How To Make Clothes Last Longer: 21 Tips For Longer Lasting Clothes

Long-Lasting Wardrobe Hacks On How To Take Care Of Your Clothes, Your Wallet, & The Planet.

How long should clothes last?

If we hope to curb the world’s current annual 92 million tons of textile waste, as long as humanly possible.

One of the easiest ways to combat a wasteful wardrobe and be more eco-conscious about your fashion is to take care of your clothes. 

Not only does prolonging the life of your clothes prevent waste from being sent to landfill but it also saves you money, reduces consumption and cuts your carbon footprint.

You can also get more wear out of your favourite garments.

Read on to find out how to make clothes last longer with these 21 simple hacks which cover cleaning, storing and maintaining your closet. 

How Long Does Clothing Last? 

There isn’t a set timeline for how long clothes should last. Garments can last a lifetime with proper care and enough darning and repairs. 

Mending has been a practice throughout fashion history as people owned fewer garments and valued them too much to be thrown away when worn out. 

Now, with the rise of fast fashion, our attitude to clothing has changed. There’s no incentive to ‘make do and mend’ when clothes are cheap and easy to replace.

Fashion brands pump out clothes that are poorly made and flimsy because they’re not designed to last longer than a season. 

There’s no money for them in longer lasting clothes, after all.

The average lifespan of clothing is between 3.3 years and 5.4 years in the US and even less, at just 2.2 years in the UK. 

In a bid to raise awareness of the sheer amount of clothing waste, Livia Firth and Lucy Siegle coined the 30 Wears Challenge in 2015 as the minimum benchmark for how long clothes should last. 

So, how long do clothes last? 

For Orsola de Castro, co-founder of Fashion Revolution, longevity isn’t about how many wears but how long you intend to keep the clothes. 

That could be anywhere from 30 wears to over 3,000. In other words, the longer the better! 

How To Make Your Clothes Last Longer In The Wash

1. Wash Your Clothes Less Frequently

How To Make Clothes Last Longer by Pixelshot

Unless they’re smelly or visibly dirty, you can get away with wearing clothes more than once (except underwear). 

How many times you feel comfortable wearing clothes is up to your discretion but it could be at least three times at a minimum. 

Denim and sweaters need washing even less. 

Some say you should never wash jeans as it damages the material and wastes water. The CEO of Levi’s recommends only spot-cleaning stained areas with an old toothbrush.

And if you’re wondering which fabric is long lasting, durable denim fits the bill, especially if it’s well cared for.

As for the smell?

Denim experts recommend putting your jeans in the freezer overnight to kill bacteria or leaving them outside in the sunshine—but not for too long, as extended sunlight exposure can also lead to color fading.

If you’re not quite convinced about never washing, aim for ten wears before dropping them in the laundry or at least when they start to smell. 

You can get away with wearing sweaters four or five times (maybe even longer, especially if you layer undershirts beneath them) before they too need a turn in the laundry. 

Fewer washes will help them retain their shape and softness for longer.

2. Treat Stains Immediately 

Your best bet for vanquishing a stain is to treat it immediately before it sets into the fabric. 

Don’t let the stain dry before treating it as it will get much harder to remove later on. 

Some stains, like grease or wine, are tougher than others to remove and require different techniques, but as a general rule, run the affected area under cold water as soon as possible. 

Hot water may set stains in and cause color bleeding or fading in the garment.

Take a stain removal stick and blot the stain before putting the garment straight in the wash.

For wine stains, hold the clothes under running cold water the wrong side up to flush out the stain then soak the garment in a mix of cold water and oxygen bleach for up to four hours before washing. 

Grease stains can be tackled with a mix of 50 percent vinegar and 50 percent cold water. 

Ketchup or tomato sauce can be treated with a laundry detergent and water solution and flushed with vinegar. 

A little-known secret about tomato stains is that they can be removed with sunlight. If the stain persists after washing, hang your garment outside with the stain side up and the UV rays will break it down, acting as a natural bleach. 

3. Sort Your Laundry & Follow The Label Instructions

As tempting as it is, don’t shove all your clothes in the washing machine at once. Dyes can run so you don’t want your white shirts coming out pink. 

Separate whites from darks, heavy fabrics from lighter ones and keep soiled clothes away from the rest. 

The best way to avoid any clothes-washing mishaps and accidental shrinkage is to carefully read the instructions on the label. 

Cashmere and wool will need to be washed in a gentle setting with a low temperature and spin speed. Never tumble dry. 

Silk, linen, and other delicate fabrics are best washed by hand in lukewarm water with a gentle detergent. 

Avoid ringing clothes dry as it can distress the fragile material. 

4. Use Less Detergent & Don’t Overfill Your Washing Machine

How To Make Clothes Last Longer by Blueland

Stuffing your washing machine full might seem more economical as you reduce the number of washes, but your clothes don’t have enough room to wash properly.

They also rub together, causing fading and damage. 

Plus, having proper washing space means you’ll need less detergent, another leading cause of damage. 

Detergent can build up in the fabric, causing it to become stiff. Over time, build-ups trap dirt and hard water chemicals, making the clothes look more faded or grubby. 

Detergents are also full of harsh chemicals which can irritate your skin, giving you rashes and skin conditions like dermatitis. 

Use natural laundry detergents like soap nuts or from brands like Blueland that’s gentle on your skin, clothes and the environment.

You can also add half a cup of baking soda directly to the drum to act as a detergent booster, lessening your detergent needs further.

5. Use A Guppyfriend & Delicates Bag

Did you know most garments made from synthetic fabrics produce microplastics that enter the waterways from your washing machine?

You can prevent this by using a Guppyfriend wash bag that protects your clothes and prevents fabric shedding. 

Even if you don’t wear clothes that produce microplastics, a wash bag for your delicates is a smart idea. 

It will prevent them from snagging, stretching, rubbing or ripping in the washing machine and they won’t go missing as easily either.

Before putting your clothes in the drum, zip up all zips and tie up any loose drawstrings. 

The same goes for bra straps. There’s nothing more annoying (or painful) than a bra strap hook that’s bent out of shape—or that snags a big run in your favorite sweater.

6. Wash Dark Clothes & Denim Correctly

How To Make Clothes Last Longer by pebble magazine

If you’re wondering “Should I wash clothes inside out?”, the answer is yes for colors that fade easily like denim. 

Denim might seem like a tough fabric, but the color and shape last longer if you wash it on a delicate setting in the machine, if at all. 

If you have black or dark blue jeans, you can set the dye before washing them by soaking them in cold water with white vinegar and salt.  

While hot water opens fabric fibers, cold water keeps them closed, preventing dyes from running. To preserve bright or dark-colored clothes in the machine, wash them inside out in cool water.

We recommend doing the same for printed T-shirts as it will stop them from peeling or cracking. 

In fact, we recommend washing ALL clothes in cold water. While hot water might be good for keeping whites brighter, hot water can lead to shrinkage and general faster fabric deterioration.

7. Avoid Dry Cleaning

Dry cleaning is bad for your health, your clothes, your wallet, and the planet.

Clothes are cleaned using harsh chemicals and solvents, including Tetrachloroethylene—otherwise known as Perchloroethylene (PERC). 

The EPA warns that Tetrachloroethylene is likely to be carcinogenic to humans. 

Over time, hydrocarbon solvents can start to break down the fibers of your clothes, causing them to become worn out. 

So, how do you take care of clothes that can’t be hand washed in cold water? 

Use a non-toxic professional cleaning service which uses wet cleaning or steam cleaning techniques. 

8. Air-Dry Clothes

How To Make Clothes Last Longer by Ricardo Gomez Angel

Where possible, avoid hanging your clothes on radiators or heated dryers. Allow them to air dry naturally instead.

Overheating can cause clothes to shrink, fade, and lose their elasticity—particularly in synthetic plastic clothes like activewear.

Sunlight also acts as a natural bleach, so dry lights clothes outside and dark clothes inside to help them retain their colors.

But again, just be careful how long they sit in the sun to avoid sun-fade.

If you do opt to machine dry, add dryer balls to help reduce static and absorb moisture, reducing drying time.

How To Keep Clothes Looking New In The Closet

9. Store Clothes In A Cool Dry Place

The rule of thumb for longer lasting clothes is to always store them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. That way they’re less prone to moths, mold, or fading.

If your room suffers from dampness (particularly in the winter), put a dehumidifier near your wardrobe to reduce moisture and help make your clothes last longer.

Now and again, check for any musty or mildew smells. Don’t forget to look in drawers that don’t get opened often as fungus thrives in dark, warm, and moist areas. 

If you find some, wash clothes with white vinegar instead of detergent to kill the fungus. 

10. Use The Right Clothes Hangers

How To Make Clothes Last Longer by Andrej Lišakov

Plastic and metal hangers stretch out the shoulders of your clothes so they eventually sag in all the wrong places.

Although more expensive, wooden hangers are sturdier, support your clothes better and prevent creasing. 

Satin padded or velvet-lined hangers are a good option for delicate clothes as they add extra cushioning and grip.

11. Fold Sweaters

How To Make Clothes Last Longer by rocknwool

Prevent your favorite sweater from stretching by folding your knitwear and storing them on a shelf in your closet instead of hanging them up. 

Since sweaters are bulky and take up space, you don’t need them in your closet year round. 

Take them out in spring and store them in airtight bags until you need them again at the beginning of fall. 

Rotating your winter and summer clothes each year is a handy way to preserve them as you wear them less. 

It also helps you feel more excited about your closet as you get a whole new set of clothes to wear every six months. 

12. Repel Moths Naturally

Moths are notorious for putting holes in clothes as they fly into your closet and lay eggs. 

Once the larvae hatch, they feed off keratin found in animal fibers like fur, wool, silk, feathers, cashmere, and even cotton as a last resort. 

Put all out-of-season clothing away in airtight, vacuum bags when you don’t need them to keep them safe. 

For transeasonal clothes, banish moths the natural way with lavender or mint essential oils, cedarwood chips, or sachets of cloves, thyme, or rosemary.

If you do find moth-eaten clothes in your closet, put them in the freezer for 24 hours to kill any moth eggs/larvae. 

13. Hang Occasionwear In Canvas Garment Bags

Always avoid storing your clothes in plastic dry cleaning bags. 

Plastic can trap moisture and damage your clothes.

If you have favourite clothes and occasionwear, invest in some proper canvas garment bags which can be zipped up to prevent mold, dust, and moths.

14. Keep Your Closet Tidy

How To Make Clothes Last Longer by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦

Hands up: who’s had to rummage through their closet in search of that one top they thought was in there? 

Everyone, right?

We know it tough when life gets busy and laundry just keeps coming, but keep your closet neat and well-ordered. 

This will help you find an item quicker, prevent you from getting frustrated, and prevent your clothes from getting creased or damaged.

15. Have A Regular Clear-Out

How To Make Clothes Last Longer by pebble magazine

Most people wear 20% of their closet 80% of the time and one way to beat fast fashion is to get to know your closet inside out.

Do a regular closet audit so you know exactly what’s in there and what needs to go in the thrift store pile. 

Decluttering gives the clothes that are left more space and it feels cathartic to let go of garments that no longer serve you. 

You also have a renewed appreciation for the clothes you keep as it encourages you to find new ways to wear them. 

And the clothes you don’t love anymore? 

If they’re still in good condition, they last longer too as they become someone else’s secondhand gem. 

16. Stuff Your Shoes & Bags 

When you buy new shoes or bags, they’re often stuffed with paper. This simple hack helps them retain their shape for longer and stops odours and moisture from causing damage. 

You can do this, too—particularly with items you don’t wear as much. 

Scrunch up any old waste paper or packaging and stuff it into the shoe, taking care to reach the toe. 

Keep knee-high boots in better condition by sticking old pool noodles in the legs.

For bags, you could stuff them with old clothes or bedding until you reach the desired shape. If possible, your choice of stuffing should be acid-free, ink-free, and color-free to prevent stains. 

How To Mend & Treat Clothes To Make Them Last Longer

17. Iron Clothes Correctly

It’s easier to get wrinkles out of clothes when they’re slightly damp so spray them lightly with water or steam. 

Turning them inside out will also stop your clothes from getting a shiny appearance caused by overheating. 

Make sure you use the right temperature settings on the fabric you’re ironing and always check the label of your garments. 

Be sure to also familiarize yourself with how to read clothing labels, too, so you can recognize the symbol for ‘don’t iron’.

If your clothes aren’t safe to iron but you want to remove creases, steam them with a steamer or hang them in the bathroom while you have a hot shower. 

18. Practice Basic Clothing Maintenance 

Learn how to keep clothes looking new by doing regular wardrobe maintenance. These are small upkeep tasks that reduce the need for drastic mending later on. 

Every couple of months, check your clothes for loose threads to cut off before they start to fray even more. You could also reinforce any loose buttons before you lose them. 

You could restore knitwear to a newer condition by removing the build-up of pills and fluff with a fabric shaver or pill comb. 

It doesn’t require specialist gadgets if you don’t want to though. Simply lie your sweater on a flat surface and run an old razor carefully down the length of it to remove unwanted fluff and bobbles. 

If any dark block-coloured garments are becoming faded, you could rejuvenate them with a dye bath. Add the directed amount of dye and water to a bucket and carefully dip the garment in it.

Place the item in a cool wash the first few times afterwards to prevent dye running.

19. Learn Basic Mending

How To Make Clothes Last Longer by pebble magazine

Your clothes will always get wear and tear but a hole or lost button doesn’t need to spell the end for your favorite garment.

Prolong your clothing’s life by learning some basic mending skills such as darning, stitching and sewing on a button.

Keep all spare buttons you sometimes find attached to the labels as you never know whether you’ll need them later.

Set aside some time once or twice a year for simple bulk repairs so it doesn’t feel like they keep adding up. You could invite others to join you and turn it into a fun workshop and share your skills. 

If you’re not a fan of sewing, try: 

  • No-sew patches
  • Hem tape
  • Fabric glue
  • Needle felting
  • No-sew stud buttons

20. Use A Tailor

Don’t have the time to mend clothing yourself or is the repair too complicated? 

Take it to a tailor and get it professionally fixed or altered for you. 

You can find a local tailor near you or use an online service like Hidden Opulence which will deliver your good-as-new clothes straight to your door.

21. Repurpose Your Clothes

If you have a garment that doesn’t spark joy or no longer fits, why not repurpose it into something else? 

Upcycling clothes is a creative way to add some unique personalization to your closet and play around with your style. 

You could make a maxi dress a mini or turn a shirt into a sleeveless top. An old pair of jeans could become a new pair of shorts or you could sew the sleeves of one top onto the body of another. The possibilities are endless. 

Closing Thoughts On How To Make Your Clothes Last Longer

In the US, the average consumer throws away approximately 8.15 pounds of clothing a year. 

With fast fashion being a major environmental polluter and responsible for human rights abuses around the world, making your clothes last longer isn’t just better for your wallet; it’s more sustainable too. 

Remember, the most eco-friendly closet you can have is the one you already own. 

If you found this list of tips useful, make sure to pass it on and help others learn how to preserve clothing and keep a green, long-lasting closet.