Making clothes last longer is one of the best approaches to curating an ethical and sustainable wardrobe. Not only does it save us time and money, but it also cuts our consumption and helps reduce our carbon footprint.
A research survey commissioned by manufacturing giants Proctor & Gamble for fabric softener Downey – also known as Lenor in Europe- revealed that while 39 per cent of people planned to wear their most recently purchased item of clothing more than 30 times, in reality, more than 40 per cent throw away the item after fewer than 10 wears. Almost 70 per cent of people polled stated the main reason they threw away clothes was because the garment lost its shape, faded or started to look old.
As consumers, we are continually enticed to buy new things with the acceleration of trends and fast fashion. So, the question is – how can we make clothes last longer instead? Whilst it’s not entirely possible to make clothes last forever, there are many tips to extend the lifespan of your garments.
Buy quality clothes that last
It’s pretty simple – buy cheap, buy twice. Hefty price tags can be a turn off but if your goal is to curate a longer-lasting sustainable wardrobe, think about investing in good quality pieces that you will get years of wear out of. Think cost per wear and the fact that investment staples will surpass any trends. Plus, you will value them a lot more.
Do you need to wash it?
The more you wash clothes, the quicker they wear out. The average washing machine uses 13,500 gallons of water a year – as much as you drink in your lifetime, which is quite a startling statistic. Certain fabrics such as good-quality wool are designed to be brushed clean and not washed while steaming clothes in the bathroom during a hot shower can be effective and certainly help make your clothes last longer. Other eco-friendly tips when it comes to keeping your clothes fresh, is to hang them outside on a clothes line on a breezy day (you will be surprised by how much this can help).
Use the freezer
Your freezer has magical laundry skills we are sure you had no idea of. Pop your worn clothing into the freezer compartment, and you will get at least one more wear out of them as the cold kills the bacteria responsible for smell, ridding the fabric of its bad odours.
Support your local tailor
Having a trustworthy tailor and cobbler on hand is an essential part of living a sustainable lifestyle and upcycling clothes to give them a new lease of life is not only eco-friendly but also saves you money. Mending your clothes – be it new zips, buttons, tidying up hems, darning knitwear or general repairs breathes a sense of rejuvenation into your clothes and is a great way to maintain them. When it comes to shoes – consider whether or not they can be resoled. Most of the time when it comes to footwear – it’s the soles or heels that need replacing – this is easily done by a cobbler.
Use a delicates bag
A delicates or mesh laundry bag (a pillow case can also be used) can be your best friend for protecting delicate items like lingerie when you wash them. It’s also particularly good for socks and baby items that can be so small – they seem to disappear.
Dry clean as little as possible
Heavy chemicals aren’t great for the shelf life of clothes plus it’s expensive. Try spot cleaning or hand-washing until a deep clean is completely necessary.
Dry whites outside and dark colours indoors
This is a particularly good tip if you live in the UAE. Sunlight can lighten and fade dark and coloured clothing so keep them away from natural light while drying if you want to make your clothes last longer.
Try to keep your shoes and bags in dust bags to keep them dry and protected from dirt. Pillowcases can also be used in this instance also.
Invest in good hangers
Avoid wire hangers where possible, that won’t support your clothes properly and misshape the shoulders. Soft, felt or wooden hangers support clothes much better.
Don’t hang knitwear
Fold and place knitwear in a dry drawer instead. The weight of jumpers or cardigans on a hanger, especially if they are wool, cashmere or angora, can cause them to stretch out of shape.
No plastic cleaning covers
Plastic harbours heat and moisture, which is bad for your clothes – use canvas garment bags or pillowcases to store your occasion wear and help your clothes last longer.
Reduce the amount of detergent
Other than being harmful for the environment, a large amount of detergent can actually make garments dull and stiff. Instead, use one half the prescribed amount of detergent and one half cup of baking soda which acts as a detergent booster. This will make your clothes last longer and they will be just as clean as with regular detergent. It will help you lower your home carbon footprint too.
Lower the heat
For certain types of fabric, hot water can cause shrinking, stretching and permanently set stains. Equally, when using a dryer, high heat can set stains and cause damage to fabrics. Make sure to follow fabric care labels carefully, use the correct water temperature and select the right dryer cycle to get the best results.
Always wash jeans inside out to prevent the colours from fading so quickly. In fact, jeans do not need to be washed regularly. According to the CEO of Levi’s – you should actually never wash your jeans at all!