Taking care of your wardrobe helps it to last longer and increases its functionality, essential elements of practicing sustainable consumerism. My clients often ask for advice on how to care for their clothing, so I thought I’d share how I care for my clothes here.
I will share the products I use as well. This is not sponsored content, nor is it an endorsement of any particular product – just sharing what works for me!
Read on for ways to avoid the iron without looking like you just rolled out of bed and other tips for keeping your wardrobe in top shape. Because face it, stains, wrinkles, and worn clothing don’t help you feel your best.
Stains, wrinkles, and worn clothing don’t help you feel your best.
Wash items in as cold water as possible to reduce wear and shrinkage as well as energy use. I wash whites (underwear, undershirts, and socks) in warm and lights and darks in cold.
I use Whole Foods 365 2x Concentrated Unscented Powdered Laundry Detergent for whites and lights and Seventh Generation Natural Free & Clear Laundry Detergent for darks.
I think the powder cleans better overall, but sometimes does not dissolve completely in cold water – especially in winter when the water is really cold – leaving residue marks on dark items. Both are environmentally friendly and scent-free as well as concentrated, so require very little product to be effective.
Reduce fading and wear by turning dark items, especially blacks and reds, inside out before washing and drying.
i’ll have the flying baguette with a splash of vinaigrette – or – stain removal
Let me tell you a little story. I was having a lunch meeting with a potential client and ordered a cheese plate with baguette drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette – YUM, right?
The server delivered our meal, and turned just a little sharply to set down my plate. Six slices of baguette drizzled generously with vinaigrette literally went flying and tumbled down my front and into my lap. I (politely) had my hands in my lap, so I had a pile of bread sitting on my arms. The moment I moved my arms, the bread continued its journey down my legs. At that point, the only item I was wearing that didn’t have dark vinaigrette all over it was my underwear. My linen scarf, sweater, shirt, and pants all were stained.
Remarkably, I maintained my composure and shared laundry tips with my client. (And I got a free meal!) Here’s what I told her:
The sooner you treat a stain, the better luck you will have. If you can’t wash it right away, treating it before you put the garment in the hamper will increase your chances of removing it because the stain won’t be able to set as well.
I was able to remove all of the vinaigrette from my clothes with Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid. Dawn is the best product for removing oil and grease stains (including vinaigrette). I have a bottle of it in my laundry area.
Rub it generously into the stain and throw it into the wash with everything else. It can even remove a stain you missed and has already gone through the wash.
If it is a really tough oil or grease stain: apply Dawn, rub it in, rinse it thoroughly with warm water, and then apply it again. Do several times if needed.
Bonus: to remove oil stains from leather, apply baking soda to the spot, let it sit overnight, then brush off. Repeat if needed.
For other stains (food, grass, blood, deodorant/sweat, all things baby) I swear by OxiClean Multi-Purpose Versatile Stain Remover Free. I don’t use it in regular loads as a laundry booster, but as a highly effective stain remover. I have a laundry bucket in which I dissolve a scoop of OxiClean in really hot water and soak items for several hours – usually overnight. Rinse the items briefly and wash with the regular load.
It is important to rinse the soaked items a little before washing because sensitive skin can react to the concentrated OxiClean if it is not fully removed from the fabric in the wash.
put down the iron!
I hate to iron. Really hate it. Just thinking about it makes me irritable. But I do want to look tidy. With these simple, and really quite basic, tricks I iron about two times a year – for real.
Disclaimer: My personal style is more relaxed – my clothes are wrinkle-free, but my shirts are not crisp. If you want a really crisp shirt, you will have to use starch and an iron, or invest in no-iron dress shirts like this one.
Dry everything on LOW. Always. Less wrinkles, less shrinkage, less wear.
If you can’t remove the load from the dryer immediately, toss the load again for 10 minutes to remove wrinkles before taking it out.
Fold and hang everything right after you take it out of the dryer – saving several loads to fold at once will re-wrinkle your clothes.
for items that wrinkle easily (or might shrink) – cotton shirts, polyester blouses, 100% cotton knit tees, dress pants, cotton dresses and skirts, cotton or denim jackets, linen
Put the whole load in the dryer and turn it on LOW for five minutes, counting the items you want to remove as you put them in. I have to repeat the number to myself several times so I don’t forget!
Tossing them with the whole load actually removes wrinkles more effectively than just putting a few items in the dryer – more balanced rotation and friction, I guess?
Pull out the counted items after five minutes and hang them on hangers or a drying rack. The European-style drying rack is my favorite – it holds a lot of clothes and is great for drying items outside as well.
Smooth the collars, button plackets, pockets, cuffs, and hems of relevant items. Allow them to dry fully. Give each item a shake/fluff when taking it off the rack or hanger, and you’re good to go!
Energy-saving tip: toss the whole load on low for 5 minutes in the dryer to remove wrinkles and then hang all of it on the drying rack to dry the rest of the way. Your clothing will last longer with less drying as well.
bras and other delicate items
I wash my bras, other lingerie, and some sweaters and blouses (turned inside out) in mesh washing bags in the regular load. They reduce wear, stretching of straps, and shrinkage.
I use the Handwash setting on my washer for most sweaters and other delicate items that call for that. Again, I turn them inside out to reduce wear.
Never put your bras in the dryer. It will wear out the fabric much more quickly, making them ill-fitting and useless. It is best to air dry all of your delicates to reduce shrinkage and wear. If they come out of the washer wrinkled, toss them in the dryer on Air/Fluff (no heat) for 5 minutes before hanging them to dry.
tailoring and repairs
Even if clothes are clean and unwrinkled, holes and tears, missing buttons, frayed hems, and pilled or worn fabric only drag you down. So does clothing that is ill-fitting. Addressing these issues right away with repair or tailoring not only increases the life of your clothing (the longer you leave damage, the worse it will become), but also helps you feel polished. Feeling polished leads to confidence, which leads to showing your best self. All good things! Because that’s what it’s all about – feeling great.
Feeling polished leads to confidence, which leads to showing your best self. All good things! Because that’s what it’s all about – feeling great.
Coincidentally, my friend Sally at Already Pretty just published Save the World: Do Less Laundry, a perfect companion post to this piece! Read it to find out why doing laundry less often is easier on your clothes and the environment.
What laundry tips are your tried-and-trues? Share in the comments below your favorite techniques and products.