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How to Make Your Clothes Last

One of the most effective methods of reducing the demand for clothes — an eco-friendly goal that decreases the need to manufacture new clothing, which saves energy and resources — is to keep all the items currently in your closet in circulation as long as you can. Tips to extend the life of your clothes include:

  • Wash clothes only when you need to, and line- or air-dry rather than using a clothes dryer, which can shrink, stretch, or damage fabric (not to mention the electricity it guzzles!).

  • Pay attention to labels that say to wash clothing inside out — it generally protects the fabric.

  • Use cold water washes with detergent designed to work in cold water in order to help retain the shape and color of your clothes, especially those made from cotton.

  • Pretreat stains immediately for best results.

  • Refresh worn collars by carefully removing the collar, turning it around, and sewing it back on.

  • Use patches either on top of or behind holes in your clothes to extend the life of the garment. Sew-on patches are much more dependable and durable than iron-on patches, but either type gets the job done.

  • Reconstruct your clothes. For those with a smidgen of crafty, sewing, or artistic talents, it’s possible to take tired clothes and turn them into something unique and unforgettable. Some of the techniques are super-simple, like cutting off the sleeves off a T-shirt or converting long pants into capris or shorts (especially good for kids who get holes in the knees).

    Turning a sweater into a wrap is just one way to repurpose clothes.
    Turning a sweater into a wrap is just one way to repurpose clothes.

Don’t throw anything out before you’ve gotten every ounce of wear out of it by fixing it, recreating it, and reusing it. When you’ve exhausted all possibilities, think about whether it’s still fit for someone else to wear or whether it can be recycled, if not as clothing then as something else.

By following green living principles throughout the life cycle of your clothes, you’re doing the most important thing: reducing the amount of clothing you buy in the first place. And that reduces the amount that has to be produced.

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