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5 Ways to Maintain and Care for Clothes

Sustainable Fashion

Last Updated on August 25, 2022

When you properly care for clothes, you can make them last longer and keep these garments out of the landfill.

Fabric care is something many people don’t think about. However, when you care for fabric and extend the life of the items, you will have less waste.

fabric care

care for clothes top tips

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about how to find quality clothes secondhand and new. 

Once you find those clothes, you want to make sure that you’re taking good care of them so they last. 

Maintaining and repairing your belongings is a huge part of living a zero waste lifestyle. And YES, that includes caring for clothes.

You want to try and keep your belongings as long as possible to reduce the demand for more resources. 

It’s another reason why it’s so important to buy things that you absolutely LOVE. When you love the clothing you own, you’re so much more likely to take care of it. Thankfully, if you buy quality materials and care for clothes the right way, they will last a lot longer.

1. fabric care without a dryer:

The dryer is so rough on your clothing. Tumble dryers cause tiny micro-tears, which really diminish the longevity of your clothing. 

That’s why my first recommendation when it comes to clothing care is to skip the dryer when possible.

“To examine the dryer’s impact on microscopic tears, researchers took hemmed cotton towels, rinsed them in a washing machine, and then tumble-dried them at high heat (150°F) and without heat.

The study ran towels through 20 wet/dry cycles, measuring the tensile strength after each run. If a fabric is strong, it’s in good condition.

The test results were alarming. After only 20 cycles of washing and drying, the fabric had lost about 50 percent of its tensile strength. Let’s say that again: Drying fabric at 150°F only twenty times makes it twice as easy to tear.

But are your clothes safe when dried without heat? It turns out that tumble-drying without heat only results in a 24% loss, only half as bad as the hot cycles. However, it’s clear that tumble-drying on low is no guarantee for longevity.

To make matters worse, the tensile strength doesn’t seem to ever level out over time, so every laundry cycle pushes your clothes toward obliteration. As we saw with shrinkage, the mechanical tumbling action is the main cause of fabric wear.” Source

2. lingerie bag clothing care:

Even the washer can be a little rough on your clothing. You should definitely invest in a lingerie bag*. I use mine for all of my delicates, not just undies. 

Hand washing your delicates is another way to extend the life of your clothing and properly care for fabric. I often hand wash bras, silk, and cashmere sweaters. If you’re in a rush, you can always take the pieces with you into the shower or tub! 

Related Post: Zero Waste, All Natural Bleach

Be careful when you wring your clothes out. You don’t want to cause any unnecessary breakage. I like to press the water out gently and then lay them flat to dry on a drying rack. 

If you’d like to run your undies through a spin cycle, you can always air them out in your salad spinner. 

taking care of clothing

3. stretch washes:

One tip you may not think about for fabric care is simply to skip washes! A great way to save water and maintain the quality of your clothes is to stretch washes. You don’t need to wash a piece of clothing every time you wear it, especially jeans! 

I’m pretty sure I’ve worn jeans for three weeks without washing them. I don’t wash clothes until they’re stinky and dirty. 

In order to prevent my clothes from becoming stinky, I let them air out. You can hang your clothes and give them a little bit of space to breathe before placing them in a drawer or in the closet. I also spray them with this homemade febreze mix

4. maintain:

Caring for clothes is as simple as staying on top of little repairs and performing preventative maintenance. I’m a huge loafer fan, but I’m so hard on my shoes. 

I think it’s because I subconsciously tap dance and just rip my soles to shreds. I will go to the cobbler and get an additional sole placed on the bottom of the shoes. This makes sure that my original sole stays intact, allowing my shoes to last much longer. 

  • I try to catch holes when they’re small.
  • I snip small pills off my sweaters when they start to show.
  • Keep an eye out for stains and remove them immediately.
  • I try to reinforce buttons before they fall off. 

Doing these four things will help your clothing last so much longer. It only takes a few minutes to perform these small tasks, and they’ll prevent longer, more intense repairs down the line. 

5. grab a needle: 

Learning to make small repairs will save you a ton of money! Even paying a seamstress to do them will still save you money if you don’t have to buy more pieces. 

The skills that have proven to be the most beneficial for me are learning to stitch a hem, sewing on buttons, and stitching up small holes. 

frequently asked questions

what do I do if my clothes no longer fit?

If you run into a situation where you have followed all the tips for clothing care, and they are still in good condition, you can still find other uses for them. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Repurpose clothing – can you use it as a cleaning cloth, art project, or turn it into a bag?
  • Donate – you may have friends and family who would love your clothing, or you can take it somewhere for donation.
  • Swap it – have some friends or family that are looking to swap clothes? You will both benefit from swapping!

why do my clothes wear out so quickly?

Naturally, I recommend you follow the tips above to increase the longevity of your clothes. Often, people don’t take care of their clothes and it can wreak havoc on them.

Additionally, it’s important to buy quality clothing to start with. If you head to a department store and buy the cheapest stuff you can find, you can almost guarantee it’s not made with quality materials. Spend more time shopping and choosing sustainable clothing, and it will last!

This post contains affiliate linking. It’s denoted with an asterisk. This means if you choose to purchase one of these items I will make a slight commission for referring you. You can read more on my disclosure page

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  1. I also wash my delicates like bras and dress shirts in my produce mesh bags. This way I get those two things done at once!

  2. These are amazing tips! I don’t own a tumble dryer so ive never found the temptation but I need to get back into the habit of hand washing delicates. I am a huge fan of fixing clothes too. Even my Cheap and nasty £1 gloves have been fixed more time than I would like to think to save them from going to landfill, and you know what… you cant even tell!!

  3. Thanks for the advice. I could not even think that the proper handling of clothing is so difficult. Even more difficult than writing essays for college