Most of us know the pain of those perfect black jeans fading to grey, or that crisp white shirt turning into a dingy rag not fit for the charity shop. If you’re wondering how to keep clothes looking new for as long as possible, you’re in the right place.
How to make clothes last longer: our top tips
Buy quality clothes
You don’t need to buy designer, but you do need to buy quality. Inspect a garment before you buy it. Is the material decent quality? Does the stitching look OK? Do the seams look like they’ll cope with a few washes? If the answer is ‘nope’, walk away. Buying online? Check out the store’s reviews before you order.
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Get changed when you get home
If you wear smart clothes for work, get changed into PJs or leisure wear as soon as you get home. It’ll save wear and tear on your work clothes, reduce the risk of food stains and you’ll be comfier. So it’s a win-win all round.
Be careful with lotions and potions
Perfume, suntan lotion, fake tan and body cream can all stain clothes or leave greasy marks. So be careful when you use them. Ideally, wait for them to fully dry before you get dressed (and don’t let fake tan anywhere near your new clothes).
Don’t over-wash your clothes
Before throwing clothes in the laundry basket, hit the pause button to check whether they really need washing.
Pants, socks and gym clothes need washing after every wear. General day-to-day clothes, like T-shirts, skirts and trousers, can usually be worn at least two or three times before being washed.
Jeans, jumpers and jackets can be worn several times before they see the washing machine.
As a general rule, if it’s dirty, stained or really smells, it probably needs washing. Otherwise, hang it up or fold it away for another day. If you’re worried about your clothes smelling, keep an area of your wardrobe for already worn clothes and do the sniff test before you put them on again.
Air your washing out between wears
Clothes smelling a bit fusty? Try hanging them outside for a couple of hours. That’ll usually freshen them up without you having to wash them.
Treat stains straight away
If you spill something on your clothes, deal with the mess as quickly as possible. Leaving a stain to dry usually makes it much harder to get rid of, which means you’ll need to resort to harsher detergent or a hotter wash. You’ll find advice on Cleanipedia about treating everything from blood stains to curry stains, and you can find our full guide to stain removal here.
Wash sets together
Matching items (eg a tracksuit top and bottoms) need to be washed or dry cleaned the same amount of times. Otherwise, you risk ending up with part of the set being slightly lighter than the rest. Wondering how to wash bright coloured clothes to reduce fading? We’ll be coming on to that in just a minute...
Keep your washing machine clean
Quite how a machine for cleaning can get so dirty is anyone’s guess, but it sure does. Make sure you clean the filter regularly to avoid bad odours. You might also want to put your machine on for a hot wash when it’s empty, using a descaling tablet or white vinegar to help break down limescale we’ve got some top tips for how to clean your washing machine right here.
Spilled something on your shirt half an hour after putting it on? Try spot cleaning it rather than washing the whole thing. If that doesn’t work, make sure you follow our laundry tips below.
Washing clothes without damaging them
First things first, check the care label on each garment
If the care label says hand wash or dry clean only, don’t be tempted to bung the garment into the machine. And remember that the temperature on the care label is the maximum recommended temperature to wash at. Your new top may survive being washed at 60 degrees but be better off washed at 30.
Separate your washing into whites, darks and mixed
This will help stop any dye that runs off coloured clothes being picked up by the lighter items.
Turn your clothes inside out
It’ll protect the outside from rubbing against other clothes and prevent beading or embroidery from snagging.
Close zips and fasten buttons
It’ll help to avoid them damaging other items.
Use a mesh laundry bag
Put delicate items, such as underwear, in a mesh laundry bag or knotted pillowcase. It’ll help to stop them being damaged by other garments.
Choose a gentler spin cycle
While towels and bed linen benefit from a high spin cycle, your favourite top probably won’t need it.
Use the right detergent
Biological detergents use enzymes to break down stains at lower temperatures. They’re great for robust clothes like jeans but can be too harsh on wool and silk, so use a non-bio or specialist detergent for your delicates.
Some detergents contain optical brighteners to stop your whites from going grey. Colour care products (like Persil Colour Protect) don’t contain these brighteners as they’re designed to help prevent fading.
Add some fabric conditioner
Fabric conditioner isn’t just there to smell nice; it also smoothes fibres to reduce friction, so it can help to keep clothes looking better for longer. Fabric conditioner isn’t recommended for all fabrics though, so do check the care label first.
Use a colour catcher sheet
Ideally, pop a colour catcher sheet in the washing machine with any bright or patterned clothes. It’ll help to catch any runaway dye so that the rest of the load doesn’t get discoloured.
Turn the temperature down
Wash dark and coloured clothes on as cool a setting as you can. In most cases, this will be 30 degrees, but heavily stained items might need a hotter wash. The warmer the water is, the more likely it is that the colour will run, which is a one way ticket to faded clothes. Plus, hotter water can damage both synthetic and natural fibres, leading to bobbling and stretching.
Don’t overload your machine
We know it’s tempting to stuff as much in your machine as possible. However, if clothes don’t have enough space to move they won’t get as clean and are more likely to rub against each other and get damaged. Favourite top + friction = a lot of swearing.
If in doubt, hand wash
Hand washing clothes helps to keep them looking their best for longer.
Drying your clothes safely
You might think that learning how to keep clothes looking new is all about what happens in the washing machine, but what you do afterwards is almost as important.
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.
Don’t over-dry clothes
If you must tumble dry, use a cooler setting for synthetics and delicates and try to take the clothes out before they’re bone dry. Over-drying can shrink clothes. Hang them on an airer to finish drying before you put them away.
Beware of sunlight
There are few fragrances nicer than line dried cotton. However, sun can really fade clothes. So you might want to dry your favourite bright and dark clothes inside on an airer. (On the plus side, you can use the power of the sun to keep whites from going dingy and to ‘bleach’ out stains naturally.)
The best way to store your clothes
Make sure your clothes are completely dry
If they’re even slightly damp when you put them away, they could end up smelling musty or even attract mildew or mould.
Use wider hangers
It doesn’t matter whether they’re plastic or wooden, wider hangers help the air to circulate and reduce the pressure on your clothes. For delicate clothes like silk dresses, invest in padded hangers.
Give your clothes space to breathe
If your drawers are stuffed and your wardrobe is rammed, air can’t circulate. As a result, your clothes could start to smell musty and they’re more likely to get creased.
Keep clothes out of direct sunlight
If you have a hanging rail, rather than a wardrobe, make sure it’s out of direct sunlight to reduce the chance of your clothes fading.
Clean clothes before storing them long-term
If you’re planning to store clothes for a few months (eg winter woollies over summer), make sure they’re clean before you pack them away. Otherwise, you risk attracting moths or growing mould.
How to keep clothes looking new: your questions answered
How can I remove stains without fading my clothes?
When it comes to stain removal, speed is of the essence. That and using the right treatment for the stain. Read more in our stain removal guide.
How do I stop my clothes from bobbling?
Hot water, long wash cycles and overloaded washing machines can all lead to bobbled clothes. You’ll find lots of advice on avoiding bobbling here.
How should I wash multi-coloured clothes?
Patterned clothes that have both coloured and white areas are best washed separately from white or dark loads.
Usually, the coloured fabric has been treated to prevent colour-run, but it’s always best to wash these types of clothes on a cooler setting.
Ideally, use a colour catcher sheet to help prevent any dye transferring onto lighter sections. And give brand new clothes a good rinse before washing them in a machine with anything else.
How do I stop my clothes from fading?
Wondering how to keep coloured clothes bright? Or how to stop your black clothes from fading to grey? There are two main culprits when it comes to fading – hot water and sunlight. Check out our full guide to washing dark clothes here.
How do I care for sportswear?
Sportswear and gym clothes can be tricky to look after because they’re often made of Lycra or similar synthetic materials. These fabrics can act like a sponge, trapping bad odours in the fibres and releasing the smell when the fabric warms up next to your skin.
Unfortunately, washing sportswear at high temperatures can lead to reduced elasticity. Cue saggy leggings.
To help keep your gym gear looking good and smelling fresh, wash them as soon as possible after you’ve worn them, and use a cool cycle, never more than 40 degrees.
Is fabric conditioner bad for clothes?
Fabric conditioner acts as a lubricant to reduce friction, so it can actually prevent damage. That said, fabric conditioner isn’t suitable for all material. It can leave marks on silky fabrics and reduce the absorbency of some types of material, so do check care labels before you add it to a wash.
Help! I keep ruining clothes when I iron them
Use the coolest setting that works. If your clothes have transfer prints on them, always iron on the reverse. Read other top ironing tips here.
Why do my clothes wear out so quickly?
In most cases, it’s because they’re getting damaged in the wash. See our laundry tips above.
Sometimes though, it might be the fault of the manufacturer. We’ve all had clothes shrink, fade or bobble too quickly, despite treating them with care. It’s worth asking for a refund if that’s the case.
How do I get my clothes white again?
Try hanging them in sunlight, as sun can have a natural bleaching effect. You can also find lots of tips on removing stains and discolouration from white clothes here.
What can I do with old clothes?
If your clothes are beyond saving, why not upcycle them?