Last summer one of my closest friends got married. Her ceremony took place outdoors in the forest, so I wanted a pretty, yet versatile dress I could wear on multiple occasions, and I found it. It was almost like this dress and I were meant to be. It was the perfect emerald green, which is a blonde’s best friend, and it fit me perfectly. I had visions of this dress and I doing so much together. Dates. Travel. Sunday brunches. We were meant to be.
Unfortunately, I am prone to spills and managed to get a lovely combination of wine and gravy on my dress during the wedding reception. I wasn’t worried though because what made my perfect dress even more perfect was the fact that it was machine washable. So I popped it into the washer and then the dryer only to be met with a muted version of the emerald green I fell for when I first saw the dress, complete with muted wine and gravy stains.
We’ve all been there. Whether it’s your whites turning a lovely shade of grey or yellow, your blacks turning to dark grey, that stain in your jeans staying put no matter what, or your favourite dress ending up such a disappointing shade of green it’s relegated to the back of your closet, keeping your clothes looking new seems to be a difficult task. The good news is that it doesn’t need to be. I did some research after my dress fiasco, and want to share some tips on how you can keep your clothes looking new for as long as possible.
Read your labels
This tip may not be rocket science for most people, but it is absolutely imperative that you follow the care instructions on your clothing labels. A lot of people (ahem, me) will try and speed up the time involved with doing laundry by tossing as much as possible into one load, regardless of the variations of care indicated on the labels. Don’t do this. Care instructions aren’t arbitrary, but are specific to the garment and meant to be followed so your clothes stay looking their best.
In addition to following care labels, it’s important to read the directions on your laundry detergent, especially the quantity needed. If you use too much, you may get too many suds that the rinse cycle can’t get rid of, which translates into soap residue. It’s also important to use the right kind of detergent–gentle detergents for delicates, and regular detergents for sturdier items.
Say yes to cold water
I’ve always equated hot water to a better clean, but as it turns out, hot water wears out fabrics quicker than cold water. So wash the majority of your clothes, especially your bright coloured clothes, in cold water and save hot water washes for really dirty loads like sports uniforms, towels and sheets, or gardening clothes. Even if the label on your clothing says to wash in hot water, washing in cold won’t do any damage. Your clothes will be just as clean and their threads will stay strong for longer. Conversely, if the label says to wash in cold water and you wash in hot, that could be disastrous.
Wash clothes inside out
No one looks at the inside of your clothing, so to protect the most important part–the outside–wash your clothes inside out. It might not seem like much, but turning your clothes inside out before you toss them in the washing machine can keep coloured items from fading since they aren’t directly exposed to detergent, and can also reduce the chances of embellishments like beads and sequins, as well as zippers and buttons from getting snagged on other clothes and subsequently stretched out beyond the point of recognition.
Treat stains right away
Had I known this, I may have salvaged my perfect green dress, but if treated right away, most spills won’t become stains that are impossible to remove. All you need to do is use a stain removal product as soon as possible, and in most cases that spill shouldn’t become a stain.
A few words of caution though: first, read the directions before you apply the product to your stain. Even if you’ve used the product in the past, it might not be suitable for the kind of fabric you’re treating, or the kind of stain. Second, test a small innocuous part of your garment before you apply the product directly to the stain to make sure it won’t create a worse mess. Lastly, when treating a stain, do so from the back of the fabric as this will force the stain off the surface instead of driving it into the fabric.
It’s also important to note that hot water will set some stains, so use cold (or warm) water when washing your stained garments.
Air-dry whenever possible
You might think that air-drying your clothes is an archaic convention or something you only see New York apartment dwellers do in the movies, but as it turns out the heat of electric dryers can cause damage to fabric over time. They can also cause shrinkage, colour fading, and weaken the material fibers (aka, stretched and ill fitting clothes). Instead, whenever possible, especially for your delicate or favourite pieces of clothing, line dry them outside, or indoors using a drying rack like this one from Honey-Can-Do. You can also hang your clothing on hangers on your shower rod, which is something that I do for all my jeans and long sleeve shirts. As a tall individual, I can’t risk these items ever shrinking! If you simply can’t air-dry, then use the lowest temperature setting on your dryer.
Invest in a front-loading washing machine
Last but not least, the type of washing machine you use will directly impact the longevity of your clothes. To keep them looking new for as long as possible, invest in a front-loading washer like this high efficiency one from LG. Unlike top-load machines, which have an agitator inside that pulls your clothes around to get them clean, the benefit of front-load washing machines is that it relies on gravity to tumble your clothes in and out of the water, much like the motion of a clothes dryer. This tumbling motion is much more gentle on your clothes and helps prevent snags and tangling.
With these few tips and tricks, your favourite clothes should stay looking new for a very long time. Happy laundry!
Check out the full range of washing machines available at Best Buy.
Main image from New Mexico State University
Care instructions from Persil
Cold water from Allconnect Connected
Jeans from Laundry Bubble
Grass stain from Flickr