I Ask Gran: How to Care for Your Clothes

According to the charity Wrap, which promotes sustainable waste management, the average lifetime for a garment in the UK is just 2.2 years. But wearing each piece of clothing for nine months longer could significantly reduce your wardrobe’s carbon footprint, says the World Economic Forum.

But how to do that when the clothes I do have don’t last two years, let alone three? A beautiful knit I bought last year is more bobble than wool. My fairly new delicates are frayed and unravelling.

It’s time for some expert advice. My Gran, Terry Lenton, is amazing at caring for her clothes, still able to wear garments she bought before I was born. Here’s her advice on making your clothes last longer.

How to wash your clothes

I machine wash almost everything on a ‘mixed fabrics setting 30 degrees’ apart from things such as pants, t-shirts and towels which I wash on the cotton setting at 60 degrees. I don’t wash my clothes as frequently as many people do.

How to dry your clothes

I only tumble dry towels – everything else I dry on a clothes-airer to minimise ironing.

Caring for wool and delicates

Counter intuitively, scientists have found that we should avoid ‘delicate’ wash cycles wherever possible, because “on a delicate wash cycle the clothes release far more plastic fibres. These are micro-plastics, made from polyester. They are not biodegradable and can build up in our environment.”

I used to hand wash anything woollen, but mostly wool is now machine washable if turned inside out. Delicates are mostly OK at 30 degrees.

When the label says ‘dry clean-only’

I always check care instructions and try not to buy anything that isn’t washable. With clothes that are dry clean only I have them professionally cleaned a few times and then risk hand washing them.

Take care of your clothes

I try to mop up any stains immediately, always replace lost buttons and attend to hems that have unravelled.

Quality over quantity

I definitely think clothes are less well made than they used to be. I recently bought a cheap top, but it only lasted for a couple of washes.

I think it is worth paying more to get the best quality one can afford. Some of my clothes are over thirty years old, yet they are still in good condition.

My Mum used to keep some of her clothes ‘for best’ which she only wore on special occasions, so her ‘best’ clothes lasted for ever! But I like my clothes to be suitable for almost anything I do.

Huge thanks to Gran for your advice here. Here’s to making our clothes last longer – good luck, everyone!

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