I recently did the summer-to-winter wardrobe change-out, only to discover that my most beloved sweater — the nicest thing I own — had been destroyed by moths. After a lot of expletives, I decided that it was time to finally learn how to take care of my clothes to make them last.
I have always been vaguely aware that things like moth balls and “dry clean only” tags existed for a reason, but it truthfully wasn’t until something I genuinely liked got ruined that it actually hit home, and for the first time I understood why my mother used to get so incredibly mad at me for throwing my clothes on the floor and lectured about seemingly boring things like the proper way to wash wool. There’s just nothing quite like seeing something you spent your own hard-earned money on getting destroyed to really incentivize you to take care of your stuff (sorry, mom).
This, combined with the fact that I only recently started being able to buy nice things occasionally (not just the regular old cotton and polyester blends I've bought for so long), meant I didn't actually have a ton of experience keeping my nice things nice.
If you're also reaching the stage in life when you actually have a few nicer items of clothing — or have just seen one too many pieces destroyed by negligence — here are eight tips for maintaining your clothes that should help.
1. Pay Attention To Laundering Instructions
According to style expert Jacqueline Curtis in a piece for Money Crashers, paying attention to laundering instructions is probably one of the single most important things you can do when trying to maintain your clothes over time. "That tag found on the neck or down the side seam of your shirt is not for decoration: It gives you a garment’s laundering instructions, which are designed to ensure that it stays in great shape," Curtis said.
She went on to note that, "If you know you hate hand-washing and line-drying, avoid buying clothes that require special care. You’d be better off spending your money on sturdier items [...]. Even if it’s a steal, a piece that requires dry cleaning could cost more in the long run – especially if you choose to ignore care instructions and end up ruining it."
2. Know Your Iron
Curtis also suggested that you become familiar with your iron and which heat levels are appropriate for different fabric types. "When you iron, you’re using heat to loosen fabric fibers and press them flat. Unfortunately, there’s also a good chance you can end up burning or yellowing the fabric if you’re not doing it properly. Using too much heat on delicate fabrics can completely ruin them, so make sure you always use the right heat level for the type of fabric you’re ironing," Curtis stressed.
3. Invest In A Steamer
Steam-cleaning is a gentler alternative to ironing, so if you're really concerned with maintaining the long-term integrity of your clothing it may be a good idea to invest in an at-home steam cleaner. Personal stylist Lindsay Weiner from Style Me ASAP shows you how to properly steam a garment in the above how-to video.
4. Wash Clothes Before Storing Them
Senior Editor at StyleCaster Perrie Samotin recommended washing all winter garments before storing them, as moths are attracted to our every day scents, like perfume, food, and deodorant. And trust me — you do not want moths!
5. Invest In Cedar-Scented Closet Accessories
This is another moth-prevention tip (moths tend to be attracted to material like cashmere and wool, so your nicer pieces are usually the ones most at risk). Samotin recommended placing cedar-scented hangers and blocks in closets and drawers, since moths are repelled by the scent.
6. Air Dry Clothes Whenever Possible
A piece on GarmetCare.info specifically about ensuring long life for your clothing suggested air drying clothes whenever possible, as the dryer causes wear and tear with each use, even when on a gentler setting. Just make sure to lie sweaters flat when wet and be careful that they don't lose their shape.
7. Take Care Of Stains ASAP
The same piece stressed the importance of not letting stains sit for hours, as the longer they are on your clothes, the less likely you'll be able to get them out. So even if you come home exhausted after a night out, try to take care of that red wine stain on a favorite blouse or dress before collapsing into bed.
8. Fold, Don't Hang!
A piece on the J-Crew tumblr about proper cashmere care reminded us to always fold sweaters as opposed to hanging them in order to maintain their shape. This is super helpful advise for any garment that can easily get stretch out.
There's no reason to that your most quality clothes shouldn't last you many years. Just make sure you know some maintenance basics and don't purchase anything you know ahead of time you won't treat right!