You know you're officially an adult when you don't just start to have nice things, but you worry about maintaining them. And for a lot of us on a budget who don't necessarily have the funds to splurge on new items every time something gets spilled on, tips to keep our clothes looking new are hugely important.
Not only that, but a lot of us just don't have the time or funds (or inclination) to make weekly trips to the dry cleaners to keep our nicer pieces looking fresh and new. Sometimes it's all I can do to make sure I have enough socks and underwear, so needless to say scheduling drop off and pick ups for things like blouses and skirts is pretty much off the table for me most days.
For me, being able to keep my clothes looking new within the comfort of my own home is key for making sure they're well maintained. And I find that doing so definitely saves me money in the long run — not just because I'm avoiding dry cleaning bills, but because my clothes actually just last longer and stay in wearable shape for a lengthier amount of time.
If you're looking for ways to keep your clothes looking their best for as long as humanely possible, look no further: here are seven super manageable tips for keeping clothes looking new.
1. Read Labels!
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. Careful With The 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. Steam Clean
According to the HowStuffWorks Home and Garden section, steam is a "tried and true" sanitizer that is also extremely gentle on your clothes, and it also gets wrinkles out. Unlike washing, drying, and ironing, steam cleaning won't damage even your most delicate of items. I highly recommend investing in an at-home option for yourself if you have clothes that are important for you to maintain.
4. Don't Over-Wash
Did you know that you shouldn't necessarily wash your clothes every time you wear them — especially if you want to maintain them for as long as 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.
5. Carry A Stain Stick
This is a tip years of spilling stuff on my clothes has taught me. The earlier you can catch a stain, the better the odds you'll be able to fully get it out of your clothes. That's why I always carry a Tide stick with me for those times when you won't actually be able to get home and do laundry for hours (or even days when traveling).
6. Fold, Don't Hang Sweaters
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.
7. Use Bluing Agents On Whites
You're probably thinking: What? Blue on white? What!? I know, it sounds crazy. But according to Lauren Hill, founder of the laundry tip side Mama's Laundry Talk, using bleach on white to make them lighter can actually yellow them over time. And using simple color theory, this means they often need a bluing agent to restore them to their original bright whiteness. If you've been noticing your whites yellowing over time, this is definitely worth a try before you give up on them altogether.
Keeping your clothes well-maintained doesn't have to be a whole to-do. It's usually about small steps along the way that will add up to keeping them fresh and bright overall. Because nothing looks and feels better than well-maintained clothes!