How to make your textiles last longer
One of the easiest ways you can reduce your environmental impact, is to reduce your consumption and demand for new products; and one of the best ways to do this is to look after the things that you already own to make them last longer.
For many of us, this is the first step in making our wardrobes and homes more sustainable. Not only can it save us time and money, but also reduce our carbon footprint and the demand for new resources.
The ProblemAround 400 billion meters of new fabric are being manufactured every year, which is a massive burden on natural resources. As a society we have become programmed to consume at a faster rate than ever, with the average UK consumer now buying 60% more items than they did 15 years ago (Time out for Fast Fashion). You can now buy a T-shirt for as little as £1 so it is not hard to see how this issue has come about. Estimates suggest that the average lifespan of an item of clothing in the UK is now just 2.2 years, with over 300,000 tonnes of textiles, worth around £140 million ending up in landfill every year (Wrap, 2017).
Below we have collected together some of the best ways in which you can make your home textiles and clothing products last longer!
INVEST IN QUALITY
Investing in higher quality items, made of higher quality materials, and designed to last, is one of the best steps you can take. Rather than buying four dresses for £20, think about investing in one which costs you £80, but which you know will last you far longer. We have a tendency to look after things which we invest more money in to better, as this gives them a higher perceived value.
A great way to go about this is by focusing on buying wardrobe staples, and timeless designs, be it for your home or your wardrobe. Think about what your favourite colours are. Often neutrals are a good choice, but if you want to go bold, then go for it.
When you find an item you want to buy, there are a few basic checks you can do to judge its quality. Start by checking its seams. If you turn an item inside out you can check for loose threads, and if things are already starting to unravel, then don’t buy it. A good idea is to look for spare buttons in items such as shirts, you don’t want it to be a lost cause if you lose one.
Get to know fabrics
So this is more of an art than a science, with split opinions on what the best fibres to invest in are, from a durability perspective. One thing we do know is that if items are made up of a blend of multiple fibres (especially if its more than three) they tend to wear out quicker. Acrylic, in knitwear, is known for bobbling quickly. Look out for some more articles on this coming soon!
Caring for the items which you have is the best thing you can do to make your garments last, and extend their lifespan, keeping them (and you) looking your best for as long as possible. Below we have outlined the best way you can go about this!
Wash your clothes less
Bare with us on this one. We are not suggesting that you stop washing your clothes entirely but think about it. Every time you wash your clothes, they are thrown around pretty rigorously inside your machine, with a bunch of other items, and then you may tumble dry it.
The average washing machine uses 13,500 gallons of water every year, which is the same amount you drink over your entire lifetime. You add detergent chemicals to the wash (we do recommend checking out some more eco-laundry brands), which are trapped in the fibres of your clothes and enter into our water systems, and don’t even get us started on micro plastics (article coming soon on this). Did you know there are 1 billion particles of plastic already in our oceans, 34.6% of which come from textiles, and a lot of these are the result of washing!
There are plenty of other ways to refresh clothes without having to wash them, such as brushing for wool, or a fabric spray (there is some great natural, homemade recipes online). Spot cleaning is another option.
And when you do wash them….
Firstly do check the care labels, if something is hand wash only, don’t be throwing it in the machine. Don’t go cramming everything you own into one load, because over filling the machine is not good and your items will not come out clean. Furthermore, being too full causes your garments to rub up against each other, which can cause premature damage, such as pilling, bobbling and fading.
Try turning things inside out before you wash them, particularly dark and colourful items. This will help to preserve their pigments and prevent fading. I am sure we all know the struggle of black jeans turning grey in the wash! Another tip to avoid fading, try turning down the temperature (also great for saving energy and our planet).
More delicate items, are best placed in a delicates bag before you throw them in the wash. This will help to prevent ripping or other damage during the cycle, and extend their lifespan, and save you from that awful moment when you get your new top out of the wash only to find a hole in it.
Air-dry your clothes
Okay so this might be a tough sell for you tumble dryer lovers, but air drying your clothes, be that on a clothesline or drying rack, is so much better for your clothes. Not only does it save a ton of energy (you can thank us later when you get your next bill), but it also saves on those pesky micro-plastics.
Even better, you avoid overheating your garments, which can result in shrinkage. Items with a high elasticity content, such as active wear, can be broken down by the heat, causing them to sag and lose shape.
If you make sure to dry your clothes flat, it can save you time ironing. And on top of all this, line dried clothes have a lovely fresh smell! What more could you want!
Store your clothes right!
Storing your clothes in the right way is a big part of the puzzle. Coat hangers are not a one size fits all situation, and neither are draws.
We recommend folding your knitwear, especially heavier items, as they can become misshapen really quickly when hanging. Nobody wants a jumper which is stretched out with droopy shoulders (And they also take up a lot of room in the cupboard).
A second tip is to invest in good hangers. Not only can good quality, matching hangers transform your wardrobe into something from Pinterest, they can also help protect the shape of your clothing, helping them to last longer, and who doesn’t want that?
Now, be honest, have you got a shirt where a button has fallen off? Or something with a small hole? A faulty zip?
Most of us do, and often we don’t do anything about it. How many items have you thrown always because of imperfections like these? Often we don’t know how to or don’t feel we have the time or skills to fix them. We’re here to tell you it’s not as difficult as you think.
You can pick up a needle and thread pretty easily, be that online, or from a local haberdashery store. Then a quick search online, will provide you with hundreds of blogs and videos, ready to take you through it step by step. Not only will you have a new item to enjoy and put to use again, but you get the satisfaction of knowing you fixed it and learnt a new skill in the process!
If you need another reason to motivate you, you get bragging rights with your friends and family when you show them your handy work!
If you don’t feel your quite up to the challenge, all is not lost! There are tons of local seamstress, and repair services which will be happy to help you out. Simply drop off your item, pay a small fee, and collect it good as new!
Go get that dress reworked and refitted!
Sometimes the issue isn’t so much that the item is faulty, maybe it’s just not your style anymore, or doesn’t fit. We have options for that too!
There are some amazing services out there which can take your pieces and tweak the designs to suit your current style. This saves you from investing in something totally new, and helps the planet in the process. Take it from a midi to a mini, or change the neckline of that top. It’s a great way to learn to re-love an old favourite!
Maybe you’ve a pair of trousers you love, but they just don’t fit anymore? Now this one does work better if you need something making smaller, rather than bigger as their needs to be enough fabric in the piece to make it work, but you don’t need to throw something out just because it doesn’t fit you. A local seamstress can certainly help you out by tailoring an item of clothing to fit you perfectly!