Four Tips on How to Care for Your Clothes (and keep them in good condition)
While working with a no-sweatshop sewing center to empower women, TJULA Design also intends for the products we put in the world to last for several years, if not longer. This not only applies to how the products were designed and sewn together, but also how they are cared for once worn. Here are four simple tips I follow to increase the lifespan of the clothes we make:
- Air them out after wear: I grew up in a humid and hot climate in which one could feel like taking five showers a day. So I totally understand the urge of throwing sweaty clothes into wash as soon as you take them off. However, constant washing is one of the fastest ways to damage clothes. The abrasion inherent in wash cycles increases wear and tear on fibers and seams more than most other daily activities. But sweaty clothes are gross when not dealt with right away. Smell and mildew can start building up and soon the clothes have to be thrown away. To best balance between keeping clothes in good conditions and not over-washing them, I air them out when I don’t throw them into the wash immediately. Hang them in a ventilated space and let them dry until you have a reasonably sized load of laundry to do.
- Wash less and at lower temperatures: It's some people's belief that clothes should be washed and dried in high temperatures (hot wash hot dry). This practice not only drives up energy consumption, but also destroys fibers and most technical finishing in the fabric, let alone the risk of color fading or transferring onto other items. Avoiding over-washing and always using low temperatures is not only environmentally friendly, it will also make your favorite clothes stay in good condition longer. This is especially true with outdoor gear that often has water repellent finishing and sportswear that is moisture wicking and breathable.
- Wash them inside out and use laundry bags: Sometimes we lose interest in a clothing item because there are visible pills or the print has faded. They make clothes look old and outdated. That’s why I regularly turn certain pieces inside out when I toss them into the laundry basket. These include cotton (short fibers tends to pill more easily) and printed items. I even do this with my sportswear and outdoor gear that come with reflective ironed-on print. For delicate items, and anything that can tangle things up, laundry bags usually come in handy. They provide a protective layer so the wash is gentler on your delicates.
- Repair, Reuse, Recycle: Basic mending skills can not only do wonders, they can also be very satisfying. Repaired clothes don’t always have to wear “visible scars” like wounded soldiers retired from a battlefield. Skillful hands hide a rip or a tear with stitches and make clothes look gently worn if not new. Sometimes a little creativity can even give repaired clothes a refreshed look. When a piece is beyond repair, there are many ways to reuse the fabric or repurpose the clothing. This can be as simple as transferring it into the rag pile that’s used for cleaning, adding it to your creative project materials, or taking off useful buttons and zippers to be used for future repairs; you might be surprised by the possibilities!