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How to launder your clothes so they last

Ninoshka Alvares-Delaney

I’m sure you’ve experienced clothes getting worn out, fading or losing its shape over time. How fast clothes wear out largely depends on how they are cared for. Every item of clothing requires different kind of wash care and caring for clothes is often overlooked.

Here are a few points on how to launder your clothes so they last for a long time.

Hand wash: This is the best way to preserve your clothes as it is gentle on the clothes and it prevents fading. It is specially recommended that you hand wash delicate clothing. It’s generally best to knead the garment and avoid twisting and wringing of the garment.

Wash in cold water: One of the best things you can do for your clothes is to wash them in cold water and air-dry them. Just like heat damages your hair overtime, it can wear out your clothes and make them fade a lot quicker. It can also make your clothes shrink, especially if they have elastic or spandex fibres that can be damaged by heat and cause the garment to lose its shape. Washing in cold water is also more environmentally friendly than washing in warm water.

Separate dark and light colours: Separating dark and light colours prevents bleeding and retains the quality and brightness of your clothing.

Separate heavy and light weight garments: Washing heavy weight garments like jeans and jackets along with light weight garments in one machine load can cause the light weight garments to abrade and wear out quickly.

Use less detergent: Using too much detergent not only is a waste of money, but can ruin your machine overtime and is definitely bad for the environment. Too much detergent can also leave a residue that isn’t good for your clothes. Most of the cleaning of the clothes is done by the water and 40 to 70 per cent of the recommended amount of detergent is good enough depending on how dirty the clothes are. Also, liquid detergents are easier on the clothes compared to powders.

Avoid fabric softeners: Fabric softeners tend to coat the fabric with chemicals that make it feel softer and smell good. However, the chemicals used are pretty harmful to breathe in and wear against your skin. Fabric softeners also leave a residue on the garment that can cause discolouration and make the fabric less absorbent and harder to clean.

Avoid bleaches: Bleaches are harmful to the environment and your clothes. Chlorine bleach can cause discolouration in whites over time and weaken the fabric. The best way to naturally bleach white clothes is to dry them in direct sunlight. For stain removal, try natural and biodegradable options like white vinegar, lemon juice or baking soda.

Don’t fill your machine too full: The clothes need space to move around in the water to get clean.

Wash dark colours inside out: Washing dark coloured clothes inside out help prevent them from fading.

Clean your machine regularly: Cleaning your machine from time to time prevents it from transferring dirt or dye onto the clothes from previous loads which can make the clothes appear duller.

Air dry: Air drying your clothes is not only more environmentally friendly, but also allows your clothes to last longer. Dry dark coloured clothes inside out to prevent fading. Avoid drying your clothes in direct sunlight.

Roll drying: Delicate garments such as silks and woollens should be roll dried in a towel and laid flat to dry.

Dry cleaning: It is always best to follow a manufacturer’s instructions on how to care for your clothes. Many a times, garments that are marked as ‘Dry Clean Only’ can be hand washed. However, it is best to first spot test the fabric in aninconspicuous part of the garment to make sure it doesn’t damage the fabric. Avoid dry cleaning your garment too often. After getting your clothes home from the dry cleaner, make sure you remove it from the plastic bag to allow the fabric to breathe and avoid discolouration and deterioration.

Wash only when needed: It is not necessary that you wash every item of clothing every time you wear it. Wash clothes only when they need to be washed. Of course, items like underwear or clothes that you sweat in need to be washed after every wear. However, a lot of clothes can be worn multiple times before washing them; especially if it’s clothing that is not directly touching your skin. Items like scarves and jackets can be worn multiple times before you wash it.

Spot wash: Spot wash dirty areas or any stains instead of washing the entire garment.

In between washes: Garments that have been worn and are in between washes should be hung and aired out. Hanging of garments allows air flow and prevents wrinkles.

Until next time, stay stylish!

(Writer is a fashion designer and is available at

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