Keep Your Favorite Clothes Looking Like New

That perfectly fitting pair of jeans, a gorgeous new sweater, a crisp white T-shirt -- whether you spent $10 or $100, your favorite wardrobe pieces have the power to make you feel like a million bucks. So why not protect your investment? These clothing care strategies will keep your closet’s MVPs in great shape for a long time to come.

1. Keep jeans looking new.
Jeans see more wear and tear than most other items in your closet. To avoid the too-worn look, wash your jeans inside out on the delicate cycle and remove them from the dryer when they’re still slightly damp. (Intense heat can break down denim fibers.) “Most of the damage to jeans happens in the last 30 percent of dry time,” says Steve Boorstein, author of The Ultimate Guide to Shopping and Caring for Clothing and creator of the website ClothingDoctor.com.

2. Remove stains from a T-shirt.

One mishap needn’t relegate your tee to the bottom of the drawer. “Time is your biggest enemy,” says Boorstein. “The faster you address the stain, the better the chance of removing it.”

For water-based stains -- coffee, red wine, perspiration -- fill a spray bottle with equal parts water and laundry detergent, plus a few drops of vinegar, and spritz the area ASAP. Then gently scrub with a soft-bristle toothbrush. Wash the shirt as normal but avoid the dryer. Heat can permanently “bake in” a stain. If the stain remains, soak the entire shirt in warm water and color-safe or oxygen-based bleach for an hour, then wash it again.

Oil-based stains -- butter, salad dressing, lipstick -- are more stubborn. Pretreat with a solution of one part glycerin, one part lemon liquid dish detergent and eight parts water; the citrus detergent can help break up oil, says Boorstein. But you may have more luck with dry cleaning. Just tell the staff what caused the stain so they can treat it accordingly.

3. Stop sweaters from pilling.

“Pilling is the result of friction,” says Boorstein. While some of it is unavoidable (you can’t exactly stop swinging your arms!), try to minimize friction when you can. Keep elbows off surfaces and alternate the side on which you carry your purse. To remove fuzz balls, shave your sweater with a new, disposable razor. It’s easy and gives you more control than electric lint removers and de-pillers, so there’s less risk of a snag or other damage. Just use a light touch and be careful not to slice into the garment.

4. Prevent fabrics from fading.

“People tend to over-wash and over-dry clothing, which fades fabrics,” says Boorstein. “Unless they’re heavily soiled, clothes don’t need to agitate in the washer for 40 minutes.” Run shorter, 20-minute wash cycles, and use the delicate wash and medium-heat dryer settings. Other tips: Wash in cold water and turn clothes inside out first.

5. Maintain a bathing suit’s shape.

Wearing a swimsuit can be daunting enough without feeling self-conscious over a saggy bottom or stretched-out straps. To maintain fit, wash or rinse the suit ASAP after getting out of the water -- chlorine and saltwater break down stretchy fabrics. When you’re ready, wash the suit by hand in cold water with a few drops of detergent. If you must machine wash, do so on the delicate cycle and put the suit in a mesh bag for protection, then lay it flat to dry.

by Elizabeth Brownfield