In the modern-day, many people view their clothing as temporary because of just how much new clothes appear on store racks every day. But with increasing awareness of the immensely negative effects our clothing can have on the environment and a host of other things, people are turning to buy from sustainable and ethical brands and secondhand shopping. However, perhaps the most sustainable option of all is to take care of the clothing we already own and treat them as investments rather than disposable items.
We’ve listed down some of the best methods you can apply to your wardrobe to help your clothes live their fullest lives. Read on to find out how to take better care of what you wear.
Because many clothes in the current market are made with cheap materials and do not prioritise longevity, millions of tonnes of clothes are tossed every year, ending up in landfills or incinerated. Textile waste contributes a massive portion to global pollution, and while fashion corporations should be taking the lead in lessening their impact and improving their harmful practices, the individual also holds a lot of power.
By simply taking care of your clothes and extending the average lifetime of 2.2 years of your garments by just three months, you can reduce carbon, water, and waste footprints by 5–10%.
Regarding the longevity of our clothes, it all comes down to their quality, how we wear and wash them, and developing the ability to repair them. While the shelf life of clothes may not be forever, washing them well, learning basic repairs, storing them properly, and generally putting in a little extra effort into caring for them can certainly bring them close.
While this all may sound time-consuming to you, taking care of your clothes comes with so many benefits for the planet, other people, and yourself.
The first step when it comes to ensuring your clothes last as long as possible is to invest in quality clothes. When you’re in need of new garments, don’t be tempted by the incredibly cheap price tags of fast fashion stores, and instead opt for sustainable brands that prioritise clothes made with durable fabrics and materials and utilise proper sewing techniques.
These brands focus more on the quality of every garment than quantity and create clothes that are able to withstand years of wash and wear.
By doing so, you’ll have a much easier time taking care of your pieces, and won’t have to worry about damaging them as much as you would a cheaper made item.
It’s always important to be mindful of damaging or staining your clothes when you’re out and about. If you happen to get a stain on your clothes, getting rid of it as soon as possible is key, as the longer they stay on, the harder it becomes to remove stains in any clothes you own.
In a pinch, you can treat stains with a stain removal pen or DIY your own formula by mixing just a couple of tablespoons of baking soda and vinegar and gently using paper towels to rub them off and leave little room between removing the stain and washing your clothes in lukewarm water to completely get rid of the mess.
Machine washing can actually do a lot more harm to your dirty clothes than you’d expect. By constantly tossing your clothes in for a wash, your clothes lose their original colours, can fall apart, and shrink in the dryer.
Unless they are visibly dirty or smell, you don’t have to throw your clothes into the washing machine after every wear. Particularly, sweaters, jackets, jeans, and other outerwear don’t need to be washed as often as other clothes like t-shirts and gym wear.
Dry cleaning is also just as harmful on your dress shirts and higher-maintenance attire, as the process uses harmful chemicals that flatten the natural fibres in certain fabrics. If the garment doesn’t quite need a wash but does need some freshening up, however, you can easily refresh clothes by airing them outside or in a steamy bathroom.
While you’re already washing your clothes less often, it’s still just as important to put as much care into the washing process as possible and pay attention to the care labels of your pieces.
Make sure to wash your items in cold water and use a natural detergent to keep your clothes from losing colour while still getting clean and soft. When it comes to darker clothes, wash these inside out to minimise fading.
Additionally, while care labels on a delicate garment might say that it requires ‘dry clean only,’ this isn’t necessarily always the case. You can easily avoid the dry cleaners by putting these clothes on gentle, low-temperature cycles, helping you avoid the toxic chemicals and damage that dry cleaning does to fabrics over time.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make when it comes to our undergarments and swimsuits is to toss them into the washing machine.
By doing so, we greatly compromise their elastic and material and cut down their lifespan significantly. The elastic needs a more delicate wash, and an easy way to keep a handle on hand-washing these delicate fabrics when you’re busy is to bring the garments as well as some gentle detergent into the shower with you, so you can hit two birds with one stone.
On the other hand, swimsuits need to be soaked in a basin of cool water after taking a dip, as saltwater and chlorine break down their material over time when not rinsed out properly. Doing so will make your swimsuits last much longer.
Avoid going for the tumble dry setting and dry cleaning altogether by air-drying your clothes outdoors. Using dryers excessively can damage and shrink the fabric, completely ruining their wearability, whereas air-drying on a drying rack outdoors is the kindest method for your clothes and for the environment as well.
This process also helps avoid wrinkles in your clean clothes, but another step you can implement to avoid the iron is to steam them, either through putting them in a steamy bathroom or by using a handheld steamer, both options being much kinder on your garment.
A fabric shaver is a perfect tool to help keep your wool and cashmere sweaters looking as fresh as can be. A problem with these materials is that they’re incredibly prone to pilling over time, so gently scraping over your sweaters with this tool will help your items look new again with minimal effort.
Fast fashion moves incredibly fast, with four fashion seasons being shaved down to just two seasons due to how quickly and how much they produce. The industry has instilled the idea that we can easily replace clothes, but we should get rid of that mindset and instead focus on knowing how we can repair them.
Repairing small issues in your clothes is surprisingly easy and virtually free, with a sewing kit being all you need. By learning mending techniques such as how to close a rip seamlessly or tie in a loose thread, you can reinforce your clothes and make them even sturdier than they were originally and extend their wear time greatly.
Storage is something that can absolutely make or break the quality and safety of your clothes, and if done wrong, can jeopardise all the previous steps you’ve learned. You should keep your clothes in a dry, cool environment without direct sunlight to keep them in good condition and keep lavender sachets in your wardrobe to prevent clothes moths.
Hanging clothes on wooden hangers or padded hangers rather than wire and plastic hangers will also elongate their lifespan, as the former is much more gentle on clothes, while plastic and wire hangers can cause the fabric to stretch and warp over time, especially during long term storage.
Fold clothes that are weightier instead of hanging them so they don’t get warped. Also, avoid keeping dry-clean items in their plastic bag as this can cause yellowing, and instead store them in garment bags that are protective while allowing the clothes to breathe.
When it comes to keeping your nice shoes as they are, simply invest in keeping shoe trees to keep their shape while stored away and clean up your leather pieces with a leather conditioner and a soft brush.
Store-bought clothes often don’t fit us perfectly, so finding a good tailor near you can make every piece you own perfectly fitted to your body. Visiting a tailor can make a world of a difference when it comes to how your t-shirts, jeans, dress, and other pieces look on you, so always consider having your pieces tailored.
When it comes to shoes, on the other hand, cobblers are a miracle in bringing life back to old or damaged shoes. If you notice your leather shoes starting to wear out, simply bring them in to resole and they’re basically as good as new.
While the modern fashion industry encourages us to get rid of our current clothes and swap them for what’s new and trendy, we have to remember the great effect this has on the planet, people, and even our own wallets.
By taking care of your favourite clothes and taking small steps to learn how to wash them, fix them, and store them, you end up doing a lot of good for yourself and those around you.