Soap and appliance companies have much to gain by telling us to wash our clothes after every use, but here's the truth on how often and the best ways to wash your clothes.
Soap companies and appliance manufacturers have much to gain by telling us to wash our clothes after every use, but the truth is, laundry detergents and washers and dryers are hard on our clothes. In this article, we clean up dirty rumors about how often you should wash your clothes, and how you can keep them looking new, especially during a time when inflation is high, and we're stretching our clothing budgets.
Learning how to help your clothes last longer depends on the type of garment it is, the material it’s made of, and your preference of washing (by machine, dry cleaning or by hand).
In a previous post, we covered how to wash your jeans, so they'll last longer. Now, we're talking about tips for washing clothes of all kinds.
How Long Should Clothes Last?
Some trends have us believing in disposable clothing – cheaply made fashions that you wear once and then toss – but who can afford to live like that, especially in a day when gas prices are setting record highs?
The amount of time your clothes will last depend on how you wash and dry them, how the garment was made, how often you wear it, and the quality of the fabric. The average life expectancy for different clothing pieces includes:
- Cotton shirts: 3 years
- Cotton pants: 2 years
- Synthetic blouses: 2 years
- Synthetic swimwear: 2 years
- Wool sweaters: 4 years
- Leather jackets: 5 years
Because of the plastic nature of polyester, it is more likely to break down and tear than other materials.
Best Way to Wash Clothes
The best way to wash clothes is by hand. But, do you see yourself doing three loads of laundry every week manually – soaking in soapy water, gently swishing them through, then gently squeezing excess water and hanging them to dry? Could be a good workout for your arms.
Hand-washing clothes could make clothes last longer, especially given that hand-washing is likely to lead to procrastination and, therefore, fewer washes.
Machine washing is harder on clothes, but if you know the right settings AND if you don't wash after every use, your clothes will last longer and look better. The best way to wash clothes in a washing machine is first by reading the care tag on your garments to understand what fabric it’s made of, which will help you decide how to wash and dry it.
Best water temperature for clothes
If the clothes are machine washable, use cold water for dark colors or cotton pieces to reduce the amount of dye that runs through clothes and to prevent shrinkage. Hot water is best for light colors that are very soiled.
Best cycles for washing clothes
The normal cycle is best for white items while the permanent press cycle is used for colored clothes, as it washes with warm and ends with cooler water, which helps maintain their color. Delicate is best for sweaters, athletic wear, dress clothing, or bras.
Best laundry detergent
There are many good detergents on the shelves, and we aren't in the consumer reporting business, so our best advice is: Choose the right detergent for your machine, budget and nose. And, when in doubt, as your mom and dad what they use!
What we can say is, almost everyone overuses laundry detergent, which ends up on the clothing, making them feel stiff. Use half the usual amount of detergent with a ½ cup of baking soda as a booster.
Is fabric softener necessary?
Some critics say fabric softener can be harmful to your health because it contains phthalates (chemicals that boost durability) and fragrances that can be disruptive to the endocrine system and environment. Others say fabric softener helps clothes last longer and look newer because it helps fibers to slide against each other, which reduces wear and tear.
When in doubt, leave it out. You don't really need fabric softener, but some people prefer it because it makes their clothes softer and smell good. That's up to you. But it's not necessary, and if you follow our recommendations for water, cycle, detergent and frequency of wash, your clothes will last longer.
Best Way to Dry Clothes
Martha Stewart recommends line drying your clothes because it’s easier on materials than a traditional machine dryer. Air drying clothes also helps to save energy. Hang white or light-colored items outside in the sun to brighten them. Dark items are best hung up indoors to help keep them from fading.
Is Dry Cleaning Bad for Clothes?
While it’s no secret that dry cleaning isn’t the best choice for the environment, it may help make your clothing look new longer. Dry cleaning is often best for clothes with deep stains or oil. Dry cleaning doesn’t damage clothes; it helps to preserve them, which makes them last longer.
Can you wash dry clean only at home? It depends on the material. We recommend a lot of Rockstar Original's clothing to be dry-cleaned, to preserve the graphics, such as paint splatter, rhinestones and patchwork. Could you wash these at home? Yes, probably, but we'd recommend doing it by hand, rather than in a machine, unless we say otherwise on the clothing tags.
Does Ironing Damage Clothes?
Caring for your clothes best is how you help your wardrobe stay in the best condition. A steamer releases wrinkles and plumps fibers rather than flattening them with ironing. This means it’s more gentle. However, for tough wrinkles or to get that crisp crease, you will need to pull out your iron. Start by removing any lint with a roller, then dab any dirt with a slightly damp cloth, and then run the steamer in an up-and-down motion down the garment.
Ultimately, learning how to make clothes last longer allows you to preserve your favorite pieces longer and save money too. Keeping your clothes looking new means you can still maintain your style without breaking the bank over and over again.