Don’t Touch that Dial! Pre-laundry tips to help keep your clothes looking great and lasting longer

You’ve found the perfect shirt that’s stylish and amazingly comfortable and vow to keep it looking just-from-the-store new! Buying multiples of the same blouse, safely storing those go-to jeans in a vacuum sealed bag, and never cleaning that faux fur vest. These are just a few extra measures people take to protect clothes and maintain their original glory. Luckily, there are better, less extreme alternatives. Before tossing your clothes in the washer or dryer, follow these simple pre-laundry tips to help keep your clothes looking great and lasting longer.

Check the Care Label

Before washing, drying, or even ironing your clothes, the general rule of thumb is to read the garment care label first. Doing so can help you avoid matting that soft and fluffy pullover, shrinking joggers into capris, or turning a bright white tee to Smurf blue. Following care instructions can also prevent the seesaw effect when attempting to fix that shrunken sweater. You know, the back-and-forth motion of pulling the shirt down in the front which causes the back to spring up and vice versa. Reading care instructions and understanding the meaning of symbols on clothing labels can help you keep your clothes looking their best. If the garment tag is missing, or you’re ever unsure about your clothes, consult a fabric care chart that breaks down common care symbols and provides instructions so you can avoid damaging your clothes.

Laundry Must-dos

Make sure the garment is not dry-clean only. When a tag reads “dry-clean only,” it is typically made from fabrics such as wool or silk that should be professionally cleaned. While some dry-clean garments can be laundered at home, deviating from the manufacturers care instructions increases the risk of laundry mishaps. Another must-do before starting a load of laundry is to test if a garment’s fabric is colorfast. Simply dampen the material in a concealed area, wait a few minutes, and blot the area with a white cloth to see if the color appears.

Sort, Sort, Sort

Once you determine if a garment is suitable for machine wash, it’s time to sort. Sorting laundry correctly before placing it in the washer will avoid laundry disasters like that red sock invading your white sheets. Use separate laundry hampers to sort clothes by color, fabric type, and soil level. Washing by fabric type helps you choose the correct washer cycle and drying method. Keep in mind if a garment is made of multiple fabrics, follow the care instructions for the most delicate material. Sweaters, delicates, and cotton T-shirts should be turned inside out to prevent pilling. Using the right detergent is also key to keeping your clothes looking their best and preventing colors from fading.

Take Care of Special Care

For some fabrics, special attention is needed. Unique fabrics tend to produce the most stunning styles, and an investment like this requires extra care to maintain the garment’s allure. For instance, clothes made from Hacci knit are very soft and have a flowing drapery. The blend of rayon, polyester, and spandex give this fabric a comfortable stretch, which means TLC is required to maintain its shape. To clean Hacci knit garments: machine wash separately or with like colors in cold water on the gentle cycle. Lay clothes flat to dry.

If you’ve finally scooped up that Sherpa pullover you’ve been eyeing all season, you’ll want to make sure it lasts. Due to the delicacy of the fabric, some manufacturers may recommend professional dry cleaning only. However, with a little time and effort, most “dry clean only” clothing can be washed at home. When cleaning a Sherpa jacket, vest, or pullover, make sure to wash it separately in cold water with regular laundry detergent. For best results, do not use fabric softener or bleach, which can damage the material. Line dry and avoid the dryer—fluff with your fingers to complete the process. For long-term maintenance from extended wear, use a soft bristled brush to loosen matted areas. Gently brush the area in multiple directions, then pat back into place.

When it comes to keeping your clothes looking their best, garment labels should be your first point of reference. The tags inside your clothes provide valuable care instructions and fabric content detail. You’ll also want to entrust “dry-clean only” garments to the professionals. Separate your laundry for best results and test items for colorfastness. Remember, garments are not all created equal, and different fabrics require different types of treatment. Following these simple pre-laundry tips can help you to keep your clothes from stretching, fading, and shrinking so that you can enjoy them longer.