The average American spends about $150 a month — a total of $1,800 a year — on apparel, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It might seem like a lot of money, but once you factor in that suit for an all-important job interview, the new wardrobe your fast-growing toddler requires every few months and those jean shorts your teenager just has to have, it can add up pretty quickly.
But those are things you have to have (minus, perhaps, those jean shorts your teen is clamoring for). What about the clothes you must replace because of avoidable wear and tear? The khakis with the holes in the knees and the blouses and jeans that quickly fade with each wash?
The cost to swap out those items for something new can turn into a big part of your clothes budget. But much of that wear and tear is avoidable if you make changes to the way you wash, dry and handle your clothing.
Here are four ways to protect your clothing — and save money in the process.
Stop using the dryer
One study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that using the high temperature setting on your dryer actually can damage cotton. In fact, the study found, cotton fabric that’s dried in a dryer on the high setting will tear more easily than the same fabric that’s hung out to dry in the sunlight or simply tumbled in the dryer at room temperature. Letting wet fabric tumble together in a dryer also can cause damage, according to the study.
Researchers recommended cutting the time in the dryer by 10 to 20 percent or tossing clothes in the dryer after they’ve had time to dry a bit on their own. Or you could just let them air dry. Apartment Therapy shares how to make a $5 indoor clothesline.
Skip the wash altogether
If your kids are running non-stop outside on a hot summer day, you should probably wash those smelly clothes. But if you’re sitting in the comfort of your air-conditioned office, moving mostly from the break room to your desk and back, it’s likely that outfit doesn’t need to be tossed in the hamper.
Fewer cycles through the washing machine and dryer can add years to your clothing. According to LifeHack.org, jeans need to be washed after every five wears, dress pants and skirts after every six wears and sweaters after every three wears.
Be delicate with your delicates
Bras and other delicate clothing, including silks and anything with sequins and other embellishments, should be washed with care. When they’re tossed in the laundry with your kids’ dirty jeans and the load of musty towels, they can be damaged — and they can damage other clothing. Hooks on a bra, for instance, could get caught up in your daughter’s favorite sweater.
Instead, wash them on the delicate cycle of your washing machine and be sure to stow the items inside a mesh lingerie bag to protect them and other pieces in your machine. It’s often best to let these items air dry. Cosmopolitan magazine offers some tips for caring for your delicates.
Don’t use fabric softener on your tech gear
Kids love the moisture-wicking clothing that’s often emblazoned with their favorite team logos or sports brands. And, if you’re getting in shape, it is essential for less sweaty workouts.
But fabric softeners, in order to do their job, leave a residue on clothing and, in the case of technical clothing, make it trickier for it to absorb water and sweat. The residue from fabric softeners, according to Outside, can essentially reduce the breathability of tech clothing. So, in your next load of kids’ clothes and workout gear, skip the fabric softener.
In fact, because of the residue it leaves, it might be best to skip fabric softener on other pieces too, including towels and flame-resistant clothing, such as kids’ sleepwear. Good Housekeeping has more on the dos and don’ts of fabric softener.
All it takes are a few changes to your laundry routine to cut down on your laundry costs and protect your wardrobe — and your wallet too.
The team at CESI is committed to helping you make wise financial decisions and to helping you understand how to get out, and stay out of debt. For a free debt analysis, contact us and find out how we can help.