Frugal TIPbits: Make Clothes Last Longer

Taking care of clothes in a manner that extends their life expectancy is one of the easiest ways to keep clothing expenses from getting out of hand.

Preserve your favorite outfits and save money with these common sense, easy-to-implement strategies that increase the life expectancy of clothing.

I combed the internet for suggestions because I want to be sure I’m making every reasonable effort to make my household’s clothes last longer. I found a number of common sense approaches that are pretty easy to implement.

Ways to make clothes last longer

  • Zip zippers and secure Velcro before tossing clothes into the washer. Securing zippers and Velcro wards off the damage that occurs when these fasteners grip and snag fabrics while in the washer and dryer.
  • Consider washing clothes less frequently. Some clothing items (e.g., underwear, socks, swimwear) should be washed every time they are worn. However, depending on your activities, many items (especially pants and sweaters or cardigans that go over other clothing) can go several wears in between washings. I often wear jeans a number of times between washes and have never found it to be problematic.
  • Turn clothes wrong side out before washing. The visible surfaces of clothes hold up a lot better when they are washed wrong side out. Their color will be preserved longer and they’ll be less likely to pill. It does take a little longer to do a load of laundry when you stop to do this, but I’ve done it for years with my dress clothes and have had great success in keeping them looking like they’re new.
  • Wash like clothes together and follow label instructions. This seems really obvious, but I’ve been known to toss clothes made of a wide array of fabrics into one load for convenience. (My guess is a few of you have pulled a load of pink clothing from the washer after absentmindedly washing a red shirt with white socks and shirts.) Be especially careful with delicate clothes (including bras and other underclothes made from fabric blends).
  • Consider using cold water. Cold water is less likely to shrink clothing. Additionally, using cold water saves energy.
  • Be careful with bleach. Chlorine bleach attacks fibers about as well as it does stains, so clothes washed in bleach tend to wear out quickly.
  • Hang dry clothing. Dryers can weaken and shrink the fibers in fabrics. Hang drying clothes avoids this wear and tear and saves money because you don’t have to pay for the energy to use the dryer.
  • Iron with care. Read the label instructions to see if a fabric should be ironed. If a delicate fabric can be ironed, consider placing a cloth between the iron and the fabric or ironing the item while it is turned wrong side out. Also, be sure to only iron clean clothes because the heat of an iron can set stains in dirty fabrics.
  • Think twice about how you store clothes. Some clothing items, such as sweaters, can become stretched and misshapen if hung on hangers. Other items, such as crocheted scarves, can snag on the runners under dresser drawers. Make sure that you store clothes in a manner that keeps them in their natural shape and protects them from harm. Whether they are hung or folded, clothes should be kept in areas that are clean, dark, and dry. Avoid storing clothes that are soiled because these attract bugs like moths and silverfish.
  • Save spare buttons. Don’t throw away the spare buttons you get with new clothing. Store them in a small jar or box so you have them available to mend blouses and jackets that would be rendered useless if they were missing buttons. I’ve found that this collection of buttons can also come in handy for completing craft projects!

What additional tips can you share? What do you do to make clothes last longer?

Shared on the following link-ups:

Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Welcome Home Wednesdays, Works for Me Wednesdays, WholeHearted Home, and Encourage One Another.


  1. Clothes are so expensive and styles are so odd now that it can be hard to find clothing you really love. Then, it pays to take care of it. I’m racking my brain to think of more tips, but I think you’ve covered all of my knowledge. I have six children, so another reason not to wash some clothes with every single wearing is to save time. 🙂 Great post!

    • Hi Meghan,
      Yes, not washing them can save time. We can’t necessarily attach a monetary value to time, but it sure is valuable!

  2. Washing in cold water has the added advantage that it will not set stains and will discourage colors from bleeding. Not only does that protect white clothes from red ones, but it means that dry cleaners have a better chance of removing stains that defy home treatment. It also saves money, because no energy is needed to heat the water.

  3. This is great advice! I’ve been washing everything in cold water and line-drying since 1990, and I have a few garments I’ve had ever since then (wearing them consistently in season) and lots that are more than 10 years old.

    Another tip is to use a zippered mesh bag to wash delicate items. Even pantyhose can go through the washing machine in one of these!

  4. Homemade laundry soap and a vinegar only “fabric softener” is what I do to keep my clothes from wearing out due to the chemicals and fragrances that can build up on the fabrics.

    • Hi Faith,
      I was reading some about fabric softeners right after I wrote this post. Sounds like vinegar is a real winner for this role!

      • L Williams says:

        I’ve noticed too that liquid fabric softer changes it’s consistency if it’s stored for a while… Vinegar sounds like a better solution there too.

      • kitty green says:

        i love white vinegar – what were your sources for recommending it as a fabric softener?

        also – white vinegar has the added benefit of coming in food-safe bottles. i store water in these bottles in our emergency supplies.

        • Hi Kitty,
          One source on using vinegar as a fabric softener is the Environmental Working Group. This particular article also describes some potential risks associated with commercially marketed fabric softeners. I’ve also seen this recommendation on the websites of a number of university extension programs and on numerous home improvement websites.
          I love how you reuse the vinegar bottles to store water in your emergency kit!

  5. This is an excellent post and I hope that it is circulated far and near so others can read it.

  6. When the kids were young our budget was tight and I wanted their clothes to last awhile! I remember a friend and I bought the same shirt for out sons.

    Months later her son’s shirt was faded and it had shrunk a bit. My son’s shirt was still a bright red and looked and fit great. I remember she asked me why his shirt still looked great.

    I told her about how I washed their shirts inside out in cold water and dried them on a rack. It took longer to dry in the winter time but kept them from fading or shrinking! 😉

    We also did the Sear’s KidVantage program. I would buy the kid’s jeans one size too large for them. I’d have them wear a belt and roll their jeans up.

    Once they wore holes in the jeans I’d wash them and take them back, and exchange them for a brand new FREE pair.

    That program kept my kids in free jeans for at least a year. At first the jeans were too big but then they’d grow into them! It really helped us save money! Thanks for linking up to Making Your Home Sing Monday!

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