20 Little Ways to Make Your Stuff Last Longer

These days it seems that almost everything we buy is disposable, meaning it's often easier to replace something when it breaks rather than put in the effort to maintain or fix it. However, there are many good reasons to put some work into making your things last. Not only are you saving money and keeping something out of the landfill, but you also get to keep the things you love longer. Potentially, prolonging the life of your things is a good reason to splurge on better-quality, but fewer goods. (See also: Home Maintenance and Repair: What's an Emergency and What Can Wait?)

So here's how to do it.

1. Clothes

Make your clothes last longer by using a few simple tricks such as washing in cold water, buying dark colors that camouflage stains, and not machine-drying delicate clothing. Buy an inexpensive lint shaver to keep the pilling down on knit clothing. (See also: Make Your Clothes Last Longer Without Spending Big)

2. Vacuum Cleaner

Empty the bag before it gets full (or the canister for bagless vacuum) and clean the filter regularly. Use scissors or a seam ripper to get rid of the hair and threads stuck around the carpet roller to keep your vacuum running smoothly.

3. Dryer

During your dryer maintenance, it is extremely important to empty the lint trap and the dryer vents regularly, as dryers are a common cause of fire. Check the vent every six months to remove excess lint buildup, and every year remove the exhaust vent to clear it fully. Your dryer will last longer and your clothes will dry faster (plus no pesky fires).

4. Washing Machine

To keep your washing machine in tip-top shape, be sure to use the recommended type of detergent for your washing machine. Make sure the washing machine can dry between uses by leaving the door open (and for front-loaders, you may need to dry the door). Check hoses and fittings every month or two to ensure nothing is loose or leaking, and replace rubber hoses with braided metal ones.

5. Dishwasher

Manually clean out your dishwasher's filter every week or two to keep the it running smoothly. Use these other dishwasher maintenance tricks to make your dishwasher run better and last longer.

6. Coffee Maker

Cleaning your coffee maker every month or two will make your coffee taste better and delay the inevitable day that you throw out that calcium-encrusted machine. Just run equal parts vinegar and water through a brew cycle and follow with several cycles of plain water.

7. Water Heater

You might want to brave the trek down into the bowels of your basement to check your water heater once a year. This is one appliance where regular maintenance makes a big difference. Yearly flush the water from the water heater to prevent sediment build-up (which can shorten the machine's life considerably), and check the anode rod to see if it needs replacing. Without an anode rod the hot water will quickly corrode and rust out the inside of your water heater.

8. Tile and Grout

Keep mold and mildew down on tile and grout in the bathroom by spraying regularly with a vinegar-water solution. Keep grout clean by using a grout cleaner product.

9. Shower Curtain

You actually can wash a vinyl shower curtain with a couple of towels in the washing machine (the towels help to scrub it clean). Add normal detergent and a cup of vinegar to help kill any mildew. Do this once a month to keep your shower curtain looking new. Be sure to run the fan and close the shower curtain between showers so it gets a chance to dry out.

10. Bathroom Exhaust Fan

It's important to clean the bathroom exhaust fan every once in a while (at least every six months) to help it run more efficiently and to keep the air moving, which inhibits mold.

11. Drains

Keep shower drains clear of hair by investing in a cheap hair strainer that fits over the drain. Keep drains clog-free by regularly pouring baking soda or vinegar (or both) down the pipes and chasing with hot water, as well as doing other preventative maintenance. Ultimately, your pipes will last longer if you avoid using harsh de-clogging chemicals. (See also: 10 Really Easy Ways to Unclog Drains)

12. Garbage Disposal

To keep your garbage disposal working longer, be sure to grind up waste along with plenty of water. Never use Drano or de-clogging chemicals in the garbage disposal. Instead, keep it clean by flushing it often with soapy water (or vinegar), and grinding up a couple of ice cubes every few weeks.

13. Herbs

Learn how to store herbs to make them last longer. For example, storing leafy herbs with their stems in a glass of water keeps them fresh longer, and before they go bad, you can freeze them in ice-cube trays with a little olive oil.

14. Groceries

You can also keep food fresh longer by using a few nifty tricks, such as spraying your guacamole with cooking spray, or storing ginger in the freezer.

15. Furniture

Give your wood furniture a new lease on life by using a finish restoring product (such as the aptly named Restore-a-Finish), or by sanding and staining or painting. Keep the finish pristine by using coasters and placemats, or opt for a heavy-duty clear finish such as polyurethane. (See also: Make Old Furniture Shine With These Simple Refinishing Tricks)

16. Sofa

If the cushions are still good on your old sofa, slipcover it to get longer and more attractive use out of it. For heirloom quality furniture, professional upholstery, while not cheap, can give the furniture another 40 years of life for less than the cost of a new, cheaply-made sofa.

17. Mattress

Flipping and rotating your mattress every three months can extend its life. If you buy a new mattress, be sure to install it correctly (on its box spring or platform) for better longevity.

18. Leather Couch

Keep your leather sofa (or other leather upholstery) from cracking prematurely by cleaning it regularly and buffing in a conditioning solution. You can use this product on leather car seats as well. Keep leather upholstery out of the sun if possible to extend its life.

19. Wood Floors

Keep your wood floors looking nice for longer by keeping them clean of sand and debris that can scratch the surface. Put felt pads on the bottom of chairs that might drag over the floor. Be sure you know what kind of finish is on your floors before applying a polish or wax, as different finishes may be damaged by different products.

20. Electronic Device Batteries

Keep your laptop running longer by not keeping it plugged in all day. Instead, use up the battery, charge it fully, and then unplug it. With most electronic devices, batteries will last longer if you let them die before recharging them, and avoid using them while they are charging.

How do you keep your stuff lasting longer and looking like new? Please share in comments!

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Guest's picture
Finsbury Lane

If the bottom of a vinyl shower curtain is beyond washing, cutting off a few inches of the moldy part will give i a few more months. After that, it will make a good picnic table cover or drop cloth. Shower curtain liners only cost $1 or so at .99 and Dollar stores, but they tend to be the kind that outgas and smell bad for a while, so air them outside if you have a place to do that.

Guest's picture

Clothes will last years and years if you hand-wash them. I still wear underpants that are 8 years old; not because i'm a filthy pig, but because hand-washing (and line-drying) never ever wears them out. They will also retain their shape, never get lint balls and just look better for much longer. It makes sense: fabric is at its weakest when wet - so why subject clothes to mechanical, aggressive spinning while at their weakest? The only things I put in the washing machine are jeans, towels and sheets!

Guest's picture

Your advice on how to make batteries last longer in electronic devices is out of date and incorrect. What you advise was correct for older battery types: nickel cadmium and nickel metal hydride. But today's cellphones, laptops and tablets all use lithium ion or lithium polymer batteries and these types like to be plugged in. Typically, they are good for about 500 full charges and then they very quickly deteriorate and die. If you let the battery get to 50% and then charge it, that's half a charge; doing that twice would be one of the 500 full charges. If you keep the device plugged in, you avoid a charge and the battery will last even longer.

Guest's picture

What he said! Keeping a lithium battery between 20 and 80% charged is a good rule of thumb; even a full charge can 'stress' the battery management system (BMS).

Guest's picture

Potentially, prolonging the life of your things is a good reason to splurge on better-quality, but fewer goods