Clothing Care 101: How I Care For My Wardrobe

Last updated: 26th April 2024

There’s something truly delightful about new clothes. The fabric is soft, uncreased, and full of promise. But how do you keep clothes looking and feeling new? Here’s my ultimate guide to clothing care, where I hope to share with you my very best secrets to keep your wardrobe at its best!

Taking care of clothes is a really important part of making fashion more sustainable. For one, it reduces the need to buy more clothes, which reduces demand for virgin materials and (often unfair) labour. It can also save you money. On a more personal level, it shows a certain level of care and respect for your wardrobe. As Joan Crawford said, “Care for your clothes like the good friends they are.”

When shopping, I like to consider the clothing care required before buying a new garment, accessory, or pair of shoes. Hand-wash items will inevitably take longer to wear and re-wear, due to the laborious process of handwashing them. Sometimes, it’s not worth the effort. Equally, buying a second-hand designer garment, or a vintage item, may require some mending or alterations. Can I afford an extra £20 on the price tag? It’s always worth factoring in the cost and effort of maintaining clothes before buying.

Let’s Learn To Love Our Clothes Again

I’ll be honest, I grew up with very simple rules around clothes. If they smell, wash them. When they’re washed, hang them to dry. When they’re dry, iron them, hang them, and put them away.

My mum is a big fan of ironing, so naturally, I hated it. Standing over a board, half flattening, half creasing my school uniform was a chore. I would wriggle out of it as much as I could, and would even avoid buying fabrics that required ironing where possible.

But, she was right. Ironing makes clothes look fresh, presentable, and new. She also instilled in me the importance of stitching up holes, fixing broken zips, or in her case, wonder-webbing anything that was too long for her petite frame.

It took me a few years after moving out to realise that these were valuable life skills. By taking care of my clothes, they look better for longer. And while I’ve never been a particularly proficient seamstress (as the people in my adult sewing class can tell you), I do understand the value of mending garments (or getting them mended by a professional!)

14 Clothing Care Tips To Keep Clothes Looking New

To that end, I have tried to simplify my clothing care practices so they’re quick, easy, and low-cost too. Here are my top tips for caring for your clothes so they’ll look new for longer, without a headache or breaking the bank. And, you’ll get more wear out of them!

1. Wear and re-wear items as much as possible

BAM Dare To Wear Challenge

One way to reduce the impact of your clothes is to simply wear them a lot between washes! Back in 2021, I took the #DareToWearLonger challenge with BAM Clothing and learned I could rewear the same item up to five times before washing! And more than that – my last pair of jeans even came with a little leaflet that said the jeans should be washed after a few months’ wear!

By re-wearing your clothes more, you reduce the number of wash cycles they experience. During washing, garments will experience the harshest conditions, and not only can fabrics change, but seams can come apart, buttons come off, etc. You also reduced your clothes’ overall environmental impact, reducing on water and energy use.

So, pop a t-shirt under a jumper, wear a cami under tops, and when things do get a little whiffy, use a garment refresher spray!

2. Wash clothes a low temperature and on a quick wash

When your clothes inevitably require a wash, do so on a low-impact setting. My washing machine goes down to 20°C, so that’s what I use for all my clothes, except for towels, which require a hotter wash to keep clean. If your clothes aren’t heavily soiled or very stinky, opt for a quicker wash too. This will again, reduce the washing’s impact on your clothes, and reduce your environmental impact.

3. Choose the right mode for your washing machine

Many modern washing machines have different programmes for different fabrics and different situations. It’s worth reading through the manual the first time you use your washing machine to understand what each setting does (because the programme names are always super confusing!)

For example, in our house, we’ve learned we can save energy, water, and time by putting our clothes on the ‘mixed load’ setting, rather than the ‘cottons’ setting.

4. Use a guppy friend bag for synthetic fabrics

For any fabrics made with polyester, nylon, elastane, etc., try putting them in a Guppy Friend bag* when washing. This aims to catch the plastic microfibres that come off clothing during the wash, and prevents them from polluting water systems and wildlife.

5. Use eco-friendly clothes detergents

One of the most important steps in caring for your clothes is to use a clothes detergent that’s gentle on your fabrics, gentle on your skin, and gentle on the wildlife that it may come in contact with the water that goes down your drain. I shared a few of my favourite brands in my guide to eco cleaning products a little while ago, and have added a few others that have popped up since then.

6. Avoid fabric conditioner

Despite Comfort’s ‘Long Live Clothes’ campaign, fabric conditioner can actually reduce the life of your clothes, especially activewear. Verena Erin’s guide on Ethical Unicorn explains this really well. If you do want a nice smell, try adding a few drops of your favourite essential oil into your wash, or use a clothes perfume or refresher spray before wearing them.

7. Hand-wash knitwear and silk clothes

My one exception to almost all of the above rules is for hand-washing. Personally, I’ll avoid putting delicate clothing – chiefly, my knitwear and silks – in the wash, even if my washing machine has a delicate setting. Instead, I have a separate clothes bag where I store knitwear and silk clothing waiting for a wash, and then hand-wash them in my bath in batches.

8. Let clothes dry naturally

As much as I love the warm cosy feeling of freshly tumble-dried clothes, tumble drying takes a heck of a lot of energy, and weakens fabrics quite a lot. Where do you think all that dryer lint comes from? Instead, try hanging clothes to dry naturally. I use a tiered clothes horse, as I can hang delicates relatively flat on it. On a warm, dry day I’ll also move my clothes horse outside

9. Use good quality hangers

Hangio Bendable Hangers

I’ll be honest, I love the aesthetic of metal hangers, but they are only really practical for structured garments or t-shirts. I’ve recently discovered Hangio*, a new type of bendable hanger that can be customised to suit different garments, with six different ways to hang clothes! I have a set of six (gifted) which I use to hang items that might get shoulder bumps or collage slippage otherwise. They’re also great to bend and hold scarves on too! They’re also suitable for delicates or knitwear, which I otherwise lay flat in drawers.

10. Steam (or iron) wrinkly clothes

If you find some of your clothes have a pesky wrinkle in them when dry, try turning them inside out and steaming or ironing them. I’ve upgraded my clothes care game with my Steamery Cirrus 3 Iron Steamer (gifted), although my Morphy Richards Steamer also did the job on a budget. Steaming works so quickly and easily on everything from t-shirts to silk shirts – and it gets me away from the nightmare of ironing (!)

Bonus: Clothing Care For Well-Loved Clothes

When it comes to extending the life of your clothes, there’s also a few extra tips I’ve learned to employ. These are perfect for both well-worn pieces in your wardrobe, as well as anything you may have raided from family members’ wardrobes or bought as vintage!

11. Remove bobbles and pulls

I find bobbles often make clothes look old prematurely (and sometimes it’s just an unfortunate case of an item catching/rubbing against the fabric). One way to remedy this is to snip off any pulls or bobbles (without damaging the fabric) or to take a disposable razor and run it over your clothes. To be even more eco, get a reusable fabric shaver – especially if you have a lot of knitwear!

12. Treat clothes to an eco dry clean

Despite most dry cleaners using harsh products that aren’t great for the environment, there are a few eco cleaners out there who can help restore well-loved clothes and remove stains and musty smells. If you’re London-based, I recommend BLANC‘s home collection service.

13. Get clothes altered

While our bodies change and styles change, our clothes don’t, so it’s easy to fall out of love with them over time. Instead of donating/selling/swapping, try getting things altered to fit your frame and remove overly-styled elements like shoulder pads. I got this vintage coat taken up a few inches at my local laundrette, and it cost just £20 to breathe new life into it! Read my guide to clothes alterations here →

14. Store clothes correctly

Finally, let’s talk clothes storage. It’s likely that you’ll already have a chest of drawers and wardrobe where you store your clothes, but are they doing a good enough job on their own? I’ve invested heavily in my wardrobe over the last few years, so I want to make sure my clothes last. I use hanging clothing bags to store delicate items in. I use shoe boxes and silica gel packets to keep shoes fresh. For knitwear, I have a standalone storage bag that I like to place cedar wood balls in to ward off moths. And I rotate my wardrobe between summer and winter, so I’ll vacuum pack the alternate season’s clothes for long-term storage.

What do you think of my tips? Let me know if you try any, or if you have any of your own to share!

Disclaimer: This post features gifted items (denoted 'gifted') and affiliate links (denoted '*')

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