We are currently living in a throwaway culture, with the lifespan of our clothes hitting the lowest yet. Research has found that a piece of clothing lasts around one to three years, a staggering low figure. It’s not uncommon for people to be browsing for clothes almost daily, this may be in stores or on their smartphones. Fast fashion is undoubtedly influential in affecting people’s perceptions of a garments’ lifespan, with clothes becoming more disposable as opposed to repairing rips and tears.
As it is becoming increasingly important to minimise our waste in the current environmental climate, we will take a look at some of the ways you can preserve your wardrobe essentials, so they will serve you for the long-term and reduce shoppers’ overall contribution to the increasing issue of waste.
So, what do we do to make our clothes last longer?
Check the Quality
An important step when you’re shopping for your garments is to check the quality of the seaming. Buy clothing with correctly sewed seams to make sure the clothes last longer and to prevent future issues. Turn the garment inside out and inspect the seam as well as running your fingers across and tugging at the thread. If it comes loose, the clothing will likely fall apart at some point, meaning you’ll either have to throw it out or repair it.
Holding the fabric up to light can identify if the clothing is poor quality. If you can see light coming in through the material, it’s not going to last you very long. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint by spending money on pricier, higher-quality clothing. Higher-quality clothing can be influenced by the shirt weave, for example men’s shirts can be made with unique weaving to become more breathable, lightweight and resistant to damage.
Wash and Dry Less
Although we wash our clothes to take care of them, washing machines can actually damage them — the more often you wash them, the quicker they are worn out. It might sound pretty gross, but unless your clothes are pitted with dirt and stains, you don’t have to put them in a washing machine for a full wash.
If you have a few marks that aren’t eye-sores, you can remove marks by spot-cleaning. If you prefer to be prepared for pesky stains, you can purchase a stain remover roll on to eliminate marks. If you take pretty hot showers, consider bringing your clothes into the bathroom when you take a shower to steam them. As well as making your clothes last longer, this is beneficial for the environment. Statistics show that the average washing machine uses around 13,500 gallons of water each year, equivalent to the amount of water someone will drink in their whole life.
If your clothes have a bit of a smell to them, you can create a solution of lukewarm water and vodka. Simply pour a solution of three parts water and two parts vodka into a spray bottle and mist all over. Alternatively, you can put your clothes in the freezer overnight to freshen them up. If the smell is a bit more stubborn, you’ll be pleasantly surprised about what an outside breeze can do to help your clothing.
When you can’t avoid washing them any longer, wash your clothes on a lower heat, except for bedding, towels and underwear, which should be washed at 60°C minimum. Turn your clothes inside out so that if anything is being worn through, it’s the inside.
Are you one of the lucky people who haven’t managed to shrink their socks big enough to fit their pinky toe? Well done to you. Drying your clothes in a dryer causes the most damage, so consider buying a clothes horse and air dry instead to avoid tears and warped material.
You’ve probably thrown out every piece of clothing which has had a hole or a button on the run. Learn basic sewing skills for mending clothing that’ll save you wasting money by throwing things out. For large holes and tears, you can even learn how to sew patches onto your clothing with similar material.
If this is something that you’re prepared to do, you can even personalise your clothes. If your jeans have tears in, you could cut them into shorts or create ripped jeans for something different. The options are unlimited!
We’ve highlighted a few ways for you to avoid throwing your clothes out. Let’s all try and cut down on our waste and enjoy the clothes we have.
Laitala, K. and Klepp, I.G., 2015. Age and active life of clothing. Product Lifetimes And The Environment, p.182.