Keeping Clothes Like New
No one likes it when colors fade, fabric wears out, and hems come undone. To keep your clothes looking as good as new, follow these tips to preserve washable and dry clean only garments. Your clothes will last longer with regular cleaning and care.
General care tips
- When changing out of your clothes, be sure to let suits, coats and shoes air out for at least 30 minutes before you store them in your closet. Hang them up on a clothes rack or on a hanger outside your closet before putting them away. Do not throw them over a chair as this can create new wrinkles.
- It's also important to rotate your sweaters and jackets like you do your shoes, to give them a chance to breathe and regain their shape.
- Turn off the closet light and don't leave garments near the window. Sunlight can fade the colors on your clothes just like it does drapes. Dyes are sensitive to prolonged sunlight or even to a light left on in a closet.
- In summer, be careful with lotions and sunscreen as it can fade or stain your clothes.
- Spray perfume and hairspray on before you get dressed. The alcohol in the spray can fade, discolor or stain clothes.
- Always clean your clothes before storing them for the season. Untreated food and beverage stains can attract insects!
- Never hang wet or damp clothes in your closet. This can attract mildew.
- Never store your clothes in plastic bags. It can trap in humidity that attracts mildew. Use breathable cotton sheets or bags.
- Brush off any salt before cleaning clothes or taking them to the dry cleaner. Salt can cause damage during cleaning. If you have come into contact with salt (e.g. pant cuffs brushing up against winter street salt), wipe with cold water and air dry. Always point salt treated areas out to your dry cleaner. Shoes are especially prone to salt damage during winter. When you come home, wipe off any salt residue with a cold damp cloth.
General tips for at-home laundering
Wash in cold water
Hot water wears out fabrics more quickly. Save the hot water for really soiled loads—sports uniforms, gardening clothes, dirty sheets—and wash everything else in cold. Even if a garment says wash in hot water, washing in cold won't hurt it (washing a cold water garment in hot, however, can be damaging). Your clothes will be just as clean, and the threads will stay strong. Check out Tide Coldwater, a specially formulated liquid detergent for cold water washing.
Invest in a front-loading washer
Most Americans use top-loading washers, which have an agitator inside that pulls your clothes around. Front-loading washers use gravity to tumble clothes in and out of the water, much like the motion of a dryer. This is much gentler on your clothes and helps to prevent snags and tangling.
Wash clothes inside-out
Protect the important part of a garment—the outside—by simply turning it inside out before you toss it in. It may not seem like much, but embellishments on the outside of a garment, even screen printing, can be worn away or snagged by the inside of the washer. Items with beading, embroidery, appliqués and other details should always be washed inside-out.
Don't use chlorine bleach
Vinegar is a natural brightener that won't wear out the fibers of your clothing the way chlorine bleach will. Plus, it's better for the environment—we love that.
Dryer heat damages fabric over time. Electric dryers cause shrinkage, color fading, and weaken the material fibers. Instead, line dry clothing outside, or indoors on a drying rack. You can also hang garments on plastic hangers in your shower or on a tension rod in an alcove. If you simply can't air dry, use the lowest heat setting on your dryer.
Follow care label directions
Most people know they should read garment care labels, but something many people forget is to read the directions on their laundry detergent too. Don't use too much—too many suds means the rinse cycle might not get all of the soap residue out of your clothing. And use the right kind—gentle detergents for delicates, and regular detergent for sturdier items.
Treat stains the right way, and right away
A spill or stain doesn't have to ruin a garment—see our “Stain Removal” section for directions on treating almost any kind of stain. Read the directions on stain removal products too, even if you have used them before. They may not be safe for every kind of fabric, or be recommended for every kind of stain.
General tips for dry-clean only clothing
Don't try it at home
If an item is labeled "dry clean only," there's a good reason for it. Don't put anything in your washing machine that doesn't belong there—it could shrink or become discolored, and the agitation from the machine will wear out the fabric faster. Don't try to remove stains on dry clean items either; professional dry cleaners know how to treat them based on the fabric and the stain.
Keep up with regular cleanings
Many garment manufacturers warn against cleaning too often—that's because traditional dry cleaning can be hard on fabric over time. GreenEarth, however, is different. Our gentle solution will not harm fabric fibers as it cleans them because unlike petrochemical dry cleaning fluid, GreenEarth is chemically inert; it does not swell or rub fabric fibers during the cleaning process, it simply carries the detergent to your clothes, and carries the dirt away without hurting the fabric itself. Regular dry cleaning with GreenEarth will actually help your clothes last longer. Solid materials left behind after perspiration evaporates can be especially damaging to the life of a garment, as can storing them without cleaning first to remove visible and invisible food and beverage stains that attract insects. Clean suits and formal dresses every 2-3 wearings to prevent dirt and oil build up that can corrode the material. In between cleanings, hanging clothes near the steam from a shower will help refresh them and allow them to keep their shape longer. Let your dry cleaner know about stains before having them cleaned. Do not try to remove stains yourself. Blot spills without rubbing and take to the cleaners as soon as possible. Attempting to remove stains from some fabrics, like silks, can cause permanent damage.
Clean before storing
Stains from seemingly clear substances like body oils, perspiration, white wine and sugary substances may not appear for some time. Once these have a chance to oxidize, they may show up as light brown or yellow splotches that are difficult to remove. Before putting away seasonal items for long-term storage, have them dry cleaned. Dry cleaning to remove visible and invisible stains before insects find them is important to prevent unexpected surprises a few months down the road.
Use wide, padded hangers for delicate fabrics so the material of the shoulders doesn't stretch or wear out. Don't cut hanger straps out of tops and dresses—use them to reduce stress on the rest of the garment. Hang suit jackets on wide wooden hangers to help them keep their shape. And give things room to breathe in your closet—they can touch, but don't cram them in.
Don't use plastic
Do not store clothing in plastic garment bags. The plastic breaks down over time and can interact with the fabric, which can weaken it or change the color. Plastic can also trap in humidity that can lead to mildew damage. Garments need to be able to breathe, so wrap them in plain cotton sheets or a cloth garment bag to keep them safe.