Most people want to either earn more money or save more money (or both). One of the areas where you might not have thought about saving money is around how long your clothing lasts. That said, here are some great tips for how to make clothes last longer!
Making your clothing last longer is a great way to save money when it comes to shopping as well as caring for your clothes.
There are also other great benefits if you make this a habit and we'll get into them in this article!
Why you should learn how to make clothes last longer
Most of us have thought about our need to declutter our clothing in recent years, thanks to Marie Kondo and the minimalist trend. But have you considered how long you keep most of your wardrobe?
Thanks to fast fashion, for many people it's probably not a long time as they quickly declutter poor quality clothing and items no longer on trend.
Decluttering clothes has its own benefits, but along with that goal, you can work to make your clothing last longer.
Whether you buy new items every month or much less frequently, there are financial benefits including the following:
When you spend your hard-earned money on your wardrobe, do you ever think about that money after it’s gone? Making your clothing last longer helps you save money, so it’s worth trying to make some changes if you cycle through clothes rapidly.
Start by reflecting on how much money your clothing costs you.
First of all, the money you spend is money you can’t put towards other financial needs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spent an average of $1,754 a year on apparel and services.
Your clothing budget might be lower or higher than this but remember other expenses. For instance, there’s a cost in care and upkeep of clothing: washing and drying can add to your electric and water bills.
Every dollar you spend today is one you can’t invest in your future, so try to consider all potential areas for saving!
Helps protect the environment
Although the financial benefits of keeping your clothing longer are awesome, here’s more motivation for you. Learning how to make clothes last longer is a move towards more sustainable living.
Buying clothes less frequently cuts down on pollution
It might surprise you if you went through your closet and counted how many times you’ve worn each item of clothing. Earth.org explains that most of us only wear each piece of clothing 7 to 10 times before getting rid of it.
They also note that the dyeing and finishing process is to blame for 3% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, Even more alarming, it’s responsible for a whopping 20% of global water pollution.
You’ll save money in the long run by simply wearing each piece of clothing more frequently before ever getting rid of it. It’s easy logic: the more uses you get out of a purchase, the lower your cost per use.
In addition, if your wardrobe lasts longer, you'll buy less, and there will be less pollution due to fashion.
Tons of clothing end up in landfills
Did you know that Americans throw away about 100 pounds of textile waste per person per year on average?
It’s no surprise that the amount of clothing we throw away has increased over time given that, as mentioned earlier, most of us only wear each item 7 to 10 times. The environment is just one (major) reason why fast fashion is bad overall.
I know I’ve tossed out a lot of clothing over my lifetime. Now I try to only buy things I’ll wear constantly (like shirts I’ll wear weekly for half the year, for many years).
Saves you time
In addition to saving money and the environment, longer-lasting wardrobes are a huge time-saver. Who wouldn’t like a few hours back every week or month?
A long-lasting wardrobe means fewer shopping trips
If you cut down on the frequency of your shopping trips, you could save money. And the longer your clothing lasts, the fewer items you’ll need to buy.
Saving money also happens when you stop buying clothes you never wear. How many times have you picked out an outfit for just one occasion? And then only wear it once (if you even wear it at all)?
That can be fun once in a while, but maybe it doesn’t need to be the norm. Make the decision today to stop buying clothing without thinking it through.
You spend less time picking out what to wear
If you’ve ever done a closet purge, you already know the excitement of looking at an organized closet afterward. After donating unused items, you feel lighter and suddenly find you don’t miss the stuff after it’s gone.
This is a great fringe benefit of making clothes last longer: you might have fewer options. Fewer options can make it easier to choose an outfit every day. A capsule wardrobe is a great way to achieve this.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed by clothing overflowing from closets and drawers, you can find everything more easily. Time is such a valuable resource, and a more streamlined wardrobe can help with that.
Try these 21 tips on how to make your clothes last longer
Without further ado, let’s get to the tips! You probably do a few of these already, but see what else you can incorporate into your routine. Your closets and your wallet will thank you.
1. Read your clothing labels before washing
Even if you think you know how to care for your clothes, it’s a good time to check the labels again. The care labels on clothing tell you what temperature to use for washing and drying.
Caring for your clothing properly will help prevent stretching, snagging, shrinking, and other problems.
2. Sort laundry to wash similar items together
If you’re just tossing all of your clothing in the same load, you could be damaging some items. Getting in the habit of sorting laundry before washing is a good first step to protecting each item.
This goes back to label-reading, an important part of the domestic skill of doing laundry. Grouping items by color and wash temperature helps ensure your things won’t shrink or tear or fade.
3. Limit bleach usage
While bleach has its moments, you should try to use it sparingly. If you need to use bleach, measure it out carefully and avoid spilling it into the washer (it could splash back into your eyes).
Be sure to check your labels, as the American Bleach Institute notes not all fabrics are safe for bleach. If you accidentally bleach something, you’ve lost your shot at making it last for years to come.
4. Try using less detergent
How confident are you that you use the right amount of laundry detergent? Some of us might simply dump a random amount into the machine without caring.
If you’re wondering how to make clothes last longer, less detergent is one small step in the right direction. Obviously, you save money when the detergent lasts longer.
And it’s often better for clothing. Too much soap can leave a residue.
You can try half the amount you normally do and see if the items still come out clean. If it’s not satisfactory, increase the amount gradually to find the right ratio for your washer.
5. Use cold water when possible
Energy Star reports that using cold water to wash most of your clothing saves energy compared to using hot water.
The only items experts say really need hot water are sheets and towels or anything that requires the killing of bacteria. Everything else can handle the cold.
A side benefit of cold water is that it can help prevent colors from fading on your laundry. Even if that $66 a year sounds small, every little bit adds up!
6. Treat stains before washing
This probably sounds like an obvious thing to do, but any time you can pre-treat stains on clothing, do it.
Read the instructions on your stain remover, but most recommend putting it on stains at least 5 minutes before washing.
If you forget and wash without a stain treatment, it becomes a lot harder to remove stains. You also should check between washing and drying whether the stain has fully come out.
If it still needs work, treat and re-wash it rather than putting it in the dryer.
7. Wash dark items inside out
One tip for preserving the color of your darker apparel items is to wash them inside out. Jeans and other dark-dyed items are always going to last longer and look newer if you launder them inside out.
8. Zip or button clothing before washing
Here’s one I only recently started doing with zippered hoodies: zip them shut before washing. It’s a good rule to follow for anything with a zipper or a button: close them up prior to washing a load.
Learn how to make clothes last longer by trying this out. It’ll help prevent zippers from catching and pulling on fabrics of the other items in the washer.
9. Use a bag for delicates
This may seem like an annoying extra step, but once you have a mesh bag for delicates, it’ll make those laundry loads easier. Washing delicate items like lingerie in a bag will help them keep their shape and avoid snags.
Remember, this is how to make clothes last longer and save money! It’s all for your benefit, so it’s worth using a delicates bag.
10. Use a stain removal pen when away from home
A stain removal pen is a handy tool for preserving your clothing. If you want clothes to last longer, be prepared.
Keeping a stain removal pen in your purse or desk can be great for those unexpected moments. Coffee spills and kids with markers can do a lot of damage, but a stain pen may help prevent stains from setting.
11. Wash clothes less frequently
Questioning how to make your clothes last longer? One of the easiest strategies is to wash them less frequently.
I’m not suggesting being gross. Just consider whether an item really needs to be washed. If you wore a cardigan for just an hour and didn’t get dirty or sweaty, just hang it up when you’re done.
Washing clothing less often saves water, detergent, and electricity (as well as your precious time). Plus, every wash wears out clothing somewhat, so limiting washes will extend the life of your wardrobe.
12. Hand wash certain items
Tip #12 is to hand wash certain items. Read your labels, as some garments are recommended for hand-washing only.
If you only need one or two pieces clean and don’t have a full load yet, you can hand wash them and hang them to dry. This way, you’re not running a half-full machine or causing unnecessary wear to other clothing.
13. Limit dry cleaning
Dry cleaning is sometimes a necessity, but it’s hard on clothing. It also uses a lot of chemicals and is definitely more expensive than washing clothing at home.
By limiting your dry-cleaner trips, you’ll save money. You can also avoid buying clothing that specifies “dry clean only,” so you save yourself that hassle for years to come.
14. Load your washing machine properly
It may surprise some people that you’re not supposed to fill a washing machine up to the brim. Your washer may have settings for different-sized loads, but in general, you want to aim for a mostly full load since every wash cycle uses energy, water, and detergent.
Overloading your machine can mean clothes don’t get completely clean, too. Take care to make your wardrobe last longer by loading your washer as recommended.
15. Minimize dryer usage with a clothesline
Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had the right idea! Using a clothesline (or wooden drying rack or similar tool) is a great way to get your clothing dry. It’s not an extreme way to save money; it’s just good sense.
Dryers use a lot of heat and electricity, plus they’re hard on clothing.
I find this is one of my favorite tricks for how to make clothes last longer. We have several areas where we can hang clothing from a line, and the fresh scent of the outdoors on the clean laundry can’t be beaten.
Even if you live in a small space, one little drying rack can help preserve certain items for longer and lower your electric bills.
16. Use an iron or steamer
Taking the time to iron or steam some of your clothing can actually help make clothes last longer. The steam from an iron may help soften and strengthen the fabrics of clothing to help them look great.
Plus, the iron helps ensure you look good each time you wear an item, making it more likely you’ll wear it again. That prevents extra shopping trips and saves money!
17. Store clothes in a cool, dry space
No one wants a wardrobe that is moldy or mildewed, so how you store your clothes matters. Be sure that you keep clothing in a dresser or closet that’s unlikely to get wet or musty.
If you like to rotate your closet items out by season, be sure that you’re storing things properly during their off-season.
A damp basement or garage isn’t usually the best option. Try for a clean, dry, dark closet instead.
18. Use quality wooden hangers
Good-quality hangers can be a worthwhile investment in the life of your clothing. Using metal or plastic hangers could more easily cause tears or stretches in fabric that won’t look good.
Finding the best hangers for your clothes will ensure they hang properly and look new.
19. Fold knit pieces like sweaters
Don’t use those hangers for heavy sweaters and similar apparel. These are best folded and placed gently on a shelf in the closet or maybe a drawer.
I’m sure it's not just me who has made the mistake of hanging up a warm sweater only to find the shoulders stretched the next time I wore it. It’s hard to rescue a sweater after that.
20. Learn the skill of mending clothes
I confess I don’t know how to do this: mending your clothing might be a great lost art to pursue. A hundred years ago, people didn’t just buy new socks every time the toe wore out—they’d patch them up.
If you can get a simple sewing kit and fix small tears or holes in clothing, you might be able to extend their lifespan.
21. Shop wisely by picking timeless, quality clothing items
This final tip for how to make your clothes last longer is to shop conscientiously. That may sometimes mean spending a bit more when you initially buy a piece of clothing but planning to buy new clothing less frequently.
Slow fashion matters—that can mean buying something that is well-made and is likely to remain in style for years. Sustainable fashion brands are working to make fabrics that last a long time, and they often treat their workers and the environment much better.
Building a capsule wardrobe on a few high-quality pieces will help you avoid shopping every week for something new.
While you want to avoid using “slow fashion” as an excuse to spend beyond your budget, it can be worth it to spend a little more, once, on items you know you’ll keep for years to come.
Save money—and help the planet—by learning how to make clothes last longer!
Overall, it’s better for your finances and the planet if you start learning how to make clothes last longer. You can add many of these tips to your everyday routine and start saving money by saving your clothing.