Cleaning clothes: 4 secrets to keeping your clothes looking good and lasting longer

Keep your clothes lasting longer and looking fresher with these tips.

Cleaning clothes: 4 secrets to keeping your clothes looking good and lasting longer

1. Don't wash clothes unnecessarily

Many people believe that you should wash a garment every time you wear it. But that's a waste of effort and detergent. When you get home from work, change into your T-shirt and jeans, then evaluate your work duds before you toss them into the hamper. If your clothing passes this five-point check, you can put it on a hanger, air it out for two hours, then return it to your closet:

  • Does it need repair? Any rips, missing buttons, falling hems or broken zippers?
  • Does it need a dry cleaner's care? Tough stains, particularly oily ones, should be taken to the dry cleaner within a day. If you wait weeks, your odds of getting the stain out are reduced dramatically.
  • Does it need to be laundered? If the garment shows any of the routine smudges and dirt that come out in the wash, drop it into the hamper.
  • Does it pass the sniff test? Yes, brace yourself and sniff the armpit of that shirt.
  • Does your body need to be washed? If the answer is yes, then chances are the clothes that were hanging on that body need to be washed too.

2. Lighten up on laundering and soap

Detergent companies don't want you to know this, but most of us are chronically overwashing our clothing. We're wasting time, money and detergent — and we're wearing out our clothes faster. In reality, most clothing only needs a touch of spiffing up.

Do your regular wash using half the package-recommended amount of detergent and set the washing machine at the lightest setting. When you have clothes that are truly filthy, use the full measure of detergent and a longer setting.

3. Ease up on the laundry extras

Household product manufacturers try to sell us all kinds of special washing aids, but clothes don't really need those dryer sheets and that fabric softener. The fabled "static cling" is not as horrible as the TV commercials will have you believe.

If you do encounter garments that cling to each other because of static electricity, just dampen your hands and brush them across the material to kill the electrical charge. Towels will absorb water better if they are not doused in fabric softener; cleaning cloths work better without softener too.

4. Determine how clean your dry cleaner's facility really is

If your clothes come back from the dry cleaner with a funky odour, your first move should be to take off the plastic covering and hang them up in the open — preferably outside on the back porch. There are two possible reasons for this odour: one possibility is that the cleaner didn't dry all of the solvent out of your clothes, which is not a big deal. It will evaporate now.

The other possible reason is that the impurities weren't filtered out of the dry-cleaning solvent and you have dirt from someone else's clothes stinking up your garment — yuck! So let your clothes hang in the open for two hours, then give them the sniff test. If they're still stinky after a couple of hours, your problem is with impurities, not solvent. Go to another dry cleaner.

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