how to care for your clothes - and keep them longer

How to care for your clothes - and keep them longer
Read our top tips on how to best care for your clothes so they last as long as possible.

With the average lifespan of a garment estimated at just 2.2 years and millions worth of garments ending up in landfill every year, taking care of your clothes has never been more important.

By keeping your clothes in storage for longer, you can drastically reduce the emissions that occur during the life cycle of a garment; extending the active life of a garment by just nine months can significantly reduce its impact on the environment, while a garment's emissions can be reduced by 24% over the year by doubling its life from one to two years.

The factors that influence how long a garment is stored include the owner's willingness to wear the same garment repeatedly, technical aspects of the item such as resilient fabrics, dyes and colors of the garment, the consumer's ability to to repair or retouch clothes and how someone takes care of the clothes. Taking good care of a garment can significantly extend its life. That's why we're sharing some of our best tips for caring for your clothes to keep them looking their best for as long as possible!

1. Wash less

Think twice before washing your clothes. Washing clothes too often can actually damage the fibers and thus shorten their lifespan. This is especially true with dry cleaning, which uses harmful chemicals that flatten the natural fiber pockets in some fabrics.

If an item of clothing isn't dirty but just needs freshening up, rather than throwing it in the sink, hang it outside or in a steamy bathroom to breathe first.

2. Wash at low temperatures

When it's time to wash clothes, wash them at lower temperatures. Wash clothes at a low temperature with a mild and natural detergent to keep the fabric clean and soft and also to prevent color fading. For an average shirt over a year old, 80% of the emissions are produced during the 'in-use' phase of its life cycle from washing and tumble drying - washing at 30° or less helps to reduce those emissions, while it also protects your clothes. The exceptions may be items that come in close contact with your skin, such as underwear, bedding, and towels, which may need to be washed at a higher temperature.

3. Pay attention to care labels

Different materials require different washing methods. Wool, for example, should only be washed when absolutely necessary, using a special wool detergent on a gentle cycle or by hand. It is important to take good care of delicate fabrics such as cashmere and silk, which are particularly vulnerable to damage from harsh chemicals and heat. Pay close attention to the instructions on the label, which advise you of the maximum recommended temperature at which an item should be washed (rather than the recommended temperature).

4. Less dry cleaning

One in three consumers do not buy an item of clothing labeled dry clean only because of the extra effort required to clean the item. But in fact, most delicate items labeled "dry clean only" can be washed on gentle, lower temperature cycles (unless the item has details that could be damaged in the washing machine). Dry cleaning is a very chemically intensive process that has negative environmental impacts and can have a negative effect on textile fibers and the skin of the consumer. If dry cleaning is the only option for the garment, look for eco-friendly cleaners who offer non-toxic and "eco" cleaning services.

4. Use eco washing powders and detergents

Standard detergents can contain fossil fuel based substances, which can have negative effects on the environment because they are not biodegradable. Using specialist laundry products such as a range of eco detergents and a delicate hand wash can also help your most treasured items last longer. Fortunately, there are now a growing number of eco-laundry products that are made from biodegradable, plant-based ingredients, and also have the added bonus of being refillable.

5. Wash inside out

An additional helpful tip is to wash clothes inside out when machine washing and to avoid overfilling the washing machine as this can cause friction and damage the fibres.

6. Air dry

Nothing beats that freshly laundered, air-dried smell when you take your clean clothes off the washing line. And not only does it smell great, air drying is also better for your clothes and the planet compared to tumble drying, which takes a lot of energy to run and can also damage certain fibers.

Instead, shake your clothes out and hang them outside on a clothesline, drying rack, or on hangers to air dry. Again, pay attention to clothing labels, as some items, such as wool sweaters, are better dried flat.

7. Store properly

Proper storage can really extend the life of a garment. Store all clothing in a cool and dry area to protect it from moisture, sunlight and heat, all of which can cause damage. Make sure clothes are clean before putting them away, as dirt and surface debris can attract clothes moths, which can damage your clothes. Try storing your knitwear with lavender or mothballs for extra protection against clothing moths. It's important not to overcrowd your wardrobe as clothes need breathing space - this will also prevent creasing and color loss from clothes rubbing together.

When hanging clothes, use wooden or padded hangers to avoid deforming clothes.

8. Repair damage

Repair any damage to a piece of clothing when you first notice it. Not only will this ensure that the item doesn't end up in landfill and remains in a wearable condition, but it also extends the life of the item, as the damage is likely to get worse over time if left unresolved.

You can also refresh and restore items to keep them looking their best. For example, de-pilling that sweater you've been wearing every day, or rehydrating your old leather jacket that has dried or cracked over time, will preserve them and keep them in wearable condition.

9. Change to fit or refresh the style

Many people stop wearing their favorite item because it doesn't fit them anymore, or because they don't like the style anymore. A simple change like tightening the waist or shortening a long dress to mid or short length can give you a fresh new outfit and keep your old favorites up to date with the latest style.

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