5 tips for making your clothes last longer

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The benefits of keeping clothes looking fresh and new go well beyond simply maintaining their nice appearance. Taking good care of our clothes has financial and environmental impacts as well.

In 2019, Procter & Gamble (the makers of Downy) commissioned research that found that more than a third of people throw away clothes after wearing them fewer than 10 times. More than 70% of respondents claimed that the main reason they throw out clothes is because the colors fade, or the clothes lose their shape and start to look old.

By making some adjustments to the way we do laundry, we can prolong the lifespan of our clothes — and save money, decrease the amount of waste we’re contributing to landfills and reduce our water and energy usage.

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It’s clear that the more care you take while laundering your clothes, the more you can protect them (and the planet)! So, whether you’re hunting for the best laundry detergent or just trying to make your clothes last as long as possible, we’ve rounded up five tips to help keep your wardrobe looking fresh.

Treat Stains As Needed

No matter how neat we might be, stains happen! Whether it’s a splash of coffee on a pant leg while driving or a plop of mustard from lunch, the key to treating stains is to tackle them as soon as possible and then to reinspect right after washing. If the stain is still there, treat it again right away and put it back in the wash because once it dries in the dryer’s high heat, it’ll be much harder to treat. And if we can keep our clothes looking stain-free, we’ll be less likely to dispose of them before their time.

Categorize Items And Wash Them Separately

Separating clothes into lights and darks is a great start because no one wants a stray red sock to turn a load of white clothes pink. Yikes! It’s also important to keep an eye out for items that don’t play well together, like delicate dresses and zippered hoodies, and take care to wash them separately.

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Wash As Directed

Reading the care labels — and following them! — really does pay off. If the instructions say to wash in cold water and dry flat, then do just that. One exception might be if the care label says to hand-wash an item, you may be able to launder it on the gentle cycle in your washing machine.

It’s also wise to close all garments via snapping, zipping or buttoning before they enter the wash to prevent snags. (While you’re at it, place your delicates (like lingerie and anything lacy) into a mesh laundry bag.)

Go Easy On The Detergent

More detergent doesn’t mean cleaner clothes, even if it’s the best laundry detergent on the market. Using too much can make matters worse, leaving clothes feeling stiff and crunchy. For liquid detergents, this means two tablespoons or less and 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup for powdered.

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Wash In Cold Water

Most items clean up well in cold water with the exception of heavily soiled work clothes, underwear, socks, linens and towels. (Essentially things that could benefit from a solid dose of bacteria zapping.) For everything else, wash in cold water, which can help prevent color-fading and shrinking.

About the Author

Emily O'Brien

Emily is a freelance writer who loves connecting the dots among facts and finding obscure little details to weave in throughout her work. Whether she's interviewing Olympic athletes, small business owners, dessert cookbook writers, or world-renowned architects, she's passionate about shining the spotlight on good people doing remarkable work. Learn More.