Laundry Tips and Simple Ideas to Keep Your Wardrobe Looking New
According to Scientific American, the water that’s required to produce one pair of jeans is 10,000 liters. Petroleum-based polyester and synthetic fabrics will take between 20 to 200 years to decompose once disposed of. The textile industry as a whole is responsible for as much as 20 percent of industrial pollution to the Earth’s waterways, a devastating statistic for drinking water supplies and the world’s ecosystems. Of course, it’s also important to consider the carbon footprint of each garment, the sometimes unfair labor practices used in the creation of that dress or that swimsuit and the harvesting of some animal textiles that’s unethical, even cruel.
How Can We Do Better?
That said, we need clothes! You can’t go to work without clothing. Clothing protects us from the elements and, of course, your clothing is a reflection of your style and your personality. So, what is to be done? It’s simple: Buy fewer styles and make them last.
Many people feel that buying the latest styles year after year is necessary to maintain a particular image. In other words, to keep up with trends you must buy what’s in the store windows season after season. That’s just not so. While it’s okay to splurge on a trendy look now and then, you can create a fashion forward image by buying quality garments in classic cuts that are flattering to your unique body shape. Play with textures and fabrics to create a look that’s unique to you and, of course, be sure you’re buying well-made products that were sustainably sourced and ethically created.
As you shop your favorite looks, pay attention not just to the style but to the certifications the garment holds. Is it Fair Trade Certified? GOTS Certified Organic? Non-GMO? Cruelty Free? All these are good indications that your clothing was made sustainably with a mindfulness of the ongoing – and increasing – impact of the textile industry on the planet. Once you’ve chosen quality, earth-conscious fashions you love, the rest is easy! Here are laundry tips and other ideas to keep your clothing looking and feeling fresh for years.
There aren’t too many people out there who would put laundry on the top of their list of favorite down time activities. Of course, it needs to be done, but because it’s so daunting and arduous that many people simply dump the clothes in the washer, add soap and let it go. When the washer buzzes, the same is repeated: the clothes leave the washer, enter the dryer and are left to dry for a predetermined amount of time.
To take better care of your clothing, simply read the label and pay closer attention to clothes washing symbols! Particularly true for clothing made in the USA, your shirts, slacks, jeans and even leggings will have care instructions printed on the tag. These will vary depending upon the material, but a few typical examples you may see include “machine wash cold,” “hand wash only,” “air dry only” or “do not iron.”
Caring for your clothing the way that’s “prescribed” will help your garments last years longer than the “dump and agitate” method of doing laundry. However, there’s one additional thing to consider: your personal preferences. If you absolutely can not stand to hang your clothes to dry, or if you’re not local to a dry cleaner, it’s probably best to avoid clothes with those instructions on the label. No matter how much you love that dress, the hassle isn’t going to be worth it for you.
Sort Your Clothes
Almost everyone has had it happen, it’s probably happened to you, too. You’ve just bought this gorgeous sea green top that looks great with your white linen pants. You heard compliment after compliment at the party tonight, but now you’re just tired. Eager to snuggle into your pajamas, you toss the top and the pants into the washer to deal with tomorrow. Except you forget. When the next full load of laundry comes out of the washer, you find yourself a proud new owner of a pair of white linen pants with green “accents.”
Color bleed is only one example of why you should sort your laundry. By sorting your lights (and whites) from your darks, your delicates from, say, your towels, you ensure that each item of clothing you own is cared for in exactly the way that was intended.
More Helpful Sorting Tips:
There are a few categories of garments to consider as you sort. These include darks, whites, lights, delicates and jeans.
All jeans and denim fabrics are washed together with almost no exception. If you own denim products with embroidery, embellishment or other features, consider washing them with a load that won’t experience as much agitation in your washer as this jeans load.
All whites are washed together, too. This includes items like your socks, cotton camis and other garments that can handle a bit of agitation. The exception is if you have whites that are particularly delicate, such as silks, tights or lingerie.
Your dark clothes are exactly what the category implies: they’re your darker colors like reds, dark blues and jewel tones. Note that if you’ve never washed a colored item before, it can still bleed into other dark colors.
Your light colors are the pastel-type items, like pinks and yellows.
Your delicates are just that: lingerie, some tights and anything that’s too delicate for heavy agitation.
Just a few minutes of sorting your laundry can mean years of life for your clothing!
Wash Inside Out
When you remove take off your hoodie or your skinny jeans, they may turn inside out anyway. However, washing your clothes inside out is actually another laundry tip you can use to extend the life of your clothes. Remember to pay close attention to clothes washing symbols for further tips. The reason for this is simple: it’s protecting what’s on the inside from agitation against other garments. The screen printed tee you bought while hiking the through trail on the ATV is going to last much, much longer if the image is turned inside out in the washer. The same is true for that embellished short you bought last summer at the beach.
It’s a very simple step, and one that sometimes naturally occurs anyway! Turning your clothes inside out to wash them is a great way to ensure their presence in your closet for a long time!
There comes a day in everyone’s life where that shirt is just too wrinkled to wear to work. You could toss it in the dryer with a wet cloth, but that’s immensely energy consumptive, takes a long time and isn’t always effective.
It’s time to pull out the iron. Don’t be afraid of your iron, but do take time to learn its settings. You should always iron on a padded surface like an ironing board, but if you don’t have a board you can simply use a thick towel on your table. Never iron directly on a hard surface, as this will damage your clothes and your surface!
Helpful Iron Tips:
Then, read the care instructions, of course! You don’t need to be a textiles expert who’s memorized which heat settings are best for which fabrics. Just look at the tag, you’ll see the care instructions right there. Options include:
Do not iron
Iron on high heat
Iron on medium heat
Iron on low heat
Do not steam
Generally speaking, the lower the heat the better. If your collar comes away looking great after using a low heat setting, that’s great. Do remember, though, that steam can damage some fabrics beyond repair, as can excessive heat. Always check the label and the settings on your iron before you begin.
Steam Clean Your Clothes
Believe it or not, one of the best ways to wash your clothes isn’t with a washing machine, or even by hand washing. It’s by steam cleaning. Steam cleaning isn’t something you’ll need to take your clothes to a specialist for. In fact, you can purchase the little devices for under $100 online. There are several sizes of steam cleaners and they offer different features, but they all do basically the same thing: efficiently and quickly wash your clothes.
We think you’ll be impressed with what a steam cleaner can do. Most are small, compact enough to fit in your closet or laundry space. Some are even portable, meaning you can bring them along while you travel for on the go touchups. In most cases, steam cleaners allow you to add fragrance, as well, though do be sure your fragrance doesn’t contain harmful chemicals. Steam cleaners are wonderfully effective, as steam is a disinfectant. You’ll also find that your clothes will be wrinkle-free and ready to wear if stored properly.
By steam cleaning your clothes, you’re cutting down on the exposure to chemicals and agitation that dry cleaning and washing machines require. You’re also cutting down significantly on your water usage, using fewer detergents and helping to protect the environment while extending the life of your garments.
How many times do you wear an item of clothing before tossing it into the hamper? Once? Twice? You don’t have to do that, and you probably shouldn’t. Natural and organic fabric refreshers will, in most cases, work just as well for gently worn clothes. Of course, this varies with the garment and the use. Your work blouse is less likely to require a wash than the tank you wore to spin class.
The exception to this is, in some cases, baby clothes. Those little ones are prone to leaks, dribbles and, let’s face it, full blown blow outs. Especially as your baby gets older and begins to eat solid foods and toddle, you’ll probably have to wash your child’s clothes more frequently than your own.
A Good Rule of Thumb:
A good rule of thumb for baby and adult clothing is to first do a visual check for spots, stains, discoloration or any other issues. If all looks well, it’s time to do a sniff test. Check the whole garment, not just the most likely spots to offend. Finally, feel the garment. If it feels as smooth and clean as the day you bought it, a spritz of a natural fabric refresher will do just fine.
Use a Stain Stick
In some cases, your shirt, pants or other item of clothing might have a spot – say, a drip of mustard – but is otherwise in great shape. Don’t wash the whole garment but instead carry a stain stick in your purse or briefcase.
Stain sticks are like little markers that do just what they say – they remove stains. They’re convenient to tote along with you, but they’re also very useful in the laundry room, too. As you’re sorting your laundry, you may notice a spot here or there. The same is true should you choose to steam clean your clothes. All you’ll do is dab the stain stick against the spot and gently scrub. When it dries, the stain has disappeared.
Stain sticks are available in most grocery stores, big box retailers and online. However, as with any detergent be sure your stain stick is free from toxins and chemicals that could be unsafe to you or your family. Look for natural and organic products that don’t contain harsh chemicals.
When you dry your clothes in a conventional dryer, you’re using heat. Heat can damage the fibers in your clothing as well as shrink your garments. Instead, consider air drying or line drying your clothing. You don’t need a large yard and a clothesline to air dry your clothes. Simply purchase a drying rack and carefully lay your clothes across it. In some cases, you may be able to hang your damp clothing on hangers and hang, evenly spaced, to air dry that way. Do be careful, though, as hanging your clothes may cause them to stretch.
When you air dry your clothes, you may notice that they feel stiffer upon drying than when you dry them in the dryer. You can remedy this by adding a mild fabric softener to each load. There are many organic options on the market. A favorite of ours are nuts from the Soap Berry tree. These nuts act as both a detergent and a softener in your wash, and are not a concern for those allergic to nuts. Air drying your clothing isn’t just great for your wardrobe, it’s also good for the environment. You’ll consume less energy, which is also great for your energy bills!
Fold Your Sweaters, Don’t Hang Them
In the interest of space or convenience, many of us hang our sweaters alongside our other clothes. However, this isn’t in the best interest of the longevity of your cashmeres, wools or any other sweater. Instead, fold your sweaters and keep them in a drawer or storage container. Likewise, when you travel don’t roll your sweaters before packing them. Both hanging and rolling sweaters can cause them to stretch out of their original shape.
This rule isn’t just applicable to sweaters, either. Knit fabrics, like that jersey dress you love, should be folded to retain shape. Most soft tees should be folded, as should all athletic pants. If it’s absolutely necessary to temporarily hang a dress or similar item, use a padded or shaped hanger.
Just as you would never hang a sweater to store it, you should also never hang a sweater to air dry. Always lay your sweater out flat to dry to ensure it keeps its shape.
Use Bluing Agents on Whites
Over time, your whites will inevitably fade to yellow. Just envision those old wedding dresses that weren’t properly preserved; they’re nowhere close to the brilliant white they once were. This is especially true for your clothes if you bleach them. Bleach will eventually yellow your whites, and can be exacerbated by certain types of water.
Counteract that yellow by adding blue. Many clothing manufacturers add bluing agent before their garments are sold and shipped, but that will fade over time. You can add the color back in with a simple solution. Just dilute it in water, add to your load of whites and you’ll find that they all but sparkle when they come out of the rinse cycle.
If you’re concerned about adding a chemical to your wash load, there’s no need to worry. Bluing agents are dyes, yes, but there are many non-toxic, biodegradable options available. Do use caution when using a bluing agent, and be sure to follow instructions carefully. As it’s a dye, you can stain your clothes,
Buy Less When Clothes Last Longer With These Helpful Laundry Tips
We all want to look good. We want to have the latest trends in our closet and express our individual styles. However, the textile industry is extremely damaging to the earth, impacting entire ecosystems with pollution and waste. You can help counter some of the damage by selecting classic pieces that fit you well, and by taking great care of your clothes by paying closer attention to clothes washing symbols and tips. You’ll buy less when your clothes last longer; follow these laundry tips to help you get the most out of your wardrobe.
Shana Thompson is a full time professional writer and editor. Shana has worked extensively in the fields of content marketing, on-page and off-page SEO (guest posts, backlink acquisition), and creative writing. As an experienced pro content writer, Shana has worked on several magazines, publishing companies and marketing agencies. Many recent projects have included everything from nutrition and health services, where a lot of research and citations were needed, to writing about health, sustainable, eco-friendly products.
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