How to properly take care of your garments to prolong their life

A comprehensive guide on fabric and laundry care that will help make your old clothes look as beautiful as new.

You are determined to be more conscious of what you are buying, and finally decide to invest in better quality clothes that will last? Maybe you are looking for some hidden treasures in the charity shops instead of buying on the high street? Good. But once you do, how to actually make them last?

Clothes require some attention to keep them looking and feeling brand new. In order to prolong their life, preserve the original look and extend the wearability some basic tricks can go a long way – your clothes will thank you, and so will the environment.

Here are some tips you should know when washing, drying and ironing your clothes.

Always separate your whites and darks

A basic rule of doing laundry – keep similar colours together, never mix darks and whites. You can wash beige and even light pastels with whites though. Plus, it is better to wash whites in hot water, which is more efficient with stains.

Keep clothes separated to avoid colour transfer.

Unlike darks (grey, navy, burgundy, dark green, purple and brown) that should be washed in cold water to keep the colours bright. This rule should always apply, especially if you have brand new clothes that can transfer the colours onto other garments.

garment laundry care guide
Keep similar colours together.

Don’t mix different fabrics

When it comes to fabrics, a similar rule applies as mentioned above. Some materials simply can’t be washed with others, especially delicates. Ideally, you want to wash clothes with similar fabric weight together.

Fabrics you can wash together

LIGHT: chiffon, polyester, rayon, nylon

MID-WEIGHT: velvet, cotton, sateen

HEAVY: denim, canvas, corduroy

Turn your clothes inside out

Regular washing often resulted in colour fading – in order to keep your colours as bright as possible, wash your clothes inside out. Also, washing them this way protects the garment and its components such as buttons and embellishments from possible damages in the machine, as well as pilling.

Wash extra delicate garments by hand

Since some garments need extra attention, it’s better to hand wash them. Not only to extend their life but to keep them looking brand new and fresh.

How to do it?
  1. Fill a laundry basket or your basin with water (check the care label, if there’s no any, the safest option is to fill in with cold or lukewarm water) and add a gentle detergent. 
  2. Place the garment in the water and give it a stir – don’t twist or scrub the garment as that can damage the fabric. 
  3. Finally, let it soak for 15 minutes and rinse it out.

Air dry your clothes, especially delicates

Although many garments can be dried in a tumble dryer, air drying is a better option for some delicates. Plus, it’s better for the environment, saves energy and reduces a household’s carbon footprint. Also, air drying saves your clothes by preventing shrinking and reduces wrinkles.

garment laundry care guide
Air dry clothes when you can to prolong their lifespan.

Use mesh laundry bag for delicates that are machine washable

Some more delicate clothes can be washed in a washing machine, as well as other garments such as bras and fine lingerie, however, to prevent them from being damaged, it’s best to place them in a mesh laundry bag.

QUICK TIP: Never overfill the bag, and use the ones with zips instead of strings which can get tangled.

Don’t wash if you don’t need to

Not all clothes require weekly washing. For example, washing good quality jeans made of 100% cotton (without elastane) will actually break down the fibres of the denim and lose its stiffness and shape. Instead, you can throw them in the freezer or hang them in the bathroom while taking a shower.

Also, don’t be tempted to wash clothes you only wore once or a few hours. It’s bad for the garment and the environment since synthetic clothes shed microplastics and regular laundry detergents contain toxic chemicals. Alternatively, you can use fabric refresher spray to remove unpleasant odours.

In order to be even more eco-conscious, avoid tumble dryers too. Dry your clothes the old-fashion way (avoid direct sunlight though, as it can fade the colours), especially delicates.

Use the right hangers

You might think washing, drying and ironing your clothes is the most crucial part of the garment care, but storing them properly is equally important. Delicate garments that easily wrinkle should be hung, same as structured clothes such as blazers and coats, unlike the stretchy materials you can fold. 

Storing clothes properly is equally important as washing.

Use padded hangers for clothes that are prone to snagging, and clip hangers for trousers, skirts and sleeveless tops/dresses. Wooden hangers are the most eco-friendly option, but make sure you use good quality ones as chipped wood can damage the clothes.

But never hang knitwear!

Hanging knitwear and heavy sweaters can stretch them meaning they will lose original shape, so always neatly fold and stack them in your closet. Avoid big piles though. You can also add dried lavender sachets to help repel moths, especially when storing them away during the summer.

Fabric care guide

CottonMachine or hand wash
High temperature (bedding, towels, underwear)
Normal cycle
Cold or warm water 
Mild detergent
Regular temperature in dryer, hang before dry to avoid creasing and to keep its shapeHigh heat iron
High steam
LinenMachine or hand wash
Low temperature
Gentle cycle
Mild detergent
Low temperature in the dryerIf creased, iron while it’s still damp
WoolMachine or hand wash
Low temperature
Gentle cycle
Cold water only
Mild detergent
Air dry only, heat can shrink clothesUse steam only, it may not need ironing if the garment is hanged after washing
ViscoseHand wash
Lukewarm water
Mild detergent
Air dry onlyMedium heat iron
Medium steam
SilkHand wash
Lukewarm water
Mild detergent
Air dry onlyLow heat iron, press while still damp
BambooMachine or hand wash
Low temperature
Gentle cycle
Cold water
Mild detergent
Air dry only, high temperature can shrink the clothesLow heat iron
No steam
DenimMachine or hand wash
Low temperature
Gentle cycle
Cold water only
Mild detergent
Air dry only, if necessary lowest temperature in dryerMedium steam
If you hang your denim while damp, it may not need ironing
Reminder: Turn you clothes inside out before washing
P.S. Always double-check the care label!

If you are not sure how to wash a specific garment, read the care tag label and follow the instructions.