11 tips for clothes care

Wear, what, how?

“Buy less, choose well and make it last” said irreverent British designer Vivienne Westwood. One antidote to the environmental impacts of fast fashion is looking after what's already in your wardrobe. So here are our 11 top tips for taking care of your clothes and making them last.

1. Save to splurge

This first tip starts before you go shopping and covers both ‘buy less' and ‘choose well'. Which make it more likely that a piece will last longer too. But it's not just about looking for good construction and quality fabrics in natural fibres and neutral colours. Buying less, but better also comes down to choosing what you need and will actually wear. Owning five glamourous cocktail dresses when you work from home and rarely need to dress up, leads to an overstuffed wardrobe and an empty wallet.

2. Launder less

Washing, drying and ironing take their toll on your clothes. While underwear, socks and shirts may need washing every time you wear them, other clothes like jeans, knitwear and jackets probably don't. Unless there's a visible stain on something or it's smelling a bit ‘gamey', try hanging it outside for an airing rather than washing.

Much ‘fast fashion' and activewear is made from manmade fabrics like polyester. When polyester goes through the wash, it sheds microfibres. These minute fibres don't biodegrade, and pass through wastewater treatment systems into waterways. Microfibres are eaten by aquatic life, making their way up the food chain to us, and adding to plastic pollution in our oceans. Learn how you can stem the microfibre tide at stopmicrowaste.com.

3. Stain, stain, go away

The general rule with stains: the sooner you get to it, the better. If it's a grease spot, lie the garment flat and cover the mark with absorbent powder like baking soda, cornstarch or salt. Leave the powder on overnight and then brush it off, before washing with a little laundry or dish detergent on the mark. For non-greasy food stains like fruit or tomato, get as much of the food off as possible and run under a cold tap. Then wash with laundry detergent cold setting. Don't let the stain dry.

4. Delicately does it

Get to know your care labels. If it's lacey, silky, embellished or a fuzzy, fluffy knit - it's probably best to handwash in cool water (unless that care label says ‘dryclean only'). Use a gentle laundry detergent made especially for delicate fabrics like wool, cashmere and silk, and wash multiple items at a time (in light to dark order) to conserve both water and detergent. For slightly more robust items, as well as underwear and bras, delicates bags or a drawstring cotton bag will help protect clothes from stretching and tearing in the machine.

5. Detergent deterrent

As well as releasing more chemicals into the environment, using more laundry detergent than you need will leave a residue on your clothes, making them stiff, dull or even more likely to attract dirt. Choosing a concentrated laundry powder or liquid means you'll use less, yet still get clothes clean.

6. Machine learning

Washing dark colours inside out will help you protect them from fading. Turning printed t-shirts inside out helps to stop the print from cracking (as does keeping them out of the dryer). Setting your washing machine to a cold cycle and using a detergent without optical brighteners will also make a difference. And jeans in particular don't need washing as often as you might think - a good airing might be enough to get another wear out of them.

7. Breathing room

Clothes are sort of like Goldilocks. They don't like extremes - too hot, too much sun, too damp… If you live somewhere humid, this may be easier said than done. To avoid mould and mildew, try leaving a bit of space between hanging clothes, and make sure clean clothes are bone dry before putting them back. Plastic drycleaning bags trap moisture, so swap them out for breathable canvas garment bags if you need to protect special clothes.

8. Hanging around

As well as being a lot easier on your power bill, using a drying rack or clothesline is gentler on your clothes too. Overheating in the dryer can shrink fabrics and break down elasticity in your garments. The dryer can also wreak havoc on bonded ‘seamless' underwear and activewear.

9. Into the fold

Hanging heavy knits like jumpers and cardigans will stretch the shoulders and pull them out of shape. If you have space, fold your jumpers so that the front is always on top and flat. This will keep them in shape and minimise wrinkles. If you find moth holes in your knitwear, try storing it with lavender, bay leaves or small strips of cedar - moths hate the smell of these plants. And make sure clothes don't have any food stains on them when you put them away, as these attract the hungry little critters.

10. Pressed for time?

By drying your clothes on the line or on hangers, you can minimise your ironing. If you find your clothes get shiny when you do iron them, try setting the iron to a lower temperature than recommended for that fabric. Or iron them through a large piece of cotton fabric like a fine tea towel or (clean) cotton hanky.

11. Make do and mend

Learning how to stitch a blind hem, fix a small hole or replace a button will help you keep your favourites going for another season. A search for ‘how to mend clothes' will bring up loads of useful tips and DIY videos. Or swap skills with someone who's handier with needle and thread than you are.

What are your go-to tips for making clothes last longer? We'd love to hear them.