Six Simple Steps for Making Your Clothes Last

By Eva Lewandowski

Recently, a conversation with some of my coworkers turned to darning, and I was surprised to learn that I was the only person present that routinely darned my socks.  Someone commented that socks were so easy to replace that darning was a waste of time.  Actually, darning socks is quick and simple.  Rather than spending money and using our natural resources to make new clothing when I don’t really need it, I try to make my clothes last as long as possible.

Here are six of the easy things I do to make all my clothes last (and yes, darning socks is the first step):

  1. Darn your socks.  If you can thread a needle and make even the most basic of stitches, you can darn your socks.  The key is to darn the socks before they actually have holes; instead, do it when they are starting to wear thin.  Reinforcing the heel or toe will make your socks last much longer, and you won’t have the lumps you sometimes get when closing up an actual hole.  Use yarn for your heavy winter socks and crochet thread for lighter socks.
  2. Hem your pants.  Pants that are too long quickly get frayed at the cuffs or stained from dragging on the ground.  Avoiding this is easy because hemming a pair of pants is extremely simple.  You can do it in minutes by hand, with a sewing machine, or even with special products like hemming tape.
  3. Keep your pants safe from winter weather.  While a properly hemmed pair of pants won’t drag on the ground, that won’t help much if you’re wading through a foot of snow or being splashed by cars driving through slushy puddles.  If your boots are tall enough, tuck your pants into them when heading outdoors.  If that isn’t an option, consider leg warmers or snow pants to cover up your nicer outfits.
  4. Don’t over-wash your clothes.  Most articles of clothing do not have to be washed every time you wear them.  This is especially true of outer layers like sweaters, that don’t touch your skin.  If you wash clothes only when they are actually dirty, they’ll last a lot longer.
  5. Don’t use a dryer.  The heat and tumbling action in a dryer can weaken the fiber in your clothes and even fade colors.  Instead, get some drying racks or a clothesline to use in your yard or inside your home.
  6. Wash your delicates with care.  Undergarments, silk scarves, blouses with lace, and other delicates can be easily damaged in washing machine.  Some washing machines have a delicates cycle, but other do not.  Consider washing fragile items by hand or in a mesh delicates laundry bag.  Doing so will prevent them from being snagged, torn, or stretched out of shape.
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