Making Your Clothing Last

Caring for clothing often seems like a lost art, but it’s easy to learn the skills that can make your clothes look better for longer.

General care

  1. Put your clothes away as soon as you take them off – abandoning them on chairs or the floor adds grime and creases to sweat and general wear and tear.
  2. Hang your clothes on coat hangers to ensure they keep their shape and take everything out of the pockets, or keys will stretch garments out of shape and paper tissues will disintegrate in the wash and spread themselves over everything.
  3. Our grandparents knew that a swift brushing before putting clothes away for the night was the best way to remove accumulated dust particles and to drive out odours.
  4. Try to 'rest' trousers and jackets for 24 hours after wearing them so that they can regain their shape and lose any accumulated smells.
  5. Clothing in wardrobes should have an air gap of a couple of millimetres between each item.

Laundry Care

Most of us wish to make our favourite garments last as long as possible, but we also need them to be fresh and fragrant whenever we want to wear them. Washing your clothing properly can prolong its life:

  1. The biggest investment you can make in your clothing is learning to read care labels – while 100% white cotton will put up with almost anything you throw at it, cotton-mix fabrics need a cooler wash and lower ironing temperatures to keep their shape and colour. Getting it wrong can destroy a loved garment with one wash.
  2. Don't put too many clothes in the washing machine at a time, as this causes unrinsed detergent to leave sticky patches or white streaks. Also, clothes will tend to remain dingy if they are too tightly packed in the drum.
  3. You can brighten white T-shirts that have greyed by adding 100 ml lemon juice to the washing detergent for each load of white washing – it achieves the same 'lifting' effect as bleach, but without the chemical harshness that can shorten clothing life.
  4. Take care with your whites – some people even have a separate laundry basket for worn white clothing, so it never accidentally ends up being washed with dark colours that can give it a tinge of pink or blue. Specialist stain removers exist to remove this tint, but it's better not to let it happen in the first place

Dry-Cleaning Tips

  1. It's best to dry-clean clothing infrequently as the cleaning chemicals are highly destructive – if a dry-clean-only garment gets a spill or stain, try using specialist 'spot cleaning' remedy before having the whole garment cleaned.
  2. When you do have to dry-clean something, make sure you clean the entire outfit (jacket and trousers or skirt and jacket, for example) at the same time, as the cleaning treatment can cause subtle colour lightening which means your separates may end up not matching.

Stain Removal Guide

Have you ever had to give up wearing a favourite piece of clothing because of grease or deodorant stains? This guide helps you remove stains from clothing and even shows you how to avoid them!

Deodorant stains

Deodorant stains on black clothing such as T-shirts or cotton shirts often appear as white streaks or crusted areas. You can solve the problem by not allowing the stain to develop in the first place: it's caused by aluminium salts contained in the antiperspirant element and if you apply the deodorant the night before, or early in the morning, so that it dries completely before you dress, the risk of staining is reduced.

Household salt is the simplest way to remove such stains from dark clothing. Wet the area of the stain with cold water and pour table salt thickly over it, gently rubbing it into the stain. Leave overnight. Next morning, add about 25 grams of salt to the wash water.

If, on the other hand, you need to get rid of a stain on a black T-shirt to wear immediately, there's a 'first aid' method: use a black cotton sock to rub the stain until it disappears. It really works!

Alternatively, yellow deodorant stains on white cotton clothing are quite easy to remove using hydrogen peroxide which you can buy from a pharmacist. This is a form of bleach that returns white cotton to its pristine state, but it doesn't contain chlorine which is the active ingredient in domestic bleach and which damages fabric as well as being bad for the environment. Simply pour a teaspoon or two of hydrogen peroxide on the stain and rub it in slightly, then let it sit for ten minutes before washing. Don't wash white clothing treated with hydrogen peroxide with coloured garments as it may strip them of their dye.

Grease and oil stains

It's best to treat grease or oil stains as soon as you can – the longer you leave them, the more ingrained they will become.

Cover an entire grease spot with undiluted washing up liquid – try to use lemon or unscented liquid, not because of the smell but the colour – the green and blue dyes used in some washing up liquids can leave a tint on your clothing. Gently work this pure detergent into the grease from the outside edge of the stain inwards. Rinse with white vinegar to remove the washing up liquid then wash as usual. If the stain is really stubborn, simply repeat the washing up liquid/vinegar process as many times as necessary.

For grease or oil on clothing that can't be washed – try placing a sheet of brown paper, dull side down, on top of the stain and iron over it using an iron on a low heat and with the steam component switched off – keep moving the brown paper so that each new area takes up some of the grease spot.