My 3-Step Strategy for Longer-Lasting Clothes

Own, trade, and restyle your duds to keep them around — and looking good — longer. Wallet, wardrobe, and world will all thank you.
Sep 26, 2013 6:00 AM ET

With two daughters that are 3 years apart, I am lucky that my clothing budget for kid number two is significantly reduced. My younger is at an age where she thinks wearing her big sister’s clothes is cool… hopefully it’ll still be years before she turns up her nose at hand-me-downs, and insists instead on a trip to the mall for brand-new threads. 

Until then, I’m on a mission to keep my kids’ clothing around and in good shape for as long as possible — because when clothes are in decent condition, there’s no reason to throw them away. Keeping clothing in circulation, and out of the landfill, is good for the environment, and of course, saves money. What’s more: If more people extend the life of outgrown clothing by passing them on, less clothing would need to be manufactured, which means a reduction in the amount of raw materials (including cotton, which WWF considers the “dirtiest” crop), production energy, and the fuel consumption used to transport the goods to retail. 

Here are the three simple rules I follow to try to make good on my mission: 

1. Keep clothes like new. The first rule to making clothes last longer is to treat them well while they’re yours. My eldest daughter is hard on her clothes, though, always spilling food on her shirts or getting dirt and grass stains on her pants, so I’ve learned that stain removal is key. Be sure to be proactive about getting stains out of clothing right away, and consider less-harsh, still-effective earth-friendly alternatives to most detergents. If you’re looking for a greener detergent, check out Environmental Working Group, which rates products (like detergents) based on their environmental impact. 

Read on for rules 2 and 3!