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Frugal ways to make your clothes last longer
Clothing often eats up a large part of the household budget – but it doesn’t need to. Follow these tips from Hugh Morrison to keep your clothes and household linen looking better and lasting longer.
Wear out, not in
Keep your good clothes for when you need to look smart. When you come in to the house, put your good clothes away and wear old stuff. You don’t need to look like a slob in a stained tracksuit, but there’s no point wearing your expensive suit or dress when nobody’s there to be impressed.
Abstain from stains
When doing any job that involves mess, no matter how small, always change into old clothes or at the very least put on a full length apron and roll your sleeves up. That little spritz of bleach around the toilet bowl is guaranteed to bounce back onto your nice black trousers if you don’t.
Feets don’t fail me now
Always take shoes off in the house. This is good for your shoes, good for your carpet, and good for your feet. Wear slippers instead. Feet give off moisture, so shoes need to dry out between wears. Don’t wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row; they will last longer. Wooden shoe trees will help shoes keep their shape when they are not being worn. If shoes get soaked in the rain, stuff them with newspaper and leave them somewhere warm (but not in direct heat) to dry out. Polish shoes regularly to preserve the leather.
Where and tear?
Clothes get worn out by friction. Eg, if you sit all day to work on a rough surface such as a wooden chair, or cycle a lot, the seat of your trousers will get shiny and wear out more quickly than if you have a soft cushion or a gel cover for your saddle. Taking off your jacket and rolling up your sleeves when working at a desk will save a lot of wear too. If you carry a briefcase or heavy bag with a shoulder strap, this is fatal to the material on your jacket shoulder, especially with lightweight materials such as linen. Carry your bag in your hand, or get a sponge pad (easily available online) to fit your shoulder strap.
The body unbeautiful
Friction can come from inside too. Unclipped toenails and rough skin on feet act like chisels and sandpaper on socks and shoe linings. Coins and keys will wear out pocket linings – before you lose a few coins, or worse, your keys, start using a key/coin purse, or use the little right hand pocket in your jeans, which is more hardwearing. Heavy metal watch straps and sharp edged jewellery will damage and wear out clothing if worn often enough. Stubble may be fashionable for men – but it’s lethal to shirt collars!
These principles apply to towels and bed linen too. Even out the wear on bed linen by turning your duvet and pillow over each morning. When you’ve finished showering, ‘brush off’ the water with your hands before patting dry gently with a towel. Vigorous rubbing will wear them out more quickly.
Shun the sun
English readers may not believe this, but if you live in a sunny country, the sun can quite quickly fade your clothes, so be careful what you wear in sunny weather, especially when sitting in one place in the sun for a long time. For this reason, it’s best not to wear the jacket of a suit separately from the trousers or skirt as the colours can fade unevenly.
Cleaned – but not cleaned out
How you clean your clothes is important too. Soil and dirt build up easily in dry-clean only clothes and cause wear, so get a good clothes brush and brush your suits, coats etc before putting them away.A domestic steam cleaner is inexpensive and great for refreshing tired clothes and soft furnishings too.
Wash clothes inside out to avoid excessive rubbing in the machine, and put anything with metal clasps or straps inside a bag, such as an old pillowcase. Air drying clothes is cheaper and less damaging than using a tumble dryer – but avoid leaving clothes in direct sunlight for too long or they will fade. Take care to use your iron on the right setting and press gently. A steam iron will cut down on friction. Iron cuffs and collars from behind to reduce wear.
Store well - and spend less at the store
When storing clothes, it’s better to hang them than fold them, especially for long periods. Folded clothes can become damaged along the creases.
The worst enemy of stored clothes is moths. If you thought the clothes moth was a thing of the past, like ration books and Bakelite, then think again – moths are alive and well and living in a closet near you. They will eat any animal fibre (such as wool or silk) or fur. This includes animal fibre blends.
To keep them at bay, wash, dry clean or steam clean any animal-fibre second hand clothes you may buy; don’t store worn clothes for long periods of time; keep wardrobes clean and dust free; regularly shake out and brush down your clothes, and use plenty of moth repellants. Old fashioned mothballs smell horrible but the new types of balls and sprays smell more pleasant, or you could use old fashioned solutions like lavender.
Cut your costs according to your cloth
Some of these tips may seem a bit extreme or unneccessary, but they really don’t take much effort and the aggregate effect will be to noticeably extend the life and good looks of your clothes. Combine these tips with thrift shop purchases and the ‘make do and mend’ philosophy – and your clothing costs will be next to nothing.
For more tips on moneysaving from the experts on the past, check out my two Kindle ebooks, and ‘A Treasury of Thrift’ ‘Frontier Frugal’ available from amazon.com.