Laundry

6 tips for extending the life of your favorite clothes

Hand wash, de-fuzz, dye, repeat

favorite sweater Credit: Getty Images / Deagreez

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We’ve all been there. Black pants with faded knees, white shirts telling tales of lunches gone by, your favorite sweater misshapen and covered in pills. These are all common issues, but also all avoidable ones.

Nyjerah Cunningham, a brand stylist at M.M.LaFleur, says, “When it comes to your wardrobe, it’s important to take proper care of your garments [so they] last you a lifetime. Regardless of the price, your clothes are an investment and should be treated as such.”

Believe it or not, you can get more life out of your favorite pieces of clothing by making them look great longer. And, it's as easy as following these expert tips.

1. Invest in a wardrobe care kit

pilly sweater
Credit: Getty Images / Helin Loik-Tomson

Always keep a sweater comb or stone, or an electric sweater shaver on-hand to keep your knit clothes looking their best.

Cunningham says, “You’re the stylist of your wardrobe, so make sure you have the tools for the job.” Tough times (read: stains, pills, mishaps) call for tough measures, so put together a care kit to help with maintenance.

Always keep a sweater comb or stone and a good stain remover—Cunningham relies on tried-and-true Tide to-go sticks, Shout wipes, and Spray ‘n Wash) in your laundry room or even your purse for on-the-spot emergency tending.

2. Store your clothes with care

wooden hangers
Credit: Getty Images / Spiderstock

Wooden hangers are sturdy enough for heavyweight garments.

Invest in quality storage products for your clothing. Cunningham suggests velvet and wooden hangers as great options for hanging items.

She explains, “They're sturdy enough for heavyweight garments and to keep them from falling on the floor.”

However, avoid hanging your delicates, like sweaters, which can cause them to become misshapen and stress the shoulder fabric.

Learn how to fold clothes the right way, because folding is key to proper care. Closet organizers help for top-notch maintenance and storage options.

3. Buy quality laundry detergent

“A good detergent goes a long way and helps keep your garments in great shape,” says Cunningham.

When it comes to the safest laundry detergent for your clothing, opt for one that checks off most of your wash needs, from removing tough stains to preserving color. Cult favorite The Laundress is her go-to line, with options for denim and wool or cashmere items alongside everyday detergents.

4. Practice what you read on care labels

hand wash
Credit: Getty Images / Mariakray

Pay attention to clothing care symbols and hand-wash your items if the label says to.

Translation: When clothing care symbols show that your should hand wash your items, take it literally.

“Sure, it’s easier to throw your garments in the washer and hang them to dry, but is that the best option?” asks Cunningham. “Taking shortcuts will eventually show up in your clothing, so carve out the time.”

After washing your laundry, give the items some space and shape them to dry on a flat surface.

5. Air what you wear

folded storage
Credit: Getty Images / Xsandra

Rotate sweaters from the back of the drawer to the front periodically, giving them a chance to breathe and regain their shape.

Clothing loves to breathe in fresh air. Before putting suits, coats, and heavier fabric pieces back into your closet until the next cold season, hang them on a clothes rack for at least 30 minutes.

Rotate sweaters from the back of the drawer to the front periodically, giving them a chance to breathe and regain their shape. Also swap out plastic bags (which can lead to mildew) for cotton ones when storing seasonal clothes.

6. Consider dyeing your clothing

black dye
Credit: Getty Images / okugawa

Hand dyeing clothes can freshen colors left wanting after years of washing.

Hand-dyeing clothes has made a huge comeback during the pandemic with the DIY tie-dye trend. But Jenni McNeill, founder of Boston-based hand-dyed clothing line Magpie Made It, wants you to remember clothing dye’s raison d'être—to freshen colors left wanting after years of washing.

McNeill says, “Household favorite RIT dye has over 1,000 color formulas, so you can always find the perfect match to spruce up your faded clothing.”

RIT recently launched its Back to Black kit, a RIT black dye that’s perfect for bringing washed out black clothing pieces back to life.

RIT fabric dye also has denim blue dye for light washed jeans that need a boost into the fall’s darker shades.

McNeill says, “Dye can bring life back into any tired pair of jeans. Follow the directions carefully and make sure you use the correct dye for your fabric, since there’s a difference between synthetics and natural fabrics.”

When the issue in question is a stubborn stain, don’t toss the item. McNeill adds, “Turn it into something fun with a dip into the dye,” she adds, noting that RIT dye colors are great for changing up the hue of an item to hide wear and tear.

McNeill suggests treating your newly dyed clothing with extra care. Wash them separately in cold water to prevent color spread and further fading.

“Spend the extra few bucks you just saved on buying new jeans and invest in RIT’s ColorStay Dye Fixative to lock in the color,” she adds, “so you can enjoy your favorites for even longer.”

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