I previously wrote a post giving six tips for sustainable clothes shopping, but what about the clothes you already own? The most sustainable thing you can do is re-wear what you have. So rather than replace your existing wardrobe with clothing from sustainable brands, try to extend the life of your clothing. I’ve put together ten top tips to give you a helping hand.
Ten tips to extend the life of your clothing
Quality over quantity
Personally I would rather spend more on one item that lasts over multiple seasons, that I can get a lot of wear from than buy five cheaper items over the course of one season. Shopping for classic pieces that don’t date is key here so you don’t feel like you need to replace them each time the trends change. And, better quality pieces will last a lot longer. I appreciate that a certain amount of privilege comes with this as not everyone can afford to buy (or justify the cost of) more expensive clothing.
Wash less often
I feel like this probably won’t be a very popular suggestion, but many of us wash our clothes too frequently. Obviously there are items like underwear and anything that you have exercised in which should be washed after each wear. However, there are some things like jeans which can be worn a few times before washing. For example, Levi’s actually suggest washing them every 10 wears! Over washing items can cause the colours to fade and the elastic to stretch.
Wash inside out
This tip links with the one above. If you are trying to prevent any dark items of clothing from fading, washing them inside out can help. Black jeans and t-shirts are the worst for this and then they end up looking that worn out grey shade.
Wash in a bag
I have always used a bag to wash delicates like underwear in – probably because my mum also did the same. It stops the machine from eating socks and I also use it for items that I don’t want to stretch out.
Reduce dry cleaning
Not only is dry cleaning quite expensive but it uses chemicals that can harm fabric over time. They don’t exactly do wonders for the environment either. You can end up with items of clothing that will fade much more quickly than they would normally. I am quite bad with items that you are supposed to dry clean. Quite often I will machine wash them which I realise is risky but I trust my washing machine’s settings. I will also spot clean or hand wash. Obviously I wouldn’t be throwing a silk dress in my washing machine! I have heard that you can refresh items by hanging them in your bathroom while you shower, although I haven’t tried this yet myself.
Washing machine overload
I don’t know about you but I was always told to never put a wash on if you don’t have a full load as it just wastes water. I am guilty of fitting as much in my machine as possible but this isn’t good for your clothes. Not only can it prevent items from being properly cleaned but items can get stuck between the door seal and inner drum causing them to tear.
Reduce temperature and detergent
Not only does washing clothes on a lower temperature save energy but washing on too high a temperature can cause shrinking, fading and damage to some fabrics. You need to find the right balance. Most clothes can be washed on 30 degrees if they need a general wash but if you are looking to kill germs the NHS website recommends washing on 60 degrees.
Many people use too much detergent in their machines in the belief that clothes will be left cleaner but in reality your machine can struggle to thoroughly rinse it out. Clothing can end up with residue and be left discoloured.
Avoid tumble drying
I appreciate if you have young children, a big family or have a washing basket you are continuously trying to get on top of that a tumble drier is more necessary. However, another way to extend the life of your clothing is to dry your clothes on a line or airer. Not only does it mean that you aren’t using electricity but a tumble drier can shrink or stretch clothes.
Extend the life of knitwear
I’m always shocked by the amount of people that hang knitwear. If you have a really heavy knit and you have it on a coat hanger over time the weight of it will stretch the jumper out. You will also find that the shoulder become misshapen where it rests on the hanger. To avoid this from happening I always keen my knits folded on a shelf or in a drawer.
Learn to repair
While you can take your items to be repaired that just seems like a waste when it doesn’t really take much to sew a button back on mend a hem yourself. So many people will even throw an item away because of a split seem which is such a waste!