How to Take Care of Your Clothes

Clothes are an investment you want to prolong the wear — and enjoyment of! — for as long as possible. We combed the internet for the best tips, tricks, and expert ideas for wearing that 1930-style chiffon dress, buffalo plaid wool shirt, and the vintage Levi's for as long as you can fit in them.

Wash Your Whites Every Time You Wear Them

If you made it through the spaghetti dinner splatter-free, you might be tempted to hang your white cotton blouse back up. But "body oils and perspiration, along with other time-released stains (like perfume, white wine, and oil splatters), will start to give a once-bright white a yellowish tint," Steve Boorstein, developer of the DVD Clothing Care, told Real Simple.

But Don't Overwash Darks

The washing machine is notoriously tough on clothes. It doesn't just clean items, all that agitating, tumbling, and friction can fade color and destroy structure. Try hanging dark items after wearing from the shower rod, where a steam will air them out and make them fresh again.

Embrace the Air Dry

Sorry, but the dryer is even rougher on your clothes than the washer, where hot air zaps elastic, breaks down fibers, and can cause shrinking, fading, and pilling. Take a page from the Europeans, lower your electricity bill, and air dry your clothes from a clothesline or on a drying rack.

Adjust the Dryer

If you must use the dryer, try lowering the heat and taking clothes out while they're still damp and finishing on the line or drying rack. This will minimize shrinking and is overall gentler on your beloved duds.

Invest in a Steamer

Speaking of the Europeans, they iron, like, everything. (Probably because line drying often leads to wrinkles.) If the idea of standing at an ironing board for hours makes you feel like feminism never even happened, try a steamer. This small handheld steamer will keep your clothes looking polished without sending you into a Tillie Olsen meltdown.

Banish Sweat Stains

A classic white t-shirt suddenly looks less chic with yellowish underarm stains. Pretreat sweat stains with a specialty soap (like The Laundress Stain Solution) or a mixture of baking soda and water, and let sit for 30 minutes before washing.

...Or Stock Up on Underarm Shields

Perhaps you've seen shoulder-pad-like cotton inserts sewn into the sleeves of vintage dresses. You can copy the same strategy using modern (disposable!) technology with adhesive underarm shields that attach to the inside of clothing.

Treat Stains Right Away

The longer you wait to remove a stain, the more likely it's not going anywhere. Here's the life-changing stain removal process suggested to the New York Times by Madame Paulette, the go-to cleaner for New York's fashion elite.

  1. Wet a cloth with cold water. (Avoid using paper towels so that they don't shed on your garment and create more of a mess.)
  2. Add a drop of dish detergent to the wet cloth. (Xirouchakis suggests using "a citrus-based soap — anything that smells like lemon or orange.")
  3. Place another cloth beneath the stain if you can.
  4. Press on the stain, over and over, to lift it out. Resist the urge to rub, or you might damage the fabric.
  5. You can let the stain sit overnight, even in water, before putting it in the laundry. Or you can wash immediately after treating the stain.

Hand Wash Sweaters

Dry cleaning can weaken and break fibers, and handwashing can leave cashmere softer. Swirl the sweater in a bath of lukewarm water and mild soap, such as Woolite, The Laundress Wool & Cashmere Shampoo, or baby shampoo. Remove the sweater from the water in a lump (holding from the shoulders will stretch it out) and roll in a towel to remove excess water (don't wring!). Lay flat to dry.

Use Kid Gloves with Your Delicates

The washer and dryer are too rough and tumble for your next-to-nothings. Fill the sink with cool water and gentle detergent, such as Ecover delicate wash; use shampoo in a pinch. Swirl bras a few times over the course of an hour, and dry on a drying rack.

Don't Be Too Precious With Denim

They're made for cowboys on the trail; they can take some wear and tear. Don't wash your jeans until they're stained or starting to sag. Wash them inside out to preserve the indigo hue, and then hang to dry.

Dry Clean Suits Together

Otherwise the jacket and pants (or skirt) will fade at different rates. And you don't need to do it too often. Madame Paulette told Real Simple three or four times a year is sufficient, since the finishing and pressing process can damage fabric over time.

The Takeaway

These tips will keep the clothes you looking fresh and pretty longer. "Clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them," Marc Jacobs said. But we don't want our wardrobe to look like it's seen it all. Leave that to us.

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