10 Smart Ways to Keep Your Clothes Looking New
There have been approximately 2,700,000 articles written about the virtues of curating a capsule wardrobe filled with clothes that you love. Next to none of them mention the one huge downside of capsule wardrobes everywhere: If your tiny wardrobe is full of clothes that you love to wear, those clothes you love will wear out quickly.
Luckily there are many ways to keep your clothes looking new, even if you only have 10 garments to your name.
1. Buy Quality Clothing
Well-made clothes will hold up to decades of wear. My favorite jacket originally belonged to my grandmother. It’s part of my regular professional work wardrobe. It’s 70 years old and still looks great. Compare this to the last T-shirt I bought from a fast fashion store. That shirt sprouted holes the second time it went through the wash. (See also: 9 Qualities to Look for in Well-Made Clothing)
2. Give Your Clothes a Break
Although you may want to wear your favorite items day after day, it’s important to give the fabric time to recover its shape between wearings. This is especially important for elasticized garments such as bras and workout wear. Shoes will last much longer if they are allowed to fully dry between wearings. (They will also be less stinky.)
3. Rotate Your Clothes
Speaking of rotating, if you follow a simple clothing rotation routine, you can save a ton of money on clothes and always look tidy for work. For example, I own three pairs of jeans: this year’s jeans, last year’s jeans, and the year before last year’s jeans.
4. Catch and Release
My friend Liz lives in a 200-square-foot apartment in New York City. To save on clothing storage space and keep current with fashion, Liz replaces her entire 20-piece capsule wardrobe twice a year. Instead of buying garments throughout the year, Liz only shops two days out of the year: on President’s Day and on Labor Day. Although she buys most of her clothes secondhand, she chose those shopping days because department stores tend to put the most items on clearance during those sales periods. If she can’t find what she wants used, she will resort to buying new.
Liz thinks her system is the best of all worlds. She never gets bored with her clothes, and because she only wears the clothes for six months, the garments are usually in good enough condition that she can resell them. When Liz has a special event to attend, she’ll rent a dress or she will buy an outfit at a consignment store and immediately sell it back after the event.
5. Don’t Play in Your Work Clothes
To keep work clothes looking fresh, wear them as little as possible. The second you come home from work, change into your play clothes. Obviously, the less you wear your work clothes, the less wear you will put on them.
6. Brush Out Your Woolens
Clothing moths and carpet beetles just love leftovers. And by leftovers, I not only mean food, but the dandruff and hair from you and your pets. Shake out your sweaters and brush your wool clothes with a clothes brush to mechanically remove potential moth snacks and bug larvae from the fibers between wearings.
7. Show Your Clothes Gratitude
Organizing wizard Mari Kondo advises people to fold their socks, because balling them puts stress on the elastic, even when they are resting in a drawer. To maintain their shape, sweaters and other stretchy fabrics should be folded in a drawer and never hung. According to Kondo, folding knit clothes neatly shows gratitude to the clothes that work hard to support you every day. Even if you don’t subscribe to this idea, proper attention to folding will increase the lifespan of all your clothes.
8. Use the Right Tools
After years of smelling like mothballs, I finally bought airtight plastic storage bags from my local knitting store. These do a great job keeping the bugs out without stinky chemicals. Why did I wait to buy these bags?
9. No Wire Hangers. Ever!
I am totally on team Joan Crawford when it comes to hanging clothes. Wire hangers put a lot of stress on the shoulders of garments, and can rip through thin silks and cottons with ease. For the cost of replacing one ruined silk shirt, you can buy 40 wood or professional quality plastic hangers.
10. Minimize Your Laundry
You only have to look in your lint trap to see that your washer and dryer are eating your clothes. Washing and drying put tremendous wear and tear on your clothes. According to Treehugger.com, over 75% of our clothing’s impact on the environment comes from washing and drying. Here are some basic laundry tips to keep your wardrobe (and the planet) looking top-notch.
Wash your clothes only when they look or smell dirty.
Experiment With Cold Water
When my Japanese pen pal came to visit, All-Temperature Cheer detergent mystified her, as back home in Japan they washed everything in cold water. “Americans are so… how do you say? Persnickety? Persnickety about laundry,” she said. From that point on, my family started washing all but our kitchen towels and underwear in cold water, a habit that I have continued as an adult.
Air-Dry Your Clothes
Just like washing in hot water, it’s the heat of the dryer that breaks down textiles. Sunlight is also an excellent biocide. It kills stinky bacteria and bug larvae.
Go Inside Out
Turn clothes inside-out before you wash and dry. This will keep the dyes from fading from friction in the wash or from sun exposure on the clothesline.
Read the Care Instructions
Following the instructions on care labels can save a lot of time and money. While there are some garments that can be successfully hand washed instead of dry cleaned, there are a lot of textiles that will be ruined even by the most gentle swish through water. Look at each garment’s cheat sheet before you wash.
Take Immediate Action With Stains
Before throwing clothes in the hamper or returning garments to your closet, carefully examine them for stains. You will have a much harder time removing stains if you let them sit. Often immediate spot cleaning will allow you to skip a trip to the drycleaners.