The clothing industry is one of the biggest contributors to global waste and pollution. If you want to help make a difference in the world, your closet is a great place to start.
When you find a hole in a shirt, is your first instinct to throw it in the trash? Do you find your clothing is pilling or fading more with each wash? Sometimes, you feel like you have no choice but to toss worn or damaged items.
However, there are steps you can take to prevent and remedy serious wear and tear. Here’s how to make your clothes last longer to help reduce your waste and keep your wardrobe looking good.
1. Avoid Fast Fashion Products
Clothing companies make fast fashion to maximize their revenue. Research shows clothing production has doubled in the past two decades, while the average number of times someone wears their clothing has fallen. Brands create new fast fashion lines daily, urging consumers to buy the latest styles even if they typically wear their existing wardrobe longer.
Brands keep up with this intense speed by manufacturing clothes with cheaper materials and products like zippers or buttons. They’ll fall apart faster to keep people in the fast fashion cycle, so they work against the goals of anyone trying to make their clothes last longer.
2. Read the Tags
When did you last read the washing instructions on your clothing tags? The words aren’t there as a suggestion. They teach consumers how to care for the specific fabric to stretch its life span without stretching the fibers.
Read the tags on your clothes to see if your typical laundry routine is appropriate (see below for more on washing better!).
3. Hang your clothes better
It’s so simple but in between washes, high-quality clothes hangers made of wood rather than metal clothes hangers will retain your clothing’s shape so you don’t need to replace them.
4. Consider Eco-Friendly Fabrics
You might think all cotton fabric is the same, but many clothing manufacturers treat their products with chemicals. The chemicals may lock dye or sterilize fibers before washing them into water drainage pipes and polluting the local environment. These harmful processes lead to rising ocean temperatures and declining sea life populations.
Eco-friendly clothing won’t fall apart in the wash. It’s gentler on the environment because the fabrics use less electricity during manufacturing and won’t break down into chemicals that seep into waterways. Even if you wash your clothes every day, the material should remain intact and every piece will last longer.
5. Do Less Laundry
It’s crucial to clean your clothes to banish bacteria and dirt. Consider how often you currently do laundry. It might seem like you must keep that routine forever, but your clothes might be better off with a few more days between wash cycles.
Washing machines can sometimes ruin your clothing’s quality. Rough spin cycles and extreme temperatures might loosen the fibers in your clothes, making them fall apart sooner than later.
Try wearing your clothing for longer. You could easily style a few outfits with your favorite vintage overalls and button-downs before they smell bad.
See BAM Bamboo’s Dare to Wear Longer campaign for more inspiration!
6. Wash better
Laundry, mesh or delicates bags can protect your clothes from rigorous wash cycles.
Gentle cycles treat your clothes carefully. You can always wash at lower temperatures or select gentle wash cycles to be easier on the fabric.
You can also hand wash your garments to save time and money or try spot cleaning. That might be the more eco-friendly option since you’ll only use as much water as your clothes need. You also won’t need electricity to scrub the grime away before air drying them or putting them through a low-intensity cycle in your dryer.
7. Try organic detergent
Standard laundry detergent includes powerful chemical agents that assist with specific laundry needs. They might coat your clothes to make the fabric softer or loosen stains. Although the ingredients passed rigorous testing, they aren’t biodegradable. They might also be too rough on delicate fabrics, making them fall apart.
You could make your clothes last longer by washing them with organic detergent. The all-natural ingredients gently remove grime so you get the same results. When your washing machine drains, the detergent won’t pollute the local environment because it naturally decomposes after diluting in water.
See our article Is scented laundry detergent toxic for more on this topic.
8. Don’t dry clean
Dry cleaning uses toxic chemicals such as perchloroethylene (perc) which is a volatile organic compound and is an environmental and human health hazard. It can also cause colour fading over time and weaken the fibres in your clothes.
To avoid these problems, try to buy clothes made from natural materials such as organic cotton and wool which are less likely to need dry cleaning. Also, try spot cleaning to reduce the frequency of dry cleaning.
You can also look out for an eco-friendly dry cleaner that uses more environmentally friendly cleaning materials instead of perc.
9. Use a fabric shaver or lint roller
Maintaining the fabric will also help your clothes look like new. Use a lint roller to remove hair or dirt clinging to the fibers before mending tears.
You could also use a fabric shaver to remove pilling fibers and fuzz on sweaters. The quick maintenance will support your sewing efforts so your clothes last much longer, even with daily use.
10. Follow beginner sewing videos
Accidents happen. You might rip your jeans across your knees when you fall or snag your favorite sweater on something. Instead of buying a replacement and throwing your perfectly good clothes away, learn how to mend them.
There are tons of free videos online that teach beginner sewing techniques. All you need is a basic kit to get started. A needle, thread and scissors will help you repair a hole in your favorite stretchy T-shirt or sew a hole shut in your sweater.
You don’t need to take a home economics course to learn how to thread a needle and do basic mending. Get a starter sewing kit and follow a tutorial video to extend the life span of your wardrobe.
Make your clothes last longer
Anyone can learn to make their clothes last longer and maintain a sustainable, fashionable wardrobe.
Consider how you currently treat your clothing to pick the most useful tips for your lifestyle. Whether you wash things less frequently, learn to repair broken hems or invest in higher-quality garments, you’ll wear your clothes for years while helping the planet.
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