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10 Laundry Tips to Make Your Clothes Last Longer

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Clothes cost a lot of money and you want them to last as long as possible. To protect your investment, I've put together some tips to help you prevent laundry mistakes that will send your clothes to the rag bag.

Specific questions? Just ask here.

1. Carry a Stain Removal Pen or Wipe

The first rule in treating stains is to do so as quickly as possible. Stain removal pens and wipes are the latest innovations in stain removal convenience. Follow the instructions carefully and be sure to follow-up when you get home. The pens are great but they are not magic - you still need to launder the garment to prevent damage.

2. Read Labels

Unless you are a well-experienced laundry expert, you must read the labels in clothing. If it says wash in cold water, believe it. If the label says dry clean only, believe it - especially if the item is new.

As you gain experience, you will learn that some items labeled hand-wash can be placed in the washer on a gentle cycle. Or, some unstructured garments like sweaters or knit garments can be hand-washed rather than dry cleaned.

However, if in doubt, follow the care label or ask an expert.

3. Sort Your Laundry

When you throw your clothes into a washer, they essentially dance with each other as they move around in the water. Would you want your sheer, nylon blouse dancing close with a jagged metal zipper on a hooded jacket? Probably not.

Another benefit of sorting laundry correctly is that when it is time to use the dryer, one type of fabric will not be "cooked" while others are still quite damp when you select the correct drying temperature.

4. Button and Zip Up

By buttoning, zipping or closing your garments, they will be less likely to snag another fabric or even snap themselves. You don't want to find clothes hooked to each other.

Your clothing will also last longer if after you've buttoned them up, you turn them inside out. This will prevent wear and tear on the outer finish, help prevent pilling on knitted garments and limit color fading.

When your clothes are clean, be sure you are using the correct type of hanger. Thin, wire hangers can cause stretch marks on shoulders or even misshape clothes by allowing stretching.

For knitted items, fold rather than hang to prevent stretching!

5. Use a Mesh Bag for Delicates

A mesh laundry bag can be your best friend for protecting delicate garments like lingerie when you wash them. It is also wonderful for baby items that are so small they seem to disappear. Put all the little socks and undershirts in one bag and you'll always find them and their matching pairs.

6. Inspect, Treat and Reinspect Stains

Stains happen and every garment should be checked before it is laundered for stains that may need additional treatment before washing. If you don't have time to treat the stain promptly, mark the spot with a clothespin or huge safety pin so you'll remember to handle it before washing. For stain removal information, consult Laundry Stains A to Z for step-by-step instructions.

Check the stained area again when you remove the garment from the washer. If it is not gone, repeat the treatment. The stain will be much harder to remove if it is dried at high heat.

7. Go Easy On the Detergent & Fabric Softener

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Almost everyone is guilty of using too much laundry detergent or fabric softener for each load. More detergent does not always equal more cleaning. In fact, the extra detergent or fabric softener settles back on the clothing and leaves the finish dull and stiff.

Begin by using half of the usual amount of detergent and 1/2 cup baking soda. The baking soda acts as a detergent booster. You will be amazed that your laundry comes out just as clean as with a full dose. If you are not pleased, add a bit more detergent the next time.

Try distilled white vinegar as your fabric softener. You won't smell like a pickle and your clothes will have no leftover residue.

8. Don't Overload the Washer

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Cramming the washer full of clothes may seem like the easy way to get more laundry done quickly, but it is actually harmful to your clothing. First, they don't get as clean and secondly, they rub together so much, there is actual harm to the finish of your clothes. Learn how to load a washer properly to protect your clothing investment.

9. Don't Use Hot Water or High Heat

For certain types of fabric, hot water can cause shrinking and permanently set stains. Learn to use the correct water temperature for different types of laundry.

Extremely high heat in the dryer can also set stains and cause damage to fabrics. Follow label instructions carefully.

10. Don't Use Bleach Recklessly

Chlorine bleach will damage any fabric - including white cotton - if used in too high a concentration. Always dilute chlorine bleach and learn to use it safely.

Quite often, bleach stains occur when bleach is accidentally splashed on clothing, it is not rinsed completely out of an automatic bleach dispenser or a piece of laundry that has come in contact with bleach touches another item. Take extreme care to avoid these problems - especially if you are sharing a laundry space with others.

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