Make Your Clothes Last Longer

Wardrobe Stylist, Elizabeth Teater, joined us today with tips to make our clothes last longer.  Some are surprising!

How to Make Your Clothes Last Longer
By Elizabeth Grattan Teater

Most people practice a few of the basic habits of good clothing care, such as washing delicates in cold water and washing like colors together. But there are other things you can do to prolong the life of your clothes -- some common knowledge but often skipped, and some a little more unusual. To motivate yourself to take better care of your clothes, remember why you’re doing it: First, you look more polished in fabrics that aren’t faded, misshapen and snagged. Second, when you don’t have to replace garments as often, you save money. Here are some of the top tricks.

  • Air dry clothes. The dryer is very hard on clothes -- especially garments that contain nylon and elastic, like most bras and underwear.Portlanders may want to dry clothes inside or under a covered porch instead of babysitting them and eyeing the weather. Use a folding wooden rack, or install hooks and keep a thick cotton rope available to tie up. (Think twice before setting it up in an attic or basement if the floor is dirty. Inevitably, you’ll drop something.) Even taking garments out 15 minutes before the end of the dryer cycle will make a big difference in reducing fading.
  • Zip up zippers before washing. Open zippers can snag and rough up the clothes swirling around them in the washer and dryer.
  • Don’t wash your good jeans. This one sounds icky at first but denim experts will tell you the same thing. Premium raw denim, which hasn’t been pre-faded, usually has a resin coating that repels stains and protects the lovely indigo color. This coating will break down in the wash. At the most, wash nice jeans three or four few times a year, and turn them inside out to protect the color.
  • Wash whites every time your wear them. Sweat, deodorant, perfume and clear liquid spills can turn into stubborn yellow stains if left unwashed, so don’t put white garments back in the closet just because they seem fine at first. Wash them. Unlike the rest of your clothes, you don’t have to worry about fading.
  • Don’t hang pieces that should be folded. Items that are both delicate and weighty, like some sweaters and dresses, will get stretched and misshapen on even a padded hanger.
  • Change out of your dressy clothes when you get home. All you want to do is make a snack and curl up on the couch. Or clean the bathroom and sweep the kitchen before your relatives arrive. But if you skip changing into casual clothes, your good “investment” clothes will probably get creased and stained. It only takes two minutes to hang up your clothes and jump into something that’s cute by costs little to replace. 
  • Wear an apron. Or better yet, a chef’s jacket or oversized button-down shirt, for more coverage while you cook. And put it on before you start cooking, not after you leap back from a sputtering pot.
  • Eat less dairy. Dairy foods seem to increase body odor, so if you eat a lot of dairy your clothes may need to be washed more often. Consider reducing your intake and getting calcium from other sources.
  • Use a lint roller, suit brush and steamer. The less you wash clothes, the longer they last. Often, clothes don’t really need to be washed, just freshened. Roll off pet hair. Brush suit fibers back into place. And release wrinkles with a steamer. It’s quicker and easier than ironing, and makes clothes look like they were just dry cleaned. (Note that some silks should not be steamed.) A frequently worn suit may only need to be dry cleaned three times a year.
  • Brush pills off of sweaters. Instead of giving away a pilled sweater, use a “sweater stone” or sweater brush (which looks kind of like a large nail buffer) to gently remove the pills. Just don’t do it when you’re in a hurry; you’ll stretch the fabric and remove too many fibers.
  • Stuff your handbags and keep them on a shelf. No, I don’t mean stuff them with receipts and lipgloss. Keep a small basket near your bag storage area filled with balled-up tissue paper so you can stuff your bags and help them keep their shape. Storing them on shelves prevents overuse of handles, and keeps them off the ground -- where they will inevitably be stepped on.
  • Use shoe trees. This prevents creases, and eventually, cracks. Tissue paper is a decent second choice.
  • Use wooden hangers. Not only do they look nicer, they keep your clothes a bit farther apart so wrinkling and friction are reduced.
  • Rediscover slips and undershirts. They reduce friction on your clothes, absorb sweat, and they’re usually cheaper to replace than the clothes themselves.
  • Don’t drive in your nice shoes. Pedals and floorboards leave worn spots on shoes, so drive in shoes you don’t care about, or even try driving moccasins. Just don’t change into your nice shoes until you are parked.
  • Don't leave running shoes in the car. Extreme temperatures make the rubber less springy.
  • Learn to mend. Have a friend teach you to sew on a button well and fix unraveled hems and split seams. Make repairs right away to keep clothes in good working order and out of the give-away pile.

For more information, you can email Elizabeth:


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