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How to Make Your Clothes Look Better and Last Longer

Washing your clothes by hand is friendly on fabric — and easy on the wallet.


We’re all familiar with the maxim, invest in quality, not quantity — ,but it should be followed with a caveat: Care for your items properly, too. This addendum is especially pertinent when applied to your wardrobe. If you invest in quality pieces, such as a raw denim, and want them to last for years, you should care for them by handwashing and air drying whenever possible.

“The benefit of handwashing is that it really preserves the item you are caring for, and just ensures that it will not be damaged in anyway,” says Gwen Whiting, who co-founded laundry and home cleaning company The Laundress. Handwashing is ideal for swimwear, knitwear and sportswear, but it’s also an effective method of cleaning all types of clothing. “It is our preferred method for heirloom pieces to ensure that they do not get damaged in the wash cycle.”

The relatively simple process of handwashing has numerous benefits for both your wardrobe and wallet. It provides an inexpensive alternative to dry cleaning, where bills can add up quickly, and repeated chemical cleanings can weaken and damage fabric. It’s also more gentle on garments than machine washing and better preserves the integrity of dyed fabric. So, if you’re going to invest in a better wardrobe, you should learn the easy way to extend the life of your clothing.


Pretreat stains if necessary. First, read the care label and note the manufacturer’s recommended care guidelines. If your garment has any new stains, treat the affected areas with stain solution, and follow recommended steps to remove stain.

Tide To-Go Instant Stain Remover Liquid Pen by Tide $6
Stain Solution by The Laundress $18

Soak. Fill a clean basin or sink with cool-to-lukewarm water and add about a teaspoon of mild detergent to it (more detergent may be necessary if you’re washing in a larger container). Turn your garments inside out and sort by color. If washing multiple pieces of clothing at once, do not overload the basin with clothing. Next, submerge garment(s) and gently agitate to distribute the soapy water. Do not scrub or twist. Let the clothing soak for up to 15 to 30 minutes depending on how dirty it is.

Darks Liquid Laundry Detergent by Woolite $13
Pure-Castile Liquid Soap by Dr. Bronner’s $16
Out West Laundry Detergent by The Laundress x John Mayer $19

Rinse. Drain the soapy water. For knits and delicate items, refill the sink with clean, cool water; soak in clean water, and repeat until the garment is no longer soapy. For more durable items like jeans, rinse under the tap with cool water. Once clean, gently press water out of items between hands or against the side of the basin, making sure not to twist or wring the garment.

Hang dry. To further dry, lay a garment on a clean white towel, roll up the towel and press to release more water. For knits, lay the garment flat in its natural shape on a clean white towel to dry. For other items, lay the garment in its natural shape on a drying rack, or hang to dry (especially effective for jeans).

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