20 Ways You’re Ruining Your Clothes Without Realizing It
It's time to stop sabotaging your entire wardrobe.
According to some of the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household spends approximately $1,803 a year on apparel and related services. And yet despite that huge cost, far too many individuals are unaware of how to properly take care of those items. In fact, one 2018 survey from thrift retailer Savers found that the average American throws out 81 pounds of clothing per year.
So how can you make sure that you don’t have to do away with so many of your precious belongings? Keep reading to discover all the ways you ruin your clothing, plus what you can do instead to keep your garments safe.
You store your leather goods near the window.
Leather likes the sun just about as much as Dracula does—that is to say, not very much. Too much exposure to direct sunlight and your leather goods will suffer from “premature aging, discoloration, drying, and cracking,” notes leather company Buffalo Jackson Trading Co. Instead, keep your leather items away from sunny windows and heating vents. Putting them there might seem like a smart way to dry them out, but it’ll make the leather brittle in the long run.
You leave your gym clothes in your gym bag for hours after your workout.
Never, ever let your damp gym clothes sit in a wad in your gym bag or laundry basket. Why? “Moisture is the enemy,” says Sarah Brunette, brand manager of housecleaning company Molly Maid. Not only will doing this create a rancid smell that’s difficult to get rid of, but it’s also a recipe for bacteria growth and mildew. A similar situation can also occur if you store items in humid environments, so make sure to always keep your clothing someplace clean, dark, and cool.
You don’t stuff your handbags before storing them.
Storing your handbags flat in the closet is a surefire way to ruin their shape. To make sure that your expensive bags stay in pristine condition, fill them to the brim with T-shirts or other articles of clothing before carefully placing them in their dust bags and setting them off to the side.
You stuff your clothes in your drawers.
“Incorrect storage can ultimately ruin clothing,” notes Brunette. Not only does this messy method cause chaos when you’re getting dressed in the morning, but when it comes to certain materials like leather, it also creates creases and wrinkles that are impossible to eliminate.
You cook without an apron.
When you get home from a long day of work and need to somehow get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes, the last thing on your mind is throwing on an apron. However, if you’re making something that easily stains, such as pasta Bolognese or beet salad, then taking a few extra seconds to put on an apron could be the very thing that saves your blouse. Aprons are designed to shield your clothes from the oil, grease, and sauce that tends to splatter in the cooking process—so do yourself (and your clothes) a favor and put one on.
You use hot water for every load of laundry.
Though hot water is the most effective when it comes to cleaning clothes, not every load of laundry warrants it. Seeing as hot water is more likely to shrink and fade items faster, it should “only be used on heavily soiled or odorous items made from strong fiber like linen, cotton, and during synthetics such as polyester,” according to clothing care brand The Laundress. For most other loads, warm water should do the trick.
You hang items that should be folded.
Hanging your big, bulky sweaters will only stretch them out and potentially even create permanent indentations in the shoulder area. So, when the dog days of summer arrive and it’s time to stow away your sweaters, make sure that you’re safely storing them in drawers or on shelves rather than in the closet on hangers. (Pro tip: You can use under-the-bed storage bins to save space and keep your sweaters far away from moths and other creepy crawlers in the attic!)
You don’t zipper things before you throw them in the wash.
When left undone, zippers have a bad habit of getting caught on delicate fabrics like lace and ruining them in the wash. “Pieces of clothing are more likely to get snagged with clasps and hooks,” says Brunette.
Thankfully, all you have to do to avoid this is to make sure that all of your clothing items with zippers are zipped up before tossing them in with your other garments. Brunette also recommends turning items with clasps and zippers inside out “to prevent holes and tears.” Easy as pie!
And you don’t Velcro them.
Velcro is just as dangerous to your delicates as zippers. If and when you throw things in the laundry with Velcro, make sure that no pieces of the clingy fibers are left loose.
You haphazardly throw detergent into the washing machine.
Using both too little and too much detergent can pose problems when it comes to doing your laundry. As cleaning service Classic Cleaners explains, using too little laundry detergent results in “laundry that may not be as white or as bright as it should be,” while using too much can result in an insufficient rinse and leftover detergent residue.
You use fabric softener on your workout clothes.
Fabric softener isn’t meant to be used on every item you wash. Take your gym clothes, for instance. According to clothing care company Rinse, this product “breaks down the elasticity in stretchy fabrics like nylon and spandex,” both of which are commonly used to make athletic wear. What’s more, “it also creates a barrier on the garment,” which means these specialized fabrics aren’t able to wick moisture away from your skin as efficiently as possible. That could make you (and your clothes) feel and smell worse.
You dry your workout gear in the dryer.
Another way you ruin your workout gear is by drying it in the dryer, particularly if you’re prone to using the highest heat settings. Rinse notes that the heat from the dryer “can damage technical fabrics and cause your clothes to change in shape,” so always opt for air drying when it comes to your sports bras and spandex leggings.
You don’t check your pockets before you throw things in the laundry.
Coins. Receipts. Wrappers. All of these things are in your pockets at any given moment, and all of these things also have the potential to ruin not just your clothes, but your laundry machine as well. Avoid ink runoff and soggy paper debris by double-checking your pockets before you turn the laundry on.
You let stains sit.
The longer you let a stain sit, the harder it is to get out. Whether a pen exploded in your pocket or you spilled some red wine on your new white dress, make sure to throw your soiled item in the wash immediately in order to avoid a permanent mark.
You use wire hangers.
Don’t hold onto those wire hangers from the dry cleaner just to save a few bucks. Brunette notes that these hangers “may rust or stretch out fabrics.”
Never pull or snip at a loose thread on a garment with your bare hands. Doing so can cause more harm to your article of clothing, potentially even damaging it beyond repair. If you do find a snagged thread, take it to a professional so they can fix it the right way: with a needle and some string.
You don’t use a lingerie bag for your delicate undergarments.
If you’re not using a mesh lingerie bag for your delicates and undergarments, then you’re doing something wrong. As Classic Cleaners explains, this inexpensive laundry accessory prevents nicks and tears in your delicates, maintains the shape of your bras, keeps socks from getting lost, and more. It’s a small investment that goes a long way when it comes to keeping your clothing in pristine condition.
You overuse your dryer.
When it comes to ways you ruin your clothing, your dryer is the number one source of damage. Though you naturally rely on this machine to rid your garments of moisture after a stint in the washer, overusing it—especially on the highest setting—can shrink your favorite items and warp them to the point that they can no longer be worn. For the best results, Classic Cleaners suggests using the low-temperature setting and air-drying whenever possible.
You don’t read labels.
If you’re not already reading all of your clothing items’ care labels before throwing them into the washing machine, then make sure to get into the habit of doing so. Using the handy dandy symbols on each garment’s label, you can determine everything from the ideal temperature at which to wash each garment to whether or not an item is OK to iron. If you’re still new to doing your own laundry, then check out a useful decoding guide here.
You don’t flip your jeans inside out before washing them.
Yes, you should always be washing your jeans inside out. According to denim brand Lee, this method is the best way to “preserve [denim’s] original color and appearance for as long as possible.” And for more smart tips, check out these 20 Cool Ways to Store Things You Never Thought Of.
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