12 Ways You’re Accidentally Ruining Your Clothes

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The average American household spends $1,700 a year on clothing. That means that most of us spend a lot of money on our wardrobes, but, usually, not a whole lot of time keeping them looking good.

From shrinkage, to overstretched fabric, to bleeding colors—we don’t know a whole lot about clothing care. It doesn’t matter if you’re clothes are from the discount rack at Target or on this year’s runway— all clothing deserves to be cared for properly.

Check out the not-so-known rules for keeping your duds looking (and wearing) their best!

1. You wash your clothes on hot.

Most people think that it’s only if you dry your clothing in hot temperatures that your clothes shrink, but that’s not true. Any time your clothes are exposed to high temperatures, whether through washing or drying, they shrink.

Think you can reverse the effects of hot washing through air drying? Unfortunately, you can’t.  The only thing that fixes shrunken clothes is stretching them out by hand and this never goes well.

So make sure to always read labels and follow the directions. If you’re uncertain, wash your clothes in cold water, just in case.

2. You wash and dry your bras unprotected.

You open up your dryer and find your bra in a knot, attached to a towel—which now has little holes in it. Unfortunately, an unsecured bra in a tumbling dryer is like a bull in a china shop and everything is fair game.

Free-floating bra hooks can ruin mesh items, shirts, thin cotton, and basically anything that crosses its path. Not to mention, it’s hard on the bra’s elastic, making those wear out more quickly too. The best way to deal with your bras is to put them in a laundry bag or a designated bra ball in the washer and then letting them air dry.

3. You dry everything.

It’s easy and quick to just throw everything that you wash into the dryer and dry the heck out of it—but not everything was meant to be thrown in there. Always check the tag before you dry but basically if the item is made of cotton, wool, or another natural fiber, it probably will shrink with heat. In this case, the best thing to do is allow the item to air dry.

Use a clothing line, or, in the case of delicate or knitted items, lie flat on a drying rack or on a towel on a table. Try to keep garments separated to allow air circulation and faster drying. It’s also helpful to put your clothes near a fan, open window, or a heat vent to air-dry more quickly.

4. You hang your knitted clothing.

Hangers are great for shirts, pants, and skirts but they’re NOT intended for anything knitted. Ever notice how sweaters stretch to fit you perfectly? Unfortunately, they stretch in other situations as well—like when they’re hanging on hangers.

Gravity is not a knitted item’s best friend and a hanging sweater ultimately means a sweater with saggy shoulders and an ill-fitted body. The best way to keep sweaters and knitted items looking their best is to fold them and place them on shelves or in drawers.

5. You use those wire hangers from the dry cleaner’s.

There are only two things that wire hangers are good for: retrieving stuff that’s stuck in your vacuum cleaner hose and protecting the clothes that you had dry cleaned until they get home.

However, in the latter case, if you leave your clothes on these temporary transport vehicles for too long, you risk creasing and puckering in unfortunate places.

The best thing to do is invest in a set of wooden or felt hangers and transfer them as soon as you get home (and don’t forget to return the wire ones to your dry cleaner for recycling.)

6. You don’t zip up zippers.

An unzipped zipper in a dryer is just as bad as an open bra hook—it’s on a warpath to destroy everything that it comes in contact with. Zippers can attach on to anything that crosses its path and destroy precious garments.

You can easily protect your clothing by always zipping up all of the zippers that go through the wash. As a side note, while you’re doing this, check for buttons on clothing and unbutton all if them—it’ll keep them from tugging on your clothing.

7. Your store your bags on hooks.

You walk through the door and throw your bag on a hook in the closet and all is good, right? Not so fast.

Unfortunately, as convenient as a hook may be, over time it can do some real damage to your favorite tote by pulling on the handles, and stretching and weakening the seams. The best thing to do is pick a shelf and store it there.

8. You don’t wipe down your shoes.

As you walk through your day, environmental things like dirt, sand, dust, concrete particles, and salt get on your shoes.

You may think it’s no big deal but this debris can get into the shoe fabric and ruin its color and texture. Brush or wipe down your shoes with a soft cloth after you’re done wearing them—the sooner the better.

9. You fold your leather.

The clothing care rule of thumb is to always fold knits and never fold leather. Doing so increases your risk of getting hard-to-remove creases and ruining your garment.

Hang leather pants or tall boots with a cushioned clip to protect the fabric and to keep the integrity of the clothing. A wooden hanger is best for leather jackets and shirts.

10. You don’t take things out of the plastic.

Most of us are a little lazy when it comes to our clothes (and our chores); we begrudgingly complete the arduous task of picking our stuff up from the cleaners and then we shove it in our closets, bag and all. Unfortunately, this can wreak havoc on your clothing.

Leaving articles inside the bag that they come in can trap the chemicals that remain on your clothes from the dry clean and damage the fibers even more. As soon as you get home, shake all of your items out and throw out the plastic bag.

11. You’re not separating lights from darks.

This rule is one of the most well-known but least-followed. Those pretty, bright-colored clothes that you love so much are that way because of the extra-strong dye that was used to make them.

Whenever you’re mixing bright and dark colors, pay extra attention to the label. If these clothes aren’t washed correctly, some color might permanently bleed onto the other clothes in your machine during washing. As a rule of thumb, always wash like colors with like colors.

12. You’re dry cleaning too often.

Dry cleaning can be easy for you but know it has one major drawback: it involves a lot of chemicals being dumped onto your clothing. If your clothing tag reads “dry clean” and not “dry clean only,” it means that you can hand wash the item at home—it’ll save you money and exposure to chemicals.

Also note that even if the tag requires you to only dry clean your clothes, you can save trips to the cleaner by airing out your clothing and spot cleaning them until they really need the full treatment. Unless it’s undergarments, an item of clothing can be worn more than once before it has to be fully washed.

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