The most eco-friendly fashion choice you can make around clothing? Try to make your clothing last longer! Here are some tips to get you started
By Diane Small
Did you know that the average American discards around 37 kilograms of clothes yearly? But that is not all. Over 80% of these discarded items aren’t recyclable. What that means is that most of them end up in landfills or incinerators. No wonder the clothing waste caused by fast fashion is wreaking havoc on the planet!
If you want to reduce your fashion impact on the planet, the first step is simply to shop less. But related to that is making what you do have in your closet last longer!
There are loads of ways you can do that. And the difference it will make is enormous. Get this: if you make your clothes last 9 months longer, you can reduce their carbon, water and waste footprint up to 30%! Plus, think of the cash you’ll save by not having to buy new stuff. Definitely worth it, then, right?
Want to get started? Here are a few of our top tips to make your clothing last longer.
The planet – and your bank account – will thank you!
10 Ways To Make Your Clothing Last Longer
1. Be careful with delicates
The friction caused by the washer’s tumbling can stress the fibres of your garments. Prevent this from happening by putting your delicate clothes like bras, panties and women’s tights inside mesh laundry bags before throwing them in the machine.
To make your clothing last longer, wash silks, wool, alpaca and other delicates by hand. Use your hair shampoo instead of laundry detergent for this. First soak, then gently rub out dirt by hand, then squeeze out excess water, rinse, and squeeze again. Dry flat on a towel.
2. Close clasps and zips when washing
Zippers and bra hooks can destroy fellow articles of clothing in the wash. For that reason, always zip and button pants and hoodies, and hook your washer-safe bras before starting a new load. This will also maintain the form of the clothing with the zips and clips.
3. Turn clothes inside out before washing
To make your clothing last longer, make it a habit to turn your garments inside out before putting them in the wash. This will reduce the friction that ruins clothes. This practice can also help preserve the colours and protect decorative elements like embroidery on clothes.
4. Always use cold water
Contrary to a common belief, washing laundry using hot water necessary for clean clothes. In fact, hot water can shrink clothing, fade colour, and consumes 90% of your washer’s energy. In short, there’s really no reason to use hot water in the washing machine at all!
5. Wash only when necessary
Washing your clothes after every use may seem like a good idea because you are keeping them clean and bacteria-free. But the process can also shorten the lifespan of your clothing. You may not realise it, but with each wash, the tumbling action of your washing machine and the chemicals in your detergent cause your garments to lose their shape, colour, and fabric integrity—one wash at a time. What’s more, washing:
- wastes water and energy
- pollutes water with detergent
- pollutes water with microparticles from acrylic, nylon and polyester
To make your clothing last longer, think about it. Is your garment really dirty?
As a general rule, underwear, gym clothes, and socks require laundering after every use.
But most clothing items like jeans, sweaters, and coats can be worn multiple times unless they have stains or stink.
And unless you’re really sweating up a storm, bras can be worn for a week or so before washing them. This will help preserve their shape and elasticity, too.
6. Store your clothes properly
To make your clothing last longer, correct storage is just as important as correct washing. Here are a few tips:
- Ensure that your clothes are clean and dry before storing them in the closet. Otherwise, the dirt and dampness may attract moths or result in the growth of mold and mildew. These problems will eventually cause irreversible damage.
- Keep your clothes in a clean, dry, and cool environment. Keep them away from direct sunlight, which can cause colour fading.
- Fold stretchy clothing, like sweaters and T-shirts, instead of hanging. This will lessen the strain on the fabric.
- Avoid overstuffing your closet to keep your clothes fresh and wrinkle-free.
7. Mend your garments
Hole in your socks? Lace falling off your panties? Button missing on a blouse? No problem! Mending will keep those items fresh in your wardrobe.
Basic sewing skills can save clothing from tiny holes, rips, or loose buttons. But if the damage requires sewing expertise that you don’t have, take the garment to a reliable tailor who can do the work for you.
8. Use the right hangers
Another tip to make your clothing last longer is to use the right hangers. No piece of clothing can survive the awkward shape and lack of support offered by wire hangers. They’re too thin to give proper shape to your tops, and will cause stretching and hanger marks on the shoulders. Sometimes, they even rust, and cause rust stains!
Instead, use wooden, thick plastic or padded hangers to boost the longevity of your clothes.
9. Avoid dryers
Dryers can do major damage to your clothes. The most obvious way is through shrinkage. But you should know that even clothes that seem to come out fine are taking a beating from extreme temperatures and constant tumbling. The solution? Simply invest at least in an indoor clothes rack. It takes less time for clothes to line-dry than you think! Your clothes will last much longer and retain their colour better – and you’ll save TONS on your energy bills!
10. Learn how to upcycle
Yeah, we get it. Stuff goes out of style, and you don’t feel so comfortable wearing certain clothing anymore. But if you know how to upcycle clothes, you’ll give them a new life.
For example? If you’ve bought skinny jeans and that’s not your thing anymore, maybe cut them off into shorts. Got jeans that are ankle-length, but wish they were longer now? Sew extra length into the bottom of them with the fabric from the jeans you made into shorts.
Got a dress you never wear anymore, because it’s too short? Cut it into a top. Own a maxi dress you wish was a mini? Cut it down!
Not great with a sewing machine? A good tailor can alter the fit, length, or style of your favorite pieces so that you can wear them over and over.
No idea how a certain item could be saved? Donate it!
Do you have any more tips to make clothing last longer? Let us know in the comments, below!