How to keep clothes looking new

If you’ve got a favourite outfit or treated yourself to some more expensive clothes, you want them to last. Our experts offer their top tips on how to keep clothes looking new and explain the science behind your clothes’ condition.


Clothes in and around a washing machine

When you have that classic wardrobe, you don’t want your outfits to age. Find out how to help stop your clothes from fading, bobbling or showing other signs of wear with our clothing care tips.

How to maintain your clothes

We’ve outlined a few simple ways to keep your clothes looking good - and explained why these tips work:

Remember to turn your clothes inside out. This protects the outside from rubbing against other clothes and the side of the drum, helping to prevent colour and fabric damage. Also remember to close zips and buttons to avoid them snagging on other items.

Read the care labels carefully and separate your clothes into different loads based on the instructions – especially white and dark-coloured clothes. This will help stop any dyes that come off the dark clothes being picked up by the lighter items.

The colour fastness of the dye depends not just on the dye chemistry, but also on how the fabric has been dyed. If the dye on the fabric is unfixed, or it hasn’t been washed off enough after the dying, there is sometimes loose dye on the fabric surface. This can easily wash off and transfer onto other garments in the load the first few times the garment is washed.

Use the right wash cycle. You may consider washing your clothes at a cool temperature like 30C and on a quick wash. If garments like synthetic fabrics and sportswear are washed too hot, the fibres will go above their ‘glass transition’ temperature. This means that the hard solid fibres become soft, flexible and rubbery - and are more prone to damage. Heat can also cause some fibres to swell; this can result in dyes being released as well as shrinkage because the stresses in the fabrics relax.

Air-dry your clothes wherever possible. The heat and physical action of the tumble dryer can damage your clothes and make them age much faster.  If you must tumble-dry your sportswear, do it on a cool setting - otherwise the fibres may soften and deform, losing any surface textures formed during manufacture. This means you could be left with shiny, heat-damaged leggings!

Put your clothes on a hanger straight from the machine or tumble dryer to help reduce creasing.  Gravity causes the creases to drop out and by hanging up smooth they won’t get ‘frozen in’ by the hydrogen bonds that form as the fabrics dry. Iron on the inside to avoid damaging transfers or prints.

Make sure you use the right detergent for your garments. Biological detergents like Persil contain enzymes which act to break down stains such as proteins or lipids – and work effectively even at lower temperatures. This means you can get great cleaning at lower temperatures whilst also caring for your clothes. However, wool or silk products should never be washed with a biological product as the enzymes can act on the fibres, so choose non-bio or a specialist product.

Many detergents contain optical brighteners to stop your whites from going grey. These technologies absorb light and then transmit it to make whites appear brighter to the human eye. Colour care products don’t contain optical brighteners to help maintain the original hue of your coloured items.

Use a fabric conditioner like Comfort. This freshens your clothes, smooths fibres and reduces friction to make fabrics feel soft. It also helps to protects fibres from wet and dry abrasion which can cause bobbling and colour fading.

Work quickly when you find a stain, as these age clothes quickly. If you let the stain dry, this can set the stain into the fabric. Blotting the stain with water and then rubbing with detergent is a good start. We have a range of advice on Cleanipedia on how to treat every stain – from blood stains to curry stains.

How to keep sportswear in good condition

Sportswear and gym clothes can be tricky to look after properly because they’re often made of Lycra or similar, which has different behaviours to other fabrics. Lycra acts like a sponge to bad odours and is hydrophobic so that they stick. When the fabrics become warm when you wear them, the fabrics release the bad odours again. However, you can help keep your gym gear looking fresh by following a few simple tips:

  • Put the clothes in the wash as soon as possible to avoid the fibres absorbing bad smells.
  • Separate sportwear from the rest of your clothes and wash on a cool cycle – never more than 40C. If you wash too hot, then the fibres can be taken over their glass transition temperatures which makes them soft and prone to damage.
  • Limescale build-up on fabrics, which often occurs in areas with hard water, makes the fabrics harsh and lose their elasticity. To reduce this, you could try a liquid detergent that’s designed for sportswear.

Is fabric conditioner bad for clothes?

No! In fact, fabric conditioner protects fabrics during washing and acts as a lubricant to reduce friction, therefore reducing damage. This results in longer lasting colours, greater shape retention, and reduced fibre damage.

Originally published