the racks. I can have 3 full loads drying at one time.
I encourage the young folks to always look for better, not easier, ways to do things. Remember Mother Earth - and saving a little money at the same time isn't bad either!

Guest's picture
Beth

It's not so much the heat, but the friction from tumbling that breaks down clothes and puts all the lint in the lintcatcher.

Guest's picture

In my experience, most people dry clean suits much too often.

The best thing you can do with a jacket is take it off as soon as you get home, and hang it up, on a jacket hanger, in the room - not in the wardrobe for an hour or two. (The kind of twisted-metal hangers that you get back from dry cleaners are the natural predator of the jacket.)

The second best thing you can do with a jacket is never wear it two days in a row. Fibres last much longer if given time to relax fully after wears.

The third best thing you can do is buy an extra pair of trousers (pants in US English?) every time you buy a suit. If properly looked after, jackets will last much longer than their companions. Alas, this means that if you wear a suit to work most days, you're going to need two or more of them.

Please remember if you are dry cleaning things, that the chemicals used can cause diziness and take a while to off-gas. If you are picking your clothes up from the dry cleaners and then have an hour or more ride home, please either open the windows or put the cleaning in the boot (trunk in US English?) before you take the trip. Passing out while driving is about the most dangerous thing your clothes can ever make you do.

Guest's picture
Guest

The Sun causes colour fade, so drying them inside out on the line will cause the inside to fade instead of the outside. Making them look better for longer.

Guest's picture
Guest

I just bought a brand new white t-shirt with a dark colored design logo that covers about a third of the shirt. after washing on cold and putting in the dryer on low setting i take it out and all over the logo i can tell its faded and is covered with what looks like little cotton lints everywhere on the logo which totally ruined the look. im guessing its the dryer that caused the damage. other than hang drying the t-shirt what can i do to prevent this in the future? i just wasted $30 on this shirt :(

Guest's picture
Guest

RE: STIFF CLOTHES - Hang Drying... no stiffness if you add the fabric softener when washing the clothes (Downy Ball) instead of relying on dryer sheets - a step you're obviously skipping if you're air drying.

Guest's picture
唸阿彌陀佛往生西方極樂世界

阿彌陀佛 無相佈施

不要吃五辛(葷菜,在古代宗教指的是一些食用後會影響性情、慾望的植
物,主要有五種葷菜,合稱五葷,佛家與道家所指有異。

近代則訛稱含有動物性成分的餐飲食物為「葷菜」,事實上這在古代是稱
之為腥。所謂「葷腥」即這兩類的合稱。 葷菜
維基百科,自由的百科全書
(重定向自五辛) 佛家五葷

在佛家另稱為五辛,五種辛味之菜。根據《楞嚴經》記載,佛家五葷為大
蒜、小蒜、興渠、慈蔥、茖蔥;五葷生啖增恚,使人易怒;熟食發淫,令
人多慾。[1]

《本草備要》註解云:「慈蔥,冬蔥也;茖蔥,山蔥也;興渠,西域菜,云
即中國之荽。」

興渠另說為洋蔥。) 肉 蛋 奶?!

念楞嚴經 *∞窮盡相關 消去無關 證據 時效 念阿彌陀佛往生西方極樂世界

我想製造自己的行為反作用力
不婚 不生子女 生生世世不當老師

log 二0.3010 三0.47710.48 五0.6990 七0.8451 .85
root 二1.414 1.41 三1.732 1.73五 2.236 2.24七 2.646
=>十3.16 π∈Q' 一點八1.34

Guest's picture
唸阿彌陀佛往生西方極樂世界

阿彌陀佛 無相佈施

不要吃五辛(葷菜,在古代宗教指的是一些食用後會影響性情、慾望的植
物,主要有五種葷菜,合稱五葷,佛家與道家所指有異。

近代則訛稱含有動物性成分的餐飲食物為「葷菜」,事實上這在古代是稱
之為腥。所謂「葷腥」即這兩類的合稱。 葷菜
維基百科,自由的百科全書
(重定向自五辛) 佛家五葷

在佛家另稱為五辛,五種辛味之菜。根據《楞嚴經》記載,佛家五葷為大
蒜、小蒜、興渠、慈蔥、茖蔥;五葷生啖增恚,使人易怒;熟食發淫,令
人多慾。[1]

《本草備要》註解云:「慈蔥,冬蔥也;茖蔥,山蔥也;興渠,西域菜,云
即中國之荽。」

興渠另說為洋蔥。) 肉 蛋 奶?!

念楞嚴經 *∞窮盡相關 消去無關 證據 時效 念阿彌陀佛往生西方極樂世界

我想製造自己的行為反作用力
不婚 不生子女 生生世世不當老師

log 二0.3010 三0.47710.48 五0.6990 七0.8451 .85
root 二1.414 1.41 三1.732 1.73五 2.236 2.24七 2.646
=>十3.16 π∈Q' 一點八1.34

Guest's picture

Wow. Thanks for the tips. I will defintiely take these seriously! Very useful really!

Guest's picture
Stella

Love the tip about zipping up hoodies!  Never realized they might rough up my other clothes, but it make sense.

Guest's picture
Guest

I've always soaked all dark coloured clothing I buy (mostly dark jeans, black cotton pants, shirts and tanks, etc) in cold water with vinegar for a few hours before the first laundering. It helps prevent clothing from fading quickly over time and multiple washings. *Just a sidenote - I've only done this with my less 'delicate' materials...*

About 1/2 cup of vinegar in a couple of gallons of COLD water in a bucket for an hour or so before laundering usually does the trick. This concoction also works for removing (or minimizing) antiperspirant stains, depending on the age of the stain of course :P Hope this helps :)

Guest's picture
Guest

IF YOU AIR DRY CLOTHES RUN THROUGH EXTRA SPIN AND HANG UP IN HOUSE OVERNIGHT IF ANYTHING IS NOT COMPLETELY DRY HANG OUTSIDE UNTIL DRY DO NOT LEAVE IT ON THE LINE TO BAKE ALL DAY AND CLOTHES WON'T FADE FROM THE SUN.

Guest's picture
nancy

Lots of fun tips - thanks to all.

As a wardrobe consultant I make my living helping women get the most from their clothes. I use the dyeing techniques all the time - not just to renew black garments, but also to refresh navy, brown or other dark colors. Dyeing a bunch of different brown or navy pieces together brings them all much closer to matching too, giving you more mix/match potential.

I've also dyed white things fun new colors to mask a dingy, over-used look. Once, in a down moment, I dyed several sets of dingy undies into sexy new shades - they looked brand new! I've also dyed black/white print pieces - the black stays black and the white takes the color - a whole new look to the garment. I sometimes throw in a white T shirt, too, so I have a matching top for my new creation.

I'm a big fan of changing buttons to freshen a garment. Any button will stay on longer if you put a drop of Fray Check (clear liquid ravel preventer - buy it in fabric stores) on the threads to sort of glue them together. I also put a bead of Fray Check on the stitching of a buttonhole to prevent future raveling, but be sparing - you dont want a big discolored blob on your fabric. Test it first in an inconspicuous area of the garment.

Guest's picture
Amanda

My friend and I started a laundry service from our homes a few years ago. We found a little tip that we use on every load now. White vinegar. Add 3/4 cup into the rinse cycle and it acts as a natural fabric softner, saves money, is eco-friendly, prevents fading and helps keep your washing machine clean.
Seattle Laundry Care

Guest's picture
Guest

Thanks for the great article, I've sent it to my grown kids to have someone besides their mother and father saying it. I agree with all but double wearing shirts... Thats a good way to wear them out with the natural oil around the neck and collar and many of the stain treatments aren't good to leave on fabric for extended periods (it's amazing what just a bit does over time).Its better to have two weeks' worth of shirts so that they don't have to be laundered every week.  If they are all the same color all the better.  Lastly, treat collars of all collared shirts as soon as they are taken off (which should be as soon as you get off of work, because thats when you shower and change into casual clothing.  This will help extend the life of clothing as well.  

Guest's picture
Guest

i don't put anything in the dryer except towels and sheets. i have 3 girls, and i have been able to not only hand down their clothes from one to the next, to the youngest, but then to the children of friends. i also turn clothes inside out. with jeans for my youngest, who has very long legs and is really thin, i have someone help me pull the jean legs each time after they are washed, to stretch them out. makes them last even longer.

Guest's picture
smrphy

long ago, I stopped using antipersperant. I wear a lot of white and it was staining everything terribly. I still wear a lot of white and I still get stained pits, but not nearly as bad. The only solution I've found for this is HOT water after a long day and BRIGHT sunlight after a hot washing.

Guest's picture
Janine

My mother was the "queen of stain removal". People always used to comment that the fresh, clean smell of our clothes on the breeze was wonderful. She used a wringer washer with powder Tide, Blue Downey, and a pink value softener mix. Clorox only in the dishcloths and dishtowels, underwear, white socks, white pillowcases and facecloths. Everything was airdried.
Bras were always hand washed and hung to dry
She had a soft worn toothbrush for working stains with the remover.
White Rain original shampoo was great at getting blood and urine stains out of laundry and mattresses. Peroxide on fresh blood on white clothes worked perfect.
Dawn dish washing detergent on food stains works like magic.
Lemon Juice and salt placed on rust stains and placed in the sun then laundered worked great.
WD 40, Joy dishwashing liquid, and the hottest water on melted crayons was a life saver. If it was too set, then the clothes were rags anyway.
A paste of powdered dishwasher detergent and water rubbed onto grass stains and left to set 1/2 hour and then laundered in the hottest water with detergent.
If kool-ade stains got the best of her, a tied dyed shirt with permanent markeers and denatured alcohol was the solution.
To get your whites their whitest used liquid bluing and follow instructions.
Of course take into account these are from formulas of products over 30 years ago. Formulas have changed and materials are flimsier so use your judgment. If the item is stained you most likely would have tossed into the rag bag. You may get lucky and find it works.
Mildew on whites very seldom happened, but a q-tip dipped in chlorox and then laundered and laid on the grass in a hot direct sun worked most times.
Lestoil on greasy work clothes laundered in hot water worked great.

I have started an experiment of my own. I have used a recipe for homemade laundry detergent found on line. My clothes smell fresh and clean, not perfumey. (however, I have added some laundry frangrance enhancers to the soap mixture) I am liking it so far. $27.00 for a supposed supply that will last a family of 4 for quite some time. I use 2T per load and soften with white vinegar. I have a front loading he washer. No odors or residue left in the machine or dispenser.

I have always hung my clothes to dry, but have given into drying towels if the weather does not permit. I have learned to keep an eye on the weather before hanging clothes in the morning.

Guest's picture
Rosemary

Wash clothes inside out where the good side gets less abrasion from the tumbling of the clothes. Use Fray Check by Dritz, available at Joann's Fabrics at the first sign of wearing. It's a fabric super glue. I run it around thin spots on jeans to prevent further fraying. It's clear and goes through the wash and is still effective.

As far as deodorants, aluminum in deodorants causes the discoloring. Use deodorants without it. You can remove the stains with Dawn detergent, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, an old tooth brush, and a lot of scrubbing. Sometimes it takes more than one application, but I got out stains from a delicate rayon embroidered dress, T-shirts and dress shirts. This works on clothes that have been dried in the dryer, but avoid using the dryer if you notice that there are stains when taking things out of the washer. Heat sets some stains. I've also used it on tablecloths.