You could save hundreds this year

9 Ways to Extend the Life of Clothing

by Amy Robleski

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The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes each year. Much of that money could be saved by taking proper care of clothing to make it last longer. Use these tips to get more wear out of your clothes.

Wash Clothes for Longevity

1. Don't wash your clothes too often. The washing machine and dryer can wear clothes out prematurely. Clothing that sits close to your skin like socks, underwear, t-shirts, and leggings should be washed after every wearing. Other items don't need to be washed as often if they're not soiled. Wash pants and jeans after three or four wears. Sweaters can be worn twice with an undershirt before they're washed. Blazers can be worn about four times, and pajamas can be worn at least twice.

2. Wash most of your clothing in cold water. It's better for the environment, cheaper, and less damaging to your clothes.

3. Line dry clothing as often as possible. Dryer lint is actually tiny fibers of your clothing that are lost each time you dry. If you have allergies or the weather is bad, try to rig a clothesline indoors in a basement or kitchen. If you live in an apartment, use a drying rack or hang clothes in the shower.

Remove or Camouflage Stains

4. Treat stains as soon as possible, so they don't set. Simply dabbing with water and a paper towel will work in many cases.

5. Make yourself a cheat sheet with ways to remove common stains. For example, remove ink by spraying the stain with hairspray and then blotting it with a paper towel. For greasy stains, scrub with blue Dawn® dish soap and a toothbrush. For blood stains, soak the garment in cold water with salt. Remove grass stains with vinegar.

6. If it's not possible to remove a stain, you'll need to get a little creative. A stained t-shirt, particularly a child's t-shirt, would look cute tie-dyed or dyed the color of the stain. An iron-on or patch can cover a stain. Stains on black clothing can sometimes be covered up with a Sharpie marker. If the stain is on a dress, it may be possible to use a brooch or belt to cover it up.

Mend or Upcycle

7. If you don't know how to sew on buttons, ask a friend or relative to teach you this valuable skill. Keep a box of buttons on hand. Save the buttons you get with new clothing and buy them at thrift stores or estate sales. If you don't have a button to match the others, replace them all.

8. Learn how to make other basic repairs, like sewing a fallen hem. If clothing rips on a seam, it's easy to hand- or machine-sew. When clothes wear holes in them, you can repair them using an iron-on or sewn patch.

Related: 7 Simple Clothing Fixes You Can Do

9. If clothes can't be repaired, turn them into something else. For example, if your pants get holes in the knees that are too large for a patch, make them into shorts. Cut them slightly longer than you'd like and then sew a simple hem using a sewing machine or by hand. Borrow a sewing machine if you don't own one. This works particularly well for children who outgrow the length of their pants but not the waist. Make a long-sleeved shirt with frayed cuffs into a short-sleeved shirt by cutting and hemming. Start thinking of clothing as fabric and you will see endless possibilities.

If you try these simple tips, you'll hang on to your clothes for longer, and you'll save more of your money.

Reviewed January 2018

Take the Next Step:

  • If your clothes require dry cleaning, it can get expensive. Try these dry cleaning alternatives and take care of your clothing for less.
  • Spend less time and money doing your laundry. The Dollar Stretcher Frugal Laundry Guide can help you do both.
  • Do you keep your finances as clean as your laundry? If debt has stained your budget, our free Get Out of Debt Course can provide you with the tools you need to clean up your finances.
  • Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!

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