3 Must-Know Clothing Care Essentials to Make Your Wardrobe Last

I somehow doubt it's a secret that I have a large wardrobe. I love clothes, and they really are to blame for most of my impulse spending. A world without fashion would be a world without fun.

But clothing can be expensive, and I don't know about you, but walking into a mall to buy one thing usually ends with me spending hours in the mall and leaving with an armful.

how to care for wardrobe

Plus, I develop favorites. I have had some peices of my wardrobe since I was 16 and, despite not fitting for awhile, they remain my favorite pieces.

The key to being able to keep my clothes for that long is simple: I take care of them.

I didn't used to. I'd throw my favorite jacket in a crumpled heap on my bedroom floor, only to be used as a scratching mat for the cat or a bed for the dog, and despite my denial, it would usually end badly for the coat.

I've learned that it's very worth it, from a cost standpoint, to take care of my clothes. Here are some tips and tools to use to take care of your clothing to ensure that you never look dishevelled.

Don't wash them every wear

Seriously. I'll never understand those people who wear a top once and throw it in the washing machine. Unless you go to spin class in your work blouse, there really is no reason why you'd have to wash your clothes after each wear.

Some people's jobs require them to be more active than mine, so take this with a grain of salt, but I can't fathom anybody's clothes smelling bad or looking dirty after 8-12 hours of wear. I can usually wear dresses three or four times before washing them; skirts about 3 times and pants twice (I'm short so the bottoms of pants get dirty).

It really depends on the material, color, and wearer of a shirt as to how much you need to wash it. If you're a messier eater, like me, you'll probably have to wash shirts more often.

Washing clothing fades the color of the garment, and is generally not great for the fabric. You can keep clothing looking newer for longer if you limit the amount you wash them.

Read the label

I know you've probably heard this advice before, but it really is important so is worth reiterating. I've washed clothes the wrong way before, and it ruined the item. Learn how to read the washing instructions and make sure to follow them. If you don't, then don't be surprised when the fabric pills or the seams fray. Some clothing is too delicate for traditional washing methods.

On the same note, make sure you put similar fabrics, in like colors, in the same loads. I know this is obvious but many people fail to do so. My Lululemon clothes all go in the same load, for instance. Washing Lululemon with normal, cotton fabrics can really pill the Lulu fabric, which is a no-no since it's so expensive.

Invest in some tools

I don't have many "tools" to keep my clothes nice, but I have three that I use on a regular basis.

A sweater shaver

A sweater shaver shaves more than just sweaters. I can use it on my Lululemon pants to get rid of pilling, my cardigan sleeves when lint starts to build up and hang out on the cuffs, and my wool winter sweater which starts to look like a Pomeranian after a few wears. If you get a decent sweater shaver, this tool is like gold for making your clothes look acceptable again. Plus, it's fun. It's like pulling glue off fingers.

A lint brush

Even if you don't have pets, having a lint brush around is crucial. I shed like a crazy person, so that's a consideration, but also dusty and lint from other fabrics can stick to your clothes. Especially if you're wearing black, this is not a good look.

I even have a lint brush in my car, just in case.

An iron or steamer

I was a late bloomer on this one; I never used to buy clothes that needed ironing, so I avoided having to buy an iron. Lots of work clothes, though, has the tenancy to be made in wrinkle-attracting material, so I invested in a clothes steamer last weekend.

I use it every day and I can't believe I got on without it.  Every time I needed to get rid of wrinkles, I'd just wash my clothes and hang them up before. How ridiculous of me!

My steamer was only $79 and I love it. It works beautifully. Remember: when it comes to clothes steamers, the higher the wattage, the better it will work.

Do you have any tips on how to make clothes last (without sacrificing how they look)?



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36 thoughts on “3 Must-Know Clothing Care Essentials to Make Your Wardrobe Last

  1. I am one of those people who throws their shirt in the laundry after one wear. I blame it on antiperspirants--I can't stand the smell of them or the thought of putting my arm back into a shirt with remnants of antiperspirant on it.

    I am paying for it though, my clothing definitely does not last as long as I would like it to.

    1. Exactly dude, that deodorant smell bugs me and so I put everything in the laundry basket. Well, and to be honest, my work is usually physical labor and so if I didn't wash my clothes after each wear they'd truly stink. WHich might not bug me, but my wife would have a fit!

  2. Anthony Thompson

    I like your suggestion about not washing a clothing item after just one wear. I started this practice years ago as a part of my budget strategy. For example, I would wear a pair of pants for two or three days before washing them, and it was a great savings both in time and money. Very good post.

  3. I totally need to get one of those sweater shavers. Where can I find one?!? My cardies are so pilled, my mom pretty much cringes every time I wear one.

    And I'm totally with you on not washing after one wear. I don't even get it! As far as I'm concerned, if it smells OK, and I haven't spilt anything on it, I'm going to wear it. I don't even want to tell you how long I go without washing my jeans. (But to give you a hint, I only have two pairs, I wear them most days and I...don't do laundry very often.)

    1. Post author

      You can go to almost any alteration store and buy a sweater shaver, OR, Home Outfitters, Bed Bath and Beyond, all those types of places usually have them!

      I heard you weren't even supposed to wash jeans for the first few months of owning them because they mold to your body. I very, very, very rarely wash mine (I'm not joking, maybe once every 3 months). In my defense I dont' wear jeans very often.

  4. I'm all over that first one: I don't wash my clothes every time I wear them. I'm wear suits and dress clothes all day and I simply don't get dirty. I wear my shirts at least 2 times before washing and wear my suits at least a couple of months before getting dry cleaned (which is recommended anyway).

  5. When it comes to tops, I am guilty of tossing it in the wash after one wear. With jeans, I always wear them for a week...I still wash them more often than most people.

    1. Me too. Bottoms can get a couple wears. Tops...for whatever reason, I feel like they need to be washed each time.

      I do red only loads. I include pink. But that way if anything bleeds it's not a big deal. I consequently don't wear red very often. :p

      I don't have a sweater shaver, but I've done this using a disposable razor I've already used several times. I ever so slightly literally shave my sweater. It takes a very delicate touch, but it works wonders!

  6. I hand wash a lot of items that tend to be more delicate, or I always put them on delicate cycle. The dryer is actually very bad for clothes, so I line dry whenever possible.

  7. I am the worse when it comes to taking care of my clothes. Although I appreciate my wardrobe and love them very much. I just don't treat them with care that they deserve, which results in me wearing them out faster and needing to shop more.

  8. The Happy Homeowner

    I use a bra bag for my tights and undergarments, and I don't dry any pants, sweaters, technical/wicking workout wear, or bras in the dryer.

  9. I don't have any tips to add, but wanted to say that I wash my kids' clothes after every wear for the most part. Sometimes, jeans look okay after one wear, but my boys are rough. They spill, roll around in the grass, fall on the asphalt, etc. I guess their clothes don't have to last as long as they're also constantly outgrowing things. Jeff also has to wash his shirts after every wear...or at least his t-shirts and under shirts. Boys are so stinky! Jeff has said before that my super power is not stinking. :/ Everybody's good at something?

  10. Shilpan

    I buy few shirts a year, but I always buy from Jos A bank. Their shirts are expensive, but you don't have to iron them. Paying $50 for a shirt pays off in the long run.

  11. I've been wanting to get a steamer for so long, I think I'll start looking around for one again. I just hate ironing and loved using a steamer when I used to work at a clothing store years back. Great tips of preserving clothes!

  12. great post!

    I definitely could take better care of my clothes.. I'm like you and don't wash them every wear, and I get my favourite pieces dry-cleaned but I abuse my clothes by throwing them in crumpled heaps on the floor =\ bad bridget.

    I want a steamer!

  13. I want a steamer too! I have an iron... still in its package, 4 years after buying it. I wash clothes, then hang them to dry and that gets rid of most wrinkles. Although I have one shirt that got wrinkled 3 years ago... and I haven't worn it since because of the wrinkles.

    I also throw everything into the washing machine all at once... I need to be more like you! I love my clothes, I should treat them with more respect!

  14. Kari@Small Budget Big Dreams

    I wash my jeans only when they're starting to stretch out of shape. I try to wear dress shirts a couple of times before washing or dry cleaning (I wear a shirt or tank under them anyway, so it's not like they're getting really dirty). For my sweaters I have a sweater stone. It's like a shaver but it's stone/pumice like and shaves off all the pills, I love it.

  15. Yes! Thanks for the suggestion that you can wear clothes more than once... where I come from (when I grew up) you would have 2-3 sets of clothes for a school week... kids would wonder about you if you wore a different set of clothes every day! Then as I became a teenager I noticed some people/friends wore different clothes everyday.... seems so silly. (unless you sweat like crazy) Especially a shame on jeans, jean fabric last so much longer if cared for properly and not washed a millionbazillion times. Your post makes me feel a little less guilty for spending more on clothing now that I'm doing a bit better with my finances 🙂

  16. Savvy Working Gal

    When I first started working a woman in my office told me I should dry clean my clothes every 4th wearing. Hundreds of dollars later, another co-worker told me she never dry cleans her clothes unless she has a spot. She does hang them outside to air out though.

    I bought a cheap steamer a couple of years ago. I have been disappointed with it. It gushes too much water on my clothes. If I recall it cost about $25 dollars. I can't find anything on the package about wattage, so I must have bought a low wattage model.

  17. Katie

    I don't wash my pants every time I wear them and that helps to keep them in good shape. I also wash everything in cold water. I need a steamer though, I hate my iron.

  18. I definitely agree on all of these points. My clothes last longer because I hand wash and line dry all of them, but I realize hand washing isn't for everyone ;). It is incredibly easy to line dry all or almost all of your clothes, though, and does save money and make clothes last longer.

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  24. I freaking LOVE sweater shavers. I remember I used to always use the one at my Oma's house when I was little because it was so fun.

    It's so nice that you're not apologetic about having a big wardrobe. And I love these tips for taking care of clothes! I feel like sometimes a large wardrobe is a no-no in the PF community and have some guilt about what clothes are currently residing in my closet.

  25. Lily (from Italy)

    Dye your black clothes! They easily look faded after some washes, but if you dye them they'll look like new, well, almost at least and last looong.

    Dying other colors on the other hand is more risky. I'm never fully satisfied with, say, beige stuff dyed blue. Or even white clothes dyed black: strangely enough, you can't be sure the result will be black-black.

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