Over the years of sharing my personal style and clothing, I’ve received a few questions about how I care for my clothes – how often do I wash an item? Do I put everything in the dryer? Do I actually follow the wash instructions on the label of an article of clothing? I’ve come to find that taking a few extra steps in treating my items with care is well worth the time investment that I put in! I’m sure all of us have had the experience of tossing a shirt in the dryer, running it, and then pulling out a shirt that’s about 4 sizes smaller than it was just an hour ago. When you ruin a piece of clothing in the wash, it’s like lighting your money on fire – not good!
I’m certainly not a wash/clothing care expert, but I’ve found there are a few things that I can do to extend the life of an item and maintain the integrity of it! It’s worth mentioning that some items, no matter how well you care for them, may not hold up. In my experience, lower price point pieces can be a bit harder to keep in good condition because they tend to be lower quality. Alternatively, higher price point pieces can require much more maintenance and feel like a burden to care for! I’m spilling the details on everything from how often I wash things to my favorite way to get wrinkles out.
With most items in my closet, I wear them a couple times before I wash them. Some of you are horrified by that, so let me explain first! First, I work from home, so a lot of my clothes are just worn around our house. Second, because I work from home, if I do get dressed to go out of the house, I’m typically only wearing those clothes for a few hours. I’m the kind of person that has to change into comfortable clothes nearly as soon as I walk in the door, so I’m not lounging around the house in my outfit I went out to dinner in. Because of that, I may only wear a top for two hours – it hasn’t been soiled in any way and can just go back up in my closet. Third, and hopefully the most obvious, if a piece of clothing is clearly soiled – a stain, sweat, smell, etc. – it goes right into the dirty clothes pile.
My general rule of thumb for laundering clothes*:
Tops: after 2-3 wears
Jeans: after 5-10 wears
*assuming there isn’t an obvious need for it to be washed!
I wear my jeans a lot more times before washing than I do tops. Again, I’m not often wearing jeans for long, so they don’t have a ton of opportunities to get really dirty, and by stretching the time between washes, I’m increasing the longevity of them!
Wash and Dry Settings
For nearly everything in my closet that goes into the machine, I wash with cold water. Additionally, if I’m hand-washing an item in the tub, I wash using cold water. I wash towels or heavily soiled clothes with warm, but that’s about it! If I have knitwear, underwear, or other more delicate fabrics in the load, I will wash on the gentle cycle. Regular tees, jeans, leggings, etc. get washed on the regular cycle on my machine.
If I’m machine drying my clothes, I do medium-low heat for however long I think it will take. Items like 100% cotton pieces, delicate fabrics, like knitwear or synthetic blends, and all of my jeans, are hung to dry. We have a spot outside our laundry area in our basement that I can hang them all up, so it’s easy! Once they’re dry, I toss them in the dryer with a damp washcloth and run it on low heat for about 10-15 minutes to steam them a bit and soften them up (they tend to get a little crispy when they air-dry).
My rule of thumb: when in doubt, wash on cold/gentle and hang to dry
For pieces that need hand-washing (according to wash instructions on the tag), I fill up our bathtub with some cold water and a bit of detergent and gently “jostle” the piece around, mimicking the machine. I then empty the tub and run the piece under cold water, allowing all of the detergent to rinse out of it. I will gently squeeze excess water out (not wring!)
I don’t have a particularly favorite detergent – I’ve been using Persil for awhile, but don’t have an attachment to it!
While we own an ironing board and iron, I haven’t gotten it out to use it more than 2 times in as many years! I like to have one around, for larger items like bedding, tough wrinkles in clothes, etc., but 9 times out of 10 I use a steamer for my clothes!
As mentioned above, I often toss my hung-dry clothes in the dryer for a bit to start to loosen them up. For light wrinkles, this will sometimes be enough to smooth it out. If an item is still wrinkled, I’ll use this small steamer we have! We used to have a big, bulky steamer which worked well but was annoying to store and pull out when needed. This little travel one packs the same amount of power, but can just be stashed on a shelf in our linen closet. Plus, we always bring it in our suitcase when we travel!
Steaming is a great option for more delicate fabrics. There have been very few occasions when I’ve felt like I can’t remove wrinkles with one. A couple steaming tips:
- steam from the inside out – that way, you can get the steamer right up against the fabric to ensure maximum wrinkle release
- gently pull on the item to straighten it as you’re steaming – pull the piece taught, so that the fabric “knows” what to do as you’re steaming it (I.e. go straight, versus keeping the wrinkle)
- steam everything on a hanger – it’s much easier and then you can let the item set before putting it on!
- Treat your clothes like they’re worth something! A little extra time spent learning how to best launder them means you will get to enjoy them longer!
- When in doubt, wash on cold and hang to dry
- Invest in a steamer (even a $22 one!)