Guest blogger Michelle Yao shares a step-by-step guide to finally doing your laundry while extending your wardrobe’s lifespan.
Building and maintaining a wardrobe takes time and effort, and clothing is a major investment for all of us. I am a very careful shopper, and I try to buy well-made clothing that is stylish but classic – clothing that will be wearable for a long time. I think I have developed and practised methods that will help keep my wardrobe beautiful without massive cleaning bills.
Careful washing for cottons, linens and even wool and cashmere sweaters is essential. Drying clothes on a rack, towel, or clothesline instead of throwing everything in the dryer will keep fabrics from aging prematurely. Spot-cleaning small stains or smudges on clothes will lessen trips to the dry cleaner. And steaming suits, dresses, and slacks after wearing will keep them ready for a trip, a meeting or a dinner date.
What’s more, if your clothes are maintained in a careful way, you can dress, pack or change much more quickly, efficiently and cheaply. I am most pleased that I have kept fine clothes looking almost unworn for years. And it is such a good feeling when I put on something from seven or 10 years ago and get compliments like “When did you get that fabulous jacket?” I love being able to say, “Oh, years ago!”
Establish a great clothes-keeping routine and see how a little extra care can go a long way toward helping your wardrobe stay in excellent condition.
Use a steamer to refresh your clothes and release wrinkles. The steam plumps up fibres rather than flattening them, so it’s gentler than ironing. (To remove tough wrinkles or get a crisp crease, you still need to iron.) It’s also faster, can be used on virtually any fabric, and will limit trips to the dry cleaner, which is particularly hard on clothes. Here’s what I do with garments, especially structured ones, at the end of the day:
- Remove lint: Use an adhesive roller to pick up any lint or pet hair.
- Spot-clean: Dab with a barely damp cloth to remove any visible dirt.
- Steam: Run a steamer along the garment in an up-and-down motion.
Sorting and prepping
Don’t skip this step – it’s important to wash like things together to prevent damage and get clothes their cleanest. Sorting properly means you can use the best cycle for each particular garment.
Most people sort into the two categories of lights and darks, which is certainly good and necessary. But further sorting is even better. Separate heavy fabrics, like denim (which can be very abrasive), from more delicate ones, and very dirty clothes from lightly soiled pieces. Wash towels and sheets on their own.
Before you wash
Zip zippers, tie drawstrings, and empty pockets. Treat any stains. If clothes need mending, do it before washing them. If you’re not hand-washing delicates, put them in a mesh bag.
And check new items for colourfastness: dampen a discreet spot, then blot it with a white cloth to see if dye bleeds. If it does, wash the item on its own until the colour stops running (include an old white sock in the wash to check).
Use the gentlest cycle and coolest temperature that will get your clothes clean. (A short cycle may be fine for most items, though gardening gear or children’s play clothes, for example, may require a prewash or heavy-duty cycle.)
Don’t overload the washing machine or add more detergent than the packaging calls for – it may not rinse out thoroughly. I wash my white towels and linens in hot water, but everything else is done in warm or cold. Always check stains when clothes come out of the washer; if they’re not gone, treat them and wash again.
It is best to air-dry almost everything – it’s easier on clothes and saves energy too. It is especially important for delicate items and those that stretch, such as yoga and gym clothes, to help them keep their shape.
If you do tumble-dry your clothes, do not overload the dryer or over-dry the fabrics. Take the clothes out when they are just barely damp, and fold or hang them right away to prevent wrinkles.
If line-drying, hanging white clothes outside in the sun can help keep them bright. However, dark items are best hung up to dry indoors to keep the colours from fading.
This article was written for Again Magazine, created by students from the MA Fashion Journalism course at the London College of Fashion and inspired by the ethos of Love Your Clothes.