Apr 13

How to Care for Second-Hand Clothes

by Florenne Earle Ledger

Let’s be honest, we could all do with slowing down and caring for ourselves and our clothes a little more. Looking after second-hand clothing is just as important as looking after those designer jeans you spent months saving up for. All clothing, whether it’s second-hand or not, should always be treated with care and looked after to last.

Sometimes the things we buy second-hand show obvious signs of wear (but that’s all part of their charm, right?). This means we need to know how to look after second-hand clothes so we can get maximum bang for our buck and keep Mother Nature on our side.

There’s a lot online telling us the small things we can do to make our clothes last longer, and honestly, some of the tips are too much, even for us. We’re not going to pretend we have time to hand wash everything and split up every different item of clothing and wash them separately, but here are some general tips that we actually find helpful:

Easy Ways to Care for Your Second-Hand Clothes

Say Goodbye to Your Dryer

You heard us. A dryer is not only energy intensive (so already bad for the planet), but there’s a whole host of reasons why it’s also bad for your clothes:

  • It ruins elastics by overstretching them prematurely. Say goodbye to your favourite bra or underwear set!
  • It breaks down the fibres of clothing faster than a washing machine, shortening the lifespan of your fave pieces.
  • Dryers can cause clothes to shrink so they no longer fit, meaning either you can’t wear them at all or you feel significantly less confident.

Basically, stay clear of dryers if you can. It’s easy enough and better for you and the planet for so many reasons. We’re air-drying from here on out!

Don't Overdo It

Overwashing your clothes can shorten their life span. Everyone likes to be clean and hygienic, but washing your clothes too much is actually worse for them. Especially fabrics like denim that were originally designed never to be washed. We’re not suggesting you never wash your jeans, but they were initially created as workwear that didn’t need to be washed due to the durability of the fabric. So the less you wash your jeans, the comfier they become. Overwashing risks denim losing its shape, texture and colour.

Switch it up

Next time you’re throwing your jeans in the wash, turn them inside out. This will protect the denim from fading. You can also do this for other clothing that’s dyed or brightly coloured.

What's That Smell?

There’s no denying that sometimes a charity shop steal smells a little funky, but there are so many ways you can get rid of the smell with very little effort (and without using half a ton of body spray). Simply leave the item to hang up outside for a day or two (depending on how bad the stench is) and it should come back good as new. Nothing like the great outdoors eh? We suggest hanging it outside when it’s dry, obviously.

You can also soak smelly clothing in water and white distilled vinegar. Bathe it in enough water to cover the garment and add 1dl of white distilled vinegar. Leave it to absorb everything overnight and chuck it in the washing machine the next day. Voilà, the charity shop smell has left the chat.

Be Gentle

Your clothes need a little TLC every now and then, just like you. Use liquid washing detergent instead of powder, it’s softer and kinder to the fabric. Using harsh detergent overwhelms the fabric with chemicals and worsens the quality of the material, causing the colour to fade faster and the fabric to break down. Basically, powder detergent isn’t a vibe.

This one might be a little extra for some, or a nice way to ease your conscience if you’re bad at hanging up clothes — but hanging up T-shirts is actually bad for them. It stretches the fabric, and according to this source, it can do so by a whole inch. Who knows if it’s true, but if we can tell ourselves we’re doing the best for our clothes by not hanging them up, we’ll take it.

It's Time to Shave

When was the last time you shaved? Not your legs, your jumpers. If you’ve picked up a jumper from the charity shop that’s a little bobbly, you can buy a clothing razor, or just use a regular one, and shave the bobbles right off. Who knew?!

Although, it’s important to use these carefully. If you push too hard they can have the reverse effect and pull the threads apart.

Read the Label, Silly

It might sound incredibly obvious (and tbh, it is) but read the label before throwing things in the wash! Some second-hand clothes are a little more delicate than others due to their long life (think of them like old people, kind of?). Read the label to check you’re actually washing the item on the correct settings.

See our laundry sign guide so you can become fluent in laundry instructions:

Eco Queen

If you don’t already, wash your clothes with the eco setting! Yes, it takes double the length of time, but that’s because the water is slower to heat up as it uses less energy. Don’t question us, it’s science. There’s literally no excuse not to spend an extra 0.00001 of a second flicking the dial to ‘Eco Wash’.

It's as easy as that to care for your second-hand clothes and help them last a little longer. If we missed any tips or tricks, don't hesitate to let us know on our Instagram or Twitter.

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