Simple Secrets to Make Clothes Look Better and Last Longer

You should see the big wad of lint I just plucked from the trap of my clothes dryer. Ack! Where does all of that come from? I know I emptied all pockets and I’m certain I did not wash a bag of pillow stuffing.

I’ll tell you what it is, and I am not happy about this: It’s visual proof the dryer is wearing out our clothes. Those fibers were neatly woven into these clothes only 30 minutes ago. For all the convenience a clothes dryer offers, it may come at the price of having to replace clothes much too often.

Overdrying clothes causes them to shrink and not only the first time they’re washed. Sleeves and pant legs continually get shorter and shorter when machine dried improperly.

 

Colorful clothes hanging to dry on a laundry line and sun shining in the blue sky.

 

There are tactics to counteract the abuse suffered by a clothes dryer and you don’t have to go back to the days of sheets frozen stiff on the clothesline (does anyone but me remember that?). You don’t have to machine dry your clothes to death to end up with comfy jeans and fluffy soft towels.

Get the soap out

Residual detergent in fabrics causes them to feel rough. Measure carefully erring on the side of too little rather than too much detergent. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the last rinse. This will help remove the residual detergent from the fabrics. Even when air-dried, they will be softer.

Semi-dry

Never machine dry clothes—especially jeans—completely. Ten to 15 minutes is sufficient for most items to remove the major wrinkles. Then hang them from a clothesline if you’re lucky enough to have one, or an indoor clothes rack.

 

Men's jeans and shirts hanging on clothes line between tow trees in the woods

Hang from the ankles

Remove partially-dry jeans and all other pants from the dryer and hang them on hangers by the hems on pant hangers equipped with clothespins or clamps. The weight of the pant will pull the fibers into place and keep the pants from getting shorter every time you launder them.

Emergency speed dry

When you need something to dry in a big hurry, here’s a great tip: Place the wet item and one dry bath towel into the dryer. Set on the highest temperature safe for that particular item. You will have dry jammies (or whatever) in less than half the time because the towel will absorb a great deal of the moisture.

Never in the dryer

Any item that has a rubber backing, like a bath rug, should never come in contact with the inside of a dryer. Lay it flat to air dry and that rubber backing will last a long time. Put them through a drying cycle or two and expect that backing to crack, flake, and finally crumble off. What a mess.

Don’t kill the spandex

Fabrics that contain spandex, latex, elastic or have painted or silkscreened logos should not meet the heat of a clothes dryer. Even the elastic in pajamas, underwear and so on will break down quickly if dried on “hot.” Make sure you always read the labels to determine fabric content and laundering instructions. Get a portable drying rack or install a few extra towel bars so you can air-dry these more delicate types of fabric.

Close zippers

If you’ve ever encountered the mystery of tiny holes in T-shirts, we can probably solve that right now. Zippers, especially the metal type on jeans. When left unzipped, the zipper turns into a tiny chainsaw as it agitates and tumbles through the wash and dry process. Those open teeth! The solution is to always close zippers before they go into the washer and dryer.

Turn clothes inside out

When some types of fabric agitate and tumble during washing and drying, they rub against each other creating something called “pilling.” Those are the tiny little balls that make fabric feel rough and look less than lovely. If a fabric is going to pill, there’s not much you can do to stop it other than hand-wash and dry. But you can discourage if not prevent it altogether when you turn clothes inside out. This way, it’s the wrong side of those shirts and jeans that will receive the agitation and rub down, while the right side is getting a much gentler treatment on the inside.

First published: 7-16-19


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4 replies
  1. PatriotPeg
    PatriotPeg says:

    i learned this from my mom, other than the dryer part. always (weather permitting) hung clothes outside. thanx for the reminder.

    Reply
  2. sadnana
    sadnana says:

    I’ve used mesh laundry bags to wash my clothes for years. They’re the best protection I’ve found for them and it shows. I have clothes that are over 5 years old that look almost new. I also use my dryer sparingly. I’ve found that birds love to perch on clothes lines and leave their droppings on my freshly washed laundry, so I hang-dry most of my wardrobe indoors. It’s an inconvenience, but worth the effort.

    Reply
  3. MaryM
    MaryM says:

    Line dry outside, or use a drying rack inside! One sure sign that spring has finally come to Michigan, I hung out my first load of sheets. Hurrah!

    Reply

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