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How to Keep Clothes Looking Like New

Updated on April 22, 2017
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Science graduate and business advisor, health educator and author, Beth writes articles on a wide variety of subjects.

A Quick Press With a Hot Iron Can Work Wonders

Ironing a shirt using a modern electric steam iron.
Ironing a shirt using a modern electric steam iron. | Source

Tips For Keeping Your Clothes Smart and Fresh

Task
Result
1. Use an iron.
Gives shirts and blouses a crisp and fresh look.
2. Wash clothes at correct temperature.
Follow manufacture's recommendation.
3. Check fabric and care labels.
Examine labels before you buy.
4. Don't ignore stains.
The sooner you treat a stain the easier it is to remove.
5. Check your clothes over before putting them away.
A stitch in time saves nine. A small repair now can save you effort later.
6. Keep your closet dry and ventilated.
Prevents condensation mold growing on your clothes.

Correct Washing Temperature is Crucial

If you keep your existing clothes looking like new for longer, then you will need to spend less money on buying more. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has ruined a favorite sweater by washing it at too high a temperature. If only I’d taken the time to read and follow the care label.

You can save on heating bills by washing at 30° C (86° F) if you use the correct detergent. Modern washing detergents are formulated to work at lower temperatures than previously. Many clothes are put through the washing cycle when they are only lightly soiled; there is usually no need to pre-soak or use high temperatures.

Check Garment Care Labels

Label with care symbols on a wool sweater
Label with care symbols on a wool sweater | Source

Examine Care Labels Before You Buy

Care labels on clothing are often hidden away down a side seam. Once you’ve tried a garment on and fallen in love with it, it’s easy to miss this simple step. You should always stop and think about the after-care needed for your clothing before you buy. Make sure that you take time to read the fabric content as well as the maker’s instructions about the best way to care for your new clothes. It surprises me how often a manufacturer puts “dry clean only” on a label. This instruction puts me off buying the garment, as having to dry-clean clothes on a regular basis can work out very expensive.

Delicate fabrics may be labelled “hand wash only” or “wash separately”. Use a gentle fabric care wash like Forever New if you want to enjoy wearing your favorite sweater a long time. You need to be willing to spend extra time to care for these special garments and separate them from your main wash. Otherwise, you should choose more durable fabrics. If you love delicate embroidery and fine fabrics, then washing clothes by hand is a skill you'll need to master.

Most garments have their care instructions written in symbolic form using International Laundry Symbols. If you shop for clothes on a regular basis you will quickly become familiar with the symbols. If you see one you don't recognize, it's worth asking the store if the item can be put aside for a day while you check online to see what the symbol means.

Read the Label to Avoid Expensive Mistakes

Laundry symbols on a care label attached to a shirt.
Laundry symbols on a care label attached to a shirt. | Source

Care Labels

Do you read clothing care labels

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Don’t Ignore Stains - Treat Sooner Rather Than Later

Many stains can be removed completely if they are treated quickly. An untreated mark can become “cooked” into the fabric if it is ignored and put through the normal wash cycle. Untreated stains can easily become permanent. The American Cleaning Institute gives advice on its website on how to remove more than 50 different stains from fabrics.

In the video below, Martha Stewart, the American TV personality and author shows how to remove common stains like blood, red wine, or ink. The treatment needed depends on whether it is a protein stain (e.g. blood, vomit, or milk), a tannin stain (e.g. wine or grass) or a dry-side stain (e.g ink).

Home Stain Removal With Martha Stewart and Wayne Edelman

How to Iron a Shirt (or Blouse)

Ironing not only makes your clothes look smart, but it also gives you a chance to examine your wardrobe closely. As you iron, you will quickly notice if there are any loose stitching or tears in the fabric. A missing button or a stain should not get past your careful inspection. If the seams are under strain and being pulled apart, then this is a warning that you may need to lose a few pounds in weight (or your clothes are being shrunk by the tumble dryer).

Before you start, make sure your iron is at the correct temperature for the fabric. It’s best to use either a steam iron or iron the garments when they are slightly damp. You can use a water spray to damp down a shirt if it is bone-dry.

Start by pressing the cuffs and then work up the sleeves. Next iron the yoke before pressing the collar. Use spray starch if you want a crisp finish. The front placket (the strip with the button holes) is ironed next and then the task is finished off by ironing the front and back of the shirt. You should hang the garment on a hanger for at least ten minutes to allow the fabric to cool before wearing.

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

The old proverb “a stitch in time saves nine” means that if you repair something promptly it only needs one stitch. If you procrastinate and ignore doing minor repairs, you will end up doing nine times as much work. In practical terms this means being observant when you put your clothes away, or when you put them into the washing machine. If you notice something wrong with them like a button missing or a pulled thread, you should attend to it at once.

Make sure your clothes are in good condition before they go in the closet, then you know they are ready for when you want to wear them. A last-minute press with a hot iron is the most that any of your clothes should need when you take them off the hangar. You may not be skilled enough to make a complete garment. However, if you are able to carry out a simple task like sewing on a button, you can save yourself from an embarrassing “wardrobe malfunction”. The video below demonstrates clearly how to sew on a button if you need to learn this skill.

How to Sew on a Button

Keep Your Closet Dry and Ventilated

All your hard work will be wasted if your closet is not kept dry and well ventilated. The closet's micro-climate can affect how long your clothes will last. A damp atmosphere could cause mildew to grow on your clothes. This might be due to condensation from an adjacent poorly ventilated shower room. You can help prevent mildew on your clothes by using a moisture absorber like Damp Rid in your closet. They are tiny crystals that absorb excess water in the air. You will need to periodically replace the crystals with a refill pack.

Insects may be attracted if there are foodstuffs nearby. For example, you may have hidden a box of chocolates in the closet to stop temptation and then have forgotten all about them. But the insects won’t forget! If you know you will not be wearing clothes for a several months (for example a heavy winter coat) then old fashioned moth balls can help to deter insects.

It’s important to periodically inspect the clothes in your closet and drawers. One of the functions of the old-fashioned “spring clean” was to check clothing for insect and mildew damage. Even if you only do this kind of review on an occasional basis, it’s better than doing none at all.

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    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      This is the perfect article for looking after clothes. I always look at the labels in clothes, firstly to make sure they're made of a material which breathes well (cotton preferably), then to check the washing requirements. Like you, I never buy 'dry clean only' garments.

      I agree with you that Spring cleaning is essential. Not only does it check the condition of your clothes but it also sorts them out (some of mine always go to a charity shop) and allows me to take stock; I find it a 'cleansing' experience!

      Great advice! Happy New Year to you and yours! Ann

    • CharlotteReid65 profile image

      Charlotte Reid 4 months ago from London - United Kingdom

      Thankyou for this wonderful Hub!

      This is indeed helpful and the thing that I'd like to specify once again is to make sure you check the label of the cloth and then decide how it should be washed.

      Another most important thing that you need to consider in order to keep your clothes looking good for longer is to wash them with similar colors. Usually what happens is that you tend to wash the sober and dark colors together which leads to stains on the lighter shade. Though not all dark colored clothes leave color, yet it is always advisable to play safe with clothes.

      Thankyou!

      Love from Charlotte. :)

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