How to Care for Your Clothes So They Last

How to Take Care of Your Clothes So They Last

Whenever I hear someone talk about wanting to buy more expensive clothes, they usually say, “I’m tired of clothes that fall apart.”

And I can’t really relate.

My clothes tend not to fall apart easily. Not even when I bought a lot of fast fashion stuff. Well, except for those J. Crew tissue tees. But that’s because tissue cotton is basically as durable as well, a tissue.

So do cheaper clothes really fall apart with just a few wears? Or are we just bad at taking care of our clothes?

I’m going to guess the latter.

But nobody tells you how to make your stuff last. I guess that’s what happens when marketing convinces you cheap and more is better. An H&M shirt with some slight pilling? Throw it away and buy another.

Or sometimes I see arguments romanticizing the idea of “lived-in” clothes. Life’s too short to baby your clothes, they say. But the truth is, the earlier your clothes get trashed, the sooner you have to spend more money to replace them. Finding ways to make your clothes last longer will save you money.

I have some clothes that are eight plus years old, and they STILL look good. Coincidence? I think not. Today I’m showing you exactly how I take care of my nicer things so they last longer.

Wash Everything LESS

If you wash your clothes after every wear (and you don’t have a sweat problem), you’re probably making them die too soon. Here’s a general guideline for how often I’ll machine wash certain items:

Denim: Every 4-6 months
Cotton Pants: When I notice they’re overly wrinkly or stained
Cotton or Linen T-Shirts and Tank Tops: Every 3-4 wears
Cotton Button-Down Shirts: Every 4-5 wears
Cotton Sweaters or Sweatshirts: Very rarely. I layer cotton shirts underneath and machine wash those instead. Any other sweater fabric I have it dry cleaned.
Workout Clothes: 2-3 wears (depends on how much I sweat)
Underwear and Socks: Every wear (duh)

If something isn’t listed above, it means I don’t machine wash it.

My rule of thumb: the more I care about said item, the less frequently I wash it. The life hack side benefit is that your folded laundry piles start to look like tiny, like the one on the left:

Laundry Piles

Don’t Wash Everything the Same Way

If you’re throwing everything in the machine and turning the water setting to ‘warm’, that’s another clothes killer. There are a couple clothing categories that have unique washing recipes:

DENIM

Jeans are my workhorses. As if they don’t work hard enough with all the speed walking I do, I also wear them almost every day. Sorry jeans, you do NOT get a break. To keep denim colors from fading, I turn the jeans inside out and wash cold with Woolite Dark.

WHITE T-SHIRTS

I have one white linen T-shirt that I love, and it shows in how I care for it. If you’ve ever had a white T-shirt, you know that yellowed armpits are the bane of your existence. So first, I try not to wear deodorant when I wear white shirts, since the yellowing happens when sweat is mixed with the aluminum from antiperspirants. But I can’t skip deodorant when it’s hot outside, unless I want to offend people around me. So after a few wears I’ll pre-treat the armpit areas with Oxyclean before hand washing with regular detergent in warm water.

LINGERIE

Finding bras that actually fit you AND are comfortable feels like winning the lottery. That’s why I always hand wash them. Like hell do I want those suckers to leave me hanging. Bras are soaked in warm water and regular detergent for about half an hour, swished around, then gently rinsed.

SWIMWEAR

Salt, chlorine, sweat and sunscreen? Those need to be taken care of right after a swim, so I’ll always make a point to rinse my swimsuits ASAP in cold water. After a few wears I’ll hand wash them with regular detergent.

Skip the Dryer

Air dry clothes
Ideally, knits would be laid flat, but I don’t have the space for that.

The clothes I care about don’t go anywhere near a dryer. The lint that you have to clean out of the dryers? It’s literally little bits of fabric that came off the edges of your clothes. Kind of unsettling, huh? Since I don’t have a backyard, I air dry my clothes on our stairwell in the hallway.

Hangers, They Matter

The Hanger Project Petite Women's Hanger

You know how there’s that popular Instagram hashtag #ihavethisthingwithfloors? Well, my version would be #ihavethisthingwithhangers.

Birch wood finished with felted shoulders? Swoon.

Those free wire hangers from the dry cleaners are obviously a no-no, but I don’t even like those slim, velvet ones. I know they add more space to your closet, but wooden hangers are preferred to help keep the shape of the clothes. Since all my hangers were wooden, I thought I was all set.

But then I noticed a problem with the hangers, especially when it came to my coats and jackets. Most hangers are 17 inches wide–wider than the shoulders of my clothes–and were causing these little bumps to form in the sleeves, what I call “shoulder nipples.”

One year I got a American Express gift card from work, and I decided to use it to upgrade to proper hangers for my coats and jackets. Coats and jackets are heavier, so weight combined with gravity means they’d be most affected by ill-fitting hangers. I ended up buying petite sized suit/jacket hangers (15-inch) from The Hanger Project. At $30 for a single hanger, they aren’t cheap. But I tend to spend the most money on my outerwear, so it makes sense for me to invest the money to maintain them.

Here, you can see the comparison. The fancy hanger is on the top, and the regular one is underneath:

The Hanger Project vs. Regular Wooden Hanger

And here you can see how the blazer sleeve hangs differently with each hanger. With the regular hanger (on the left) you can see some stretching happening, but with the petite hanger the sleeve hangs nice and smooth.

Regular Hanger Versus a Petite Hanger

Drycleaning

Anything I haven’t listed in the sections above gets sent to the dry cleaners. This includes:

  • Silks
  • Wools
  • Coats and jackets

Because dry cleaning is expensive and I don’t like the idea of the chemicals they use on your clothes, I usually limit the dry cleaning to once or twice a year.

Treat Stains Right Away

I keep a Tide to Go pen in my bag at all times. I once spilled some sauce on a sweater, didn’t take care of it for a few weeks, and now it’s impossible to remove. If I had taken care of it right away, I would have stood a much better chance of removing the stain. Don’t be like Past Me. Treat that sucker while it’s still fresh, and half the battle is already won.

Shoes

Supplies to care for your shoes - Shoe brush, shoe trees, shoe mitt

I know what you’re thinking: besides never wearing shoes outside of the house, what can you possibly do to make them last longer? Plenty.

When I’m not wearing my leather shoes, to minimize wrinkling, I stuff shoe trees inside them so they keep their shape.

When I get home, right after I take my shoes off, I’ll sweep them with the shoe brush to remove any loose dirt or dust. It literally takes 15 seconds.

If I see any scuffs or caked-on dirt, I’ll grab the shoe mitt, dampen with water and wipe the dirt away.

For shoes I wear infrequently, I store them in their original boxes to keep the dust away.

One other thing I do with expensive leather-soled shoes is take them to the cobbler to add Vibram half rubber soles. The rubber prevents the soles from getting worn down, and also adds extra traction.

Sidenote: Anyone in NYC know a good cobbler? I don’t think the guy here did a great job.

Vibram half soles for leather shoes

Handbags

When I’m not using my handbags I’ll stuff them with acid-free tissue paper so they’re not flopping around in the closet, losing their shape. Stuffing them will help them keep their original shape, especially if you have a bag that’s made out of softer leather, like nappa leather. I also store them in their original dust bags, and in the original box, if I still have it.

Final Thoughts

Some of you might be thinking all of this is way too fussy to bother with. But here’s my point of view: If you truly value the things in your life, then treat them that way. And all these small things honestly don’t take up much time at all. Like your money, it’s all a series of habits. Once you work them into your life, you hardly notice. So treat your favorites like they’re actually your favorites. They deserve better than being thrown into a crumpled heap on the floor.

What about you? Do you have strategies to make your clothes last?

Image: Unsplash

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  • I have to wash my workout stuff after each wearing, because I sweat a LOT and things get smelly fast. I even have to come home and drop them in a little water / vinegar mix before it makes it to the wash. Oh well, at least I’m getting exercise, right? 🙂

    • You’re like my husband then. He also sweats a lot so that’s why he has way more laundry than I do. At least you have a process going! I’m impressed with the vinegar mix. That’s next level clothing care 🙂

  • Stephanie

    Yes to all of this! I’ve been investing in my wardrobe and have been trying to take better care of my things. I’ve been doing most of these things for the past year and can tell a big difference in the longevity of my clothing. Taking note of a few things to try!

    I bought petite sized wooden hangers for my entire wardrobe earlier this year from the Container Store. Let me tell you, this was a total game changer! I made my purchase during their annual closet sale, so I was able to get 82 hangers for $85. 100% worth it.

    • I’m glad you’ve noticed a difference in how long your clothes last. For the most part, when something of mine has gone kaput, it’s because I literally wore it to the ground, or I was careless in some way. Like the time I left my bag out on table and then my cat decided to nest on it. And dug his claws into it. Lesson learned.

      OK, wow–I had no idea that the Container Store had petite hangers. You win most useful blog comment of the day!

  • Kaitlyn

    I love this! people think I’m crazy about how serious I am about clothing care, but you’re exactly right-I spend my hard earned money on it, I want to take care of the things I love! I just recently splurged on the wool and cashmere shampoo from the laundress to cut down on my dry cleaning, have you tried the more “specialty” detergents? Worth the price?

    • If trying to make your clothes last longer is wrong, I don’t want to be right! Sounds like you and I have the same philosophy about it.

      I haven’t tried the Laundress products, but I can see the appeal. All my wool and cashmere stuff is drycleaned, although I’m open to other methods because dry cleaning is a such a shrouded mystery of chemicals! I’m curious about the properties of the detergent, though. Let me know if it works?

      • Kaitlyn

        Verdict is still out on the delicate wash, but it seems like the wool and cashmere shampoo kept my sweaters feeling just as soft/less pilly on their first was after a few wears. I did throw them into the washer on delicate, so maybe it would have even better results if I followed their suggestions and hand washed.

        • Yeah, I’d def try to test by handwashing at first. I’m paranoid about the wringing and twisting in the machine, although I’m not sure how ‘gentle’ the delicate cycle is. I have a vintage-y cashmere sweater that doesn’t pill, so maybe I’ll try testing the special shampoos on that! Thanks for the follow-up info 🙂

  • randomizationme

    Once again, I enjoyed reading your post !! Keep up the great work (:

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment! I love it when de-lurking happens 🙂

  • gracesface

    I spend waaaaay too much $ at the laundromat each month, boy do I miss having an in-unit washer and dryer. Husband has probably twice the amount of clothes I have.

    • We used to do drop-off laundry all the time, but we now have the luxury of washer/dryer access in exchange for some chores for the landlord. It’s a pretty sweet deal, and of course has helped our laundry budget. I think we were spending about $30 per month, at least.

  • Mrs. Farmhouse Finance

    Great post! I wash my jeans after every five wears (or so), but they’re not fancy, so I don’t really care about fading or anything. Underwear, t shirts and workout clothes get washed after every wear (unless I sneak my favorite sports bra back out of the laundry basket). I wear a lot of wool sweaters in the winter with t shirts underneath, and I never wash those. I have used Dryel to freshen them up, but usually I just hang them over a door for a little bit before I put them away.

    • I think a bunch of us are guilty of sneaking the sports bra out of the laundry basket! I have one that I like a lot, so I tend to wear it the most. Of course it’s discontinued so I can’t buy another easily.

      Hmm, wool and dryel–I’ll have to try that sometime!

  • Yeah, especially when it’s cooler outside, I barely sweat!

    I absolutely love the hangers I have, and I feel like they extend the “luxury” experience, haha. But having different size hangers makes a lot of sense. If clothes are not one size fits all, then why should hangers be? So if you’re petite then it’s like all hangers will be stretching your clothes out.

    Ohh, I’ll have to check that cobbler. I’ve just been going to whoever is most convenient distance-wise from work and home. But I’ve realized I’d rather give my money to someone who will do a great job.

  • I wash my dress pants and shirts that I wear to work 2-3 times a year. It seems reasonable to me since I don’t sweat a lot in them and it stays wrinkle free. Obviously the exception is when I do sweat on a particular day or if I spill food on it then it goes to the wash.
    I got to make that habit of brushing my shoes a few times a week so I can eliminate any dirt on it. I only time I clean my dress shoes is when I give it a shine every 3 months or so.
    Thanks for this reminder Luxe!

    • Yeah, when I did have to wear business casual clothes I very rarely washed them. They still looked good after several wears, so like you, I didn’t wash them unless there were stains or smells.

      Nice job on the shoe brushing. Prevention is the key!

  • Erika Brockmann

    I’ve switched to natural deodorant (Schmidts and Tarte brands) which lacks the aluminum and no more yellow pits on the white t-shirts!

    • Hi Erika,

      Thanks for the tip! I may need to try out that Schmidts deodorant, because the price is right on Amazon. The yellow pits are the bane of my existence!

  • Loved this!

    My own wears per wash look similar to yours except my jeans go through the wash every week. (Living in a tropical country with sweltering temps all the time – what can you do…) My designer jeans go through the wash every 4 months, but that just means soaking them for an hour in the tub. Like you, I’ve never noticed fast fashion stuff falling apart – some of my F21 stuff has been going on 4-5 years.

    Oh and a tip about pit stains on white shirts, I’ve used a deodorant without aluminum for the last 2 years, and stains are no longer a problem for me. I know people say it’s good for you cause it’s natural, but I use them so my white shirts last longer lol.

    • Thanks, Daisy!

      Yeah, I can definitely understand washing your jeans more, especially if you live in a hot country. Mine actually look better when you wash them less (get dramatic creasing and fades), so that’s another reason why I wait a while to wash them.

      Do you have a recommendation for a deodorant? Maybe TMI, but I feel like my armpits sweat more than average so I assume most deodorants don’t work for me.

      • Fiona

        I love Kiss My Face Liquid Rock!: https://www.amazon.com/Kiss-My-Face-Deodorant-Milliliter/dp/B00J5K5WKE/ref=sr_1_3_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1510174006&sr=8-3&keywords=kiss+my+face+liquid+rock+deodorant&dpID=41eTrAlQzwL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

        I wasn’t a fan at first, as there’s a bit of weird, dry stickyness upon the initial application, but now that I’m used to it, I swear by it! Also, wanted to add that I used to wear prescription strength deodorant (yikes!) and since I’ve used this stuff, I haven’t noticed any problems.

        • Oh, that actually looks right up my alley because it has the word ‘clinical’ as a feature, haha. Thanks so much for the suggestion! I too get a bit self conscious about how much I sweat sometimes!

          • Fiona

            Also, just wanted to say that I stumbled across your blog this morning and I’m already ADDICTED. I love your perspective and your writing and it is honestly is so relatable. Thanks so much for producing such useful and fun content 🙂

            Cheers,
            Fiona

          • Awwww, thanks! I spend a crazy amount of time on the blog, so this makes my day to hear! Hope to see you around the blog more in the future 🙂

      • Eh, I’m with you on the sweating more than average – looking for a non-aluminum alternative through trial and error was an awkward time for me lol. I’ve since been convinced it’s a matter of body chemistry as the deodorant I’m now happy with (Burt’s Bees Herbal Deodorant) gets mixed reviews between some it’s worked super well for (hi!) and those it’s been horrible for too. I’ve generally heard good things about Tom’s Mineral Confidence Deodorant though as it’s supposed to be gentle and work for 24 hour stretches – you might like trying that one out!

        • So many great suggestions, thank you! And yes, I definitely agree that things that work for others might not work for me. It all depends!

          • Ooh, and your shoe care is inspiring me to up mine. I spray water repellent then forget about it, but adding shoe trees, a shoe brush, and adding rubber half soles to my expensive shoes. (Just got a pair of Figue Iris slides 60% off after watching the prices for a year, squee! I’m controlling myself from wearing them so I can send to the cobbler first.)

          • Oh, those are adorable! I’m glad you’re now on board with the shoecare. I really think doing this stuff makes them last so much longer!

  • GYM

    I wash my jeans after a few wears but don’t extend it to 4-6 months. I have some friends who have his fancy Japanese denim and they put the jeans in a bag into the fridge instead of washing them.

    One thing is to make sure you communicate the same laundry routine to your spouse! One time my husband put my saks fifth avenue cashmere sweater in the dryer and it shrank to child size 🙁

    • Ohh, I’m totally one of those people that has the fancy denim. My favorites are raw and feel like cardboard at first. Then they adapt to your body, so it’s kind of like a custom pair of jeans!

      Oh no re: the Saks sweater! I was watching Shark Tank one day and I think there’s a product that magically reverses the shrinking. I learned my lesson when I left a linen T-shirt in the hamper and it shrunk to toddler size–oops. But that was one me! Now everything that needs special washing gets set aside separately.

  • You are the PiC in my relationship. I make my things last but somehow he takes care of things ten times better by being what I usually quietly think of as “fussy”. He’s not wrong, it’s just so much more detail oriented than I have the energy for when I’m juggling a million other things. I think we’ve agreed that’s our division of labor: Fussy things, him, big picture and strategy, me.

    • I’m starting to feel like me and PiC would really get along! Love the division of labor. It’s how we operate in the house as well. We actually gave ourselves job titles before moving in based on our skill sets. Works out well!

  • Dr. Curious

    This is great advice. Unfortunately, it’s all out the window when you have children.

    I can’t tell you last time I wore something in the presence of my children that did not come in contact with food, drink, or bodily fluids. I USED to sort my clothes into darks and lights. The most I can do now is make sure I don’t put a wool sweater in the dryer.

    But children are wonderful! No, really! 😉

    • Heh, that’s why I’m overdosing in luxury now. Gotta live it up before the kiddos come!

      Hey, not putting a wool sweater in the dryer is a big achievement! Some of my husband’s sweaters have accidentally shrunk to Luxe size, and that’s with no small kids in the house 🙂

  • Serenity he

    I got lazy and machine washed and dried all my cashmere sweaters… they shrink and became hand me downs for my grade school cousin 😛 Thanks for the helpful tips tho, I’ll treat my clothes better from now on lol.

    • Ohh noes on the cashmere sweaters! But at least your cousin is probably the most stylish kid in school?

  • I hadn’t thought about petite hangers before. I’ll have to be on the lookout for those and see if they’d help out my wifes clothes. I’m right there with you on most of this. Living in Florida, and having a dog to walk, I don’t think I get 4 wears out of most t-shirts. I wonder how much this is dependent on where you are / the weather.

    • My husband won’t get 4 wears out of his T-shirts, either. In that case, wash them, but don’t put the shirts in the dryer.

      In terms of this being weather dependent, I’m torn. One time I was in DC with friends on a 95 degree day. I noticed some of us were sweating like dogs, and some of us were dry as a bone. I think a lot of it is just how your body works.

  • LadyDividend.com

    This is a way to be frugal that no one appreciates! If you buy beautiful clothes and take special care of them, you can keep your gorgeous clothes for years!

    I hand wash anything expensive or delicate. I’ve kept my stockings for a ridiculously long time by hand washing them. Twice a year I clean and weather spray my shoes. Some I have had for over 5 years and they look new. This is cheaper in the long run, and you always look sharp!

    • Yes, I agree! Everybody likes to talk about buying quality things, but not what to do to maintain them. Things aren’t made of steel these days!

      I’ve also had my stockings FOREVER. Handwash them, and they still look great. No runs.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Hi! Thanks for all the detailed info on shoe care!

    The “topy” needs to blend in a lot more where the edge meets the shoe. Not bad, but not great, either. I think I’m just a sucker for craftsmanship 🙂

    I’d never heard of dainite soles, but I looked it up and they seem a bit rugged and more for weather proofing? The one thing I don’t like about adding the protective soles is it feels like ruining the integrity of the shoe.

    Oh, I was looking at a pair of Church’s sandals. On the website they look EXQUISITE. And I’ve heard Prada quality has gone downhill, so thanks for the info that they own Church’s now and could be a mixed bag.

    Yes, finding a good cobbler is as frustrating as finding a good hair stylist. You have to go through a lot of duds, and spend money in the process. But thankfully, most of my shoes are sneakers so I don’t have tooooo many that need to be brought to the cobbler.

    And I’ll def try Roma in Brooklyn Heights, as it’s pretty convenient to where I am.

    Thanks again for the suggestions!

  • Shoe trees make all the difference. I’ve kept the same shoes for over ten years thanks to those simple devices. We’re otherwise pretty hard on our clothes – the Mrs. has an active job working on patients as a chiropractor. I’m just not good at pulling off sweaters without ripping a seem. Damn form fitting fashion! Fortunately Mrs. Cubert’s sewing skills come to my rescue.

    • I used to think shoe trees were only for men, but then I realized how helpful they are for my own shoes, too. Even the tissue paper that comes with the shoes is better than nothing.

      It sounds like you need to get a handle on your superpowers, with all the clothes rippage 🙂

      Yes, and my sewing skills have rescued me so many times. Heck yeah I’m gonna hem my own pants!

  • LynnKell

    I live in Mexico where it is hot 8 months a year and the other 4 months left is warm, so I have to wash my shirts almost every use. I try to wash as infrequently as possible the rest of my stuff (n/a to undies and socks) but I use white vinegar and some water to treat the armpit area to remove smell and stains. For stronger stains, I use baking soda and white vinegar carefully (works great with white and light colored shirts, gotta be careful with colorful ones). I wash a lot of pieces by hand, hardly ever use warm water (and my “warm temperature” definition is way lower than the machine’s), wash in the most gentle cycle, air dry, and use a gentle ecologic liquid soap from a local company.

    I have a soft spot for super dark denim, so I’ll just wash jeans a bit more frequently when new (to get rid of the excessive ink that stains my hands), and then, they’ll spend months without meeting the washing machine.

    So yeah, I’ve bought shirts from fast fashion retailers and decided to donate them because I’m bored out of my mind of the same piece for the last 8+ years 🙂

    Yes is a hassle to take proper care of clothes, but is so worthy when you don’t have to replace stuff because you were careless!

    • 100% agree that the proper care can make such a big difference! I’m still in awe this one shirt I have that is 7-8 years old and still looks almost new. It sounds like you’ve got an awesome system that works for you 🙂 I haven’t tried using house products, like vinegar or baking soda, because I’m afraid of messing up! But maybe I can try it on something I care less about just as a test…

      Thankfully, my stuff tends to be more on the classic side, so even after 8+ years, I still love them!