17 Ways To Make Your Clothing Last Longer

Young women choosing to buy a pullover.
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Everyone loves to don a fresh-off-the-rack suit or dress — but frankly unlovable are the costs of new clothes and the environmental impacts of discarding old ones. With the rise of fast fashion, we’re more avid consumers of clothing than ever before. According to data from Kantar, consumers are keeping their clothing today for roughly half as long as they did just 15 years ago, with the idea being that stuff is disposable (so who cares), and getting under 10 wears out of a garment is good enough. 

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This behavior isn’t sustainable for the earth and it’s hardly good for our wallets (it’s downright disastrous if we’re on a budget). What can we do to make our clothing last longer and essentially give us more bang for our buck? GOBankingRates consulted a range of experts to learn their best secrets on keeping one’s togs and threads in tiptop shape. If you follow their advice, you might just find yourself saving not only on new duds but on your water and heating bill, as well as on detergent.  

Make Your Money Work for You

Invest In Quality and Timelessness

“If you’re looking to buy this season’s newest clothes, the first thing to consider is quality over quantity,” said Bonnie Fisher, a contributor to the Better World Apparel website. “Looking for well-designed, high-quality sustainable fabrics should be the first step when investing in your wardrobe. Instead of focusing on seasonal trends, buy classic staple pieces that are timeless and easy to dress up or down.”

Buy Velvet Hangers

“Plastic or wire hangers (like from the dry cleaner) are the death of so many garments,” said Maria DiLorenzo, founder and CEO of MFD Style. “The velvet huggable hangers are best to help retain the shape and keep fibers intact of the garment. I even hang sweaters in a certain way so they don’t get those puckers at the shoulder line.”

Choose Natural Fibers

“Polyester, acrylic, and other synthetic fibers are not built to last; they are built to be replaced,” DiLorenzo said. “Hence, why fast fashion brands almost exclusively use them. Buying and retaining clothes made of natural fibers like cotton, linen, hemp, silk, or wool will guarantee a longer lasting wardrobe.”

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Make Your Money Work for You

Rotate Your Clothes as Much as Possible

“Clothes, while fashionable, are designed for specific purposes,” Fisher said. “Sometimes it’s for work, working out, or for casual wear. But, wearing the wrong clothes for the wrong activity may not just be unprofessional, it can make the clothes fall apart quicker.

“Wearing your favorite pair of jeans for every activity day after day may feel nice, but it’s definitely the quickest way to destroy them,” Fisher continued. “Likewise, wearing your work clothes while making dinner or putting the kids to bed is a good way to ruin them.”

Air Out in Lieu of Washing (When Possible) 

“When it comes to making our clothes last longer, the simplest strategies can also be the most effective: namely, washing and drying our clothing less,” said Elizabeth Joy, founder and editor-in-chief at Conscious Life & Style. “If a garment isn’t soiled, I simply air it out for a little bit before storing it back into my closet. Or if there are light odors, I use some simple hacks for getting smells out of clothes sans washer, like spraying with vodka or a 50/50 white vinegar-water solution (I typically add a couple drops of essential oil so my garment doesn’t smell like vinegar and then air it out for another day or two).”

Make Your Money Work for You

Wash Denim Once Every 10 Wears 

“Don’t wash jeans or denim more than once for every 10 wears,” said Jonathon Reckles, vice president of marketing for CD One Price Cleaners

Jeans are another item that you should always air dry.

“When you wash them, let them air dry rather than throwing them into the dryer to help prevent shrinking and fabric warping.”

Use Old Pillowcases as Garment Bags

If you have some old pillowcases laying around, using them as garment bags is a great way to upcycle them. “By storing clothes in garment bags, you’re keeping dust and dirt off of them, and preserving the color more easily,” Fisher said. 

Fold Heavy Sweaters and Knits on a Shelf

“Wool tends to sag, and hanging them may result in droopy, stretched fabric that will be hard to set right,” Fisher said. “Also, adding a bit of dried lavender to the piles will keep away moths and the dreaded holes they cause.” 

Follow the Care Label to a Tee 

“When it comes to making your designer clothes last it’s going to sound silly but follow the care label,” said Eve Dawes, a blogger with Glamour and Gains. “So many of us don’t or cut out the labels and then forget what the washing instructions were.”

Zip Zippers Before Washing 

“Always zip zippers closed prior to washing,” said Elise Chase-Sinclair, a sewing and seamstress blogger. “Not only can a zipper get damaged in the washing machine if open, the zipper itself can snag onto other garments in the wash. Zippers can be replaced by your local tailor, but expect to pay in the range of $30-70 depending on the type of zipper and how hard it is to remove. It’s a common enough request, but it may cost more than you expect as it can be time consuming to remove the old zipper, plus the new zipper isn’t free.”

Use Less Detergent and More Baking Soda 

“My number one tip to make your clothes last longer is to use less quantity of detergents,” said Susan Gagnon, editor-in-chief of Costumes Heaven. “Using large amounts of detergent can make your clothes look dull and stiff. Instead it is recommended to use ½ cup of detergent and ½ cup of baking soda. Baking soda acts as a booster for detergents.” 

Steam Clean Wool Suits 

“In order to make sure your wool suits hold strong for years to come, steam clean in between wears to kill the bacteria and odor and only take to the dry cleaner when you have stains that need to be carefully removed by a professional,” said Tavia Sharp, image consultant and founder of Styled Sharp. “Additionally, avoid storing them in the plastic bags from the dry cleaners. The chemicals in the plastic can damage the fabric over time. Instead store them on wooden hangers and in breathable garment bags to keep the natural fibers looking their best. Not only will you save money on dry cleaning costs but also on replacing any damaged suits which will save you thousands.”

Learn Some Sewing Basics 

“Learn a little basic mending, like how to sew a button,” Chase-Sinclair said. “For anything beyond your skill level, take to a professional to mend. It’s worth taking care of your clothes. Think of the charge for the service as an investment in the life of the garment.”

Air Dry Workout Wear and Undergarments 

“Clothing items such as delicates, shapewear and workout gear typically get the most usage which also means they get laundered more than other items in your wardrobe,” Sharp said. “To help keep these items looking fresh, avoid putting them in the dryer as the heat from the dryer will stretch out and damage spandex/elastic materials. Instead, hang dry these items or lay them out on a dryer rack to keep these from stretching out and having to replace them every season.” 

Clean Activewear Gently 

“Activewear uses high tech materials that deteriorate when exposed to harsh chemicals,” Reckles said. “These should be cleaned with a mild or eco-friendly laundry soap on a gentle cycle.”

Use the Dryer as Seldom as Possible, Period

“Machine dryers expedite the drying process, but they also expedite the wear and tear of our clothing: loosening elastics, beating up components like buttons and zippers, shrinking our favorite sweaters, and roughing up those soft and more delicate fabrics,” Joy said. “Not to mention, dryers are one of the biggest energy-wasting appliances, so you can save on your energy bill quite a bit too.” 

Repurpose Items When No Longer Fashionable

Jeans go out of style? Blouse too boxy? Put a little effort into upcycling your duds. 

“If you have wide bottom pants that you no longer like, sew them into shorts,” said Eva Petruzziello, editor-in-chief of Simple n’ Delight, a site centered on sustainable living. “The same goes for long-sleeve shirts that can easily be turned into T-shirts. Youtube has a lot of instructional videos to help novice sewers.”  

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.

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