Frugal Living 

How to make the clothes you got for Christmas last at least until next year

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Hopefully these storm troopers studied up on these ways to make your clothing last longer.It’s a good bet you ended up with some new threads under the tree this year. Clothing was the fifth most popular Christmas gift this holiday season, ahead of video games, jewelry and even alcohol, according to  a report by Nielsen.

And while you’ll probably end up in the return lines like everyone else, at least some of the clothes you got were probably serviceable enough to hold on to. Here are some tips to help it last at least until you can re-up next year.

1. Hold the dryer

It’s not just an old wives’ tale — the dryer can be bad for your clothes, as certain fabrics don’t respond well to the heat. A study from the American Chemical Society found that cotton is especially prone to damage. The study’s lead author concluded:

While cotton can be dried at the relatively high temperatures in clothes dryers without immediate catastrophic damage, serious abrasions and cracking damage occur with repeated dryings … Abrasion from the tumbling action of dryers also contributes to fabric damage.

Over-drying can also lead to shrinkage and fading. I’m not suggesting you never use the dryer again, but line drying seems to be better for your clothing.  What’s more, line drying saves energy. And quarters.

2. Don’t procrastinate on stains

“Once a stain takes on a yellow or brown color, it’s almost a sign of permanent damage,” Steve Boorstein, author of “The Ultimate Guide to Shopping and Caring for Clothing”.

He advises taking immediate action when a stain occurs. It sounds fairly obvious, but it’s easy to forget about a stain, especially if it isn’t terribly noticeable. I’ve found it helpful to carry around a stain-removing pen. I’m a klutz, so it’s come in handy quite a few times.

3. Store it right

It’s common for me to try something on, change my mind, and then put it back in my closet or drawer. Big mistake, Boorstein says.

“While you were prancing around for five minutes changing your mind, you left body oil on it,” he says.

He adds that insects often attack clothing because they smell remnants of food or body oil. Yuck.

He suggests going through your wardrobe each season and pulling out anything that may not be 100 percent clean before storing it.

“Even if you wore it for twenty minutes, a little bit of food could’ve fallen into the sweater. Come next season … maybe there’s a hole in your sweater because there was an insect munching on it,” Boorstein says.

A preventative option Boorstein suggests is leaving an organic insect repellent in your closet or wherever clothing is stored. That should keep your wardrobe from turning into a buffet for bugs.

4. Think before you make your next Christmas list

Of course, you didn’t get to pick the clothes you got for Christmas, but when you’re hitting the after-Christmas sales, it’s important to consider how each piece will fit into your lifestyle.

“Assess your own needs as honestly and clearly as possible, then go shop,” says Boorstein.

Boorstein says most items purchased on a whim don’t get worn very often. Thus, it’s important to think before you shop.

For example, if you live a stressful, active lifestyle — one that may be conducive to sweating — you might want to avoid certain fabrics.

“If you perspire a lot, all it takes is one stressful meeting,” Boorstein says. “A silk blouse — ruined.”

It’s also important to check the maintenance of the item you’re buying. As the late Mitch Hedberg once said, “This shirt is ‘dry-clean only,’ which means it’s dirty.”

When you shop, Boorstein suggests asking the following questions:

  • Does this item fit my lifestyle?
  • Is this a color I’m going to wear?
  • Can this item be easily washed?

What do you do to make your clothing last longer?

{ 8 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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8 Responses to “How to make the clothes you got for Christmas last at least until next year”

  1. Patricia says:

    I agree with the no dryer policy. My mother in law has sweaters for years without fading. She line dries them. Meanwhile, I throw everything in the dryer. After a few wash/dry cycles the clothes are faded and look old. Also, dryers appear to remove a lot of the fabric as well. This is seen as lint in the dryer screen. Now that I am beginning to shop for higher end clothes, I will begin line drying as well.

    • Kristin Wong says:

      I used to dry everything, and I’ve definitely noticed a difference, too. Throwing stuff in the dryer is a little more convenient, but it doesn’t take that much more effort to line dry!

  2. Valerie Rind says:

    Here’s another vote for the no-dryer policy. I have a few indoor drying racks (from Target, Walmart, etc.) and hang dry almost everything except sheet and towels. Avoids shrinkage also. Gee, now I sound like a laundry commercial. 🙂

  3. T says:

    Dryers also tend to make some clothing have a yellow color to it. When I had a house, I used the clothes line. New houses today don’t have them. Too bad- there’s NOTHING like the ‘smell’ of fresh-hung sheets.

  4. Vicky says:

    I agree, using a dryer makes your clothes look old. I guess its a good thing we dont have a dryer now so we are forced to hang our clothes to dry.

  5. Fru-gal Lisa says:

    I, too, shun the dryer. I may put more wrinkled items in for 10 to 15 min. on medium to get the wrinkles out, but that’s all. I have bought the dryer racks very cheaply by getting them at garage sales and thrift stores — whenever I see one there, I buy it. I also have put a second shower curtain rod in my guest bathroom. No curtain, just the rod. I put it over the tub, just slightly more than about half a coathanger’s width from the wall. I hang wet clothes on coathangers and put them on this rack to drip dry — the water goes down the tub drain. Not drying in the clothes dryer has allowed me to wear clothes for decades — they don’t shrink or fade. I update my clothes with trendy accessories, and also mix and match items by pairing them with different slacks, skirts, tops, jackets, etc.

  6. Maxine says:

    I always use the dryer. I normally put my cloths on low heat and let them spin. I did get a shirt this Christmas that has some delicate art work on it. It specifically says not to dry it in a dryer; just line dry it. I was looking for a way to wash it. I could try laying it flat on something.

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