1. Hand wash cashmere. Repeated poor-quality dry cleanings can lead to fiber breakage. Plus, an old-fashioned hand washing leaves the cashmere considerably softer. Use lukewarm water and a mild soap, such as the Laundress Wool & Cashmere Shampoo ($19 for 16 ounces, thelaundress.com), and lay flat to dry. Remove excess water by rolling the garment in a towel―never wring it.
2. Don’t drive in good heels. “The floorboard scuffs the heel, and the pedal scratches the toe,” warns Elena R. Aronson, a San Francisco–based stylist and personal shopper. Drive in simple flats, or try heel protectors by Smart Heel ($9, smartheel.com), which are plastic coverings that slide over high heels.
3. Stock up on underarm shields. To prevent armpit stains that crop up no matter how diligent you are about cleaning, Mary Lou Andre, author of Ready to Wear: An Expert’s Guide to Choosing and Using Your Wardrobe ($20, amazon.com), suggests creating a barrier between you and the fabric with adhesive underarm shields, which attach to the inside of the clothing (Garment Guard, $11 for five, solutionsthatstick.com). A sleeved tee layered underneath works, too.
4. Never hang pearls. “This weakens the silk threads that hold the necklace together,” says Helena Krodel of the Jewelry Information Center, in New York City.
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Whites, Darks, Dryers, and Jewelry
5. Launder whites after every wear. It’s tempting to put a white blouse back into the closet after a spill-free wearing. After all, it looks spotless. But “body oils and perspiration, along with other time-released stains (like perfume, white wine, and oil splatters), will start to give a once-bright white a yellowish tint,” says Steve Boorstein, developer of the DVD Clothing Care (Day Light, $20, amazon.com).
6. But don’t overwash darks. Boorstein blames frequent washings for faded clothing. Black pants, in particular, can be worn several times before laundering. For best results when you wash, run darks on a short cycle in cold water and let them air-dry. Blot any stains, since rubbing will create a lighter spot.
7. Beware the dryer. “Excessive heat makes fibers brittle, causing the fabric to break down,” says Boorstein. Combat this by removing lightweight garments, like T-shirts and camisoles, and anything containing spandex (which can lose elasticity over time when exposed to too much heat) 10 minutes earlier than heavy garments, such as jeans and sweatshirts. “Most of the damage is done in the last 10 minutes of drying,” says Boorstein.
8. Hold off on your jewelry. “Wait 15 minutes after applying perfume or body lotion before slipping on baubles,” says Krodel. Beauty products are notorious for leaving a greasy buildup.
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Ironing, Shoes, Socks, and Jewelry
9. Iron clothing inside out. “Ironing can fade dark colors as well as create shine marks on fabrics with sheen, like gabardine, acetate, and polished cottons,” says Chris Allsbrooks, a textile analyst with the Dry Cleaning & Laundry Institute, in Laurel, Maryland. Avoid damage by using the appropriate heat setting and pressing the item on the reverse side. Or use a cloth between garment and iron. And, adds Boorstein, “never iron a crease on a black garment―it can leave a permanent line.”
10. Add sole protectors to your shoes. Have a cobbler attach rubber bottoms to shield leather soles from water absorption and general wear and tear. They cost about $20, but “they can extend the life of your shoes by years,” says Jim McFarland, owner of McFarland’s Shoes and Repair, in Lakeland, Florida.
11. Switch to wool athletic socks. Wool socks aren’t only for cold days. “A lesser-known benefit of wool is that it can help keep sneaker interiors stink-free, thanks to its natural ability to wick moisture away,” says Rodney Kott, Ph.D., a sheep specialist at Montana State University, in Bozeman.
12. Remove all jewelry before swimming. The chlorine in pool water wears away the surface and the shine, according to Krodel.
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Snags, Bras, Handbags, and Buttons
13. Zip up to avert snags. Your clothing goes into the wash perfectly intact. Later you notice a mysterious pull. “The teeth of zippers (especially those made of metal, as on jeans) or any kind of hook closure is typically the culprit,” says Boorstein. Next time close all zippers and clasps before tossing clothes into the washing machine (or, better yet, the hamper).
14. Alternate bras. “Allow a bra to rest for a day in between wearings so the elasticity has a chance to bounce back,” says Susan Nethero, chief fit strategist for Intimacy lingerie boutiques. If you don’t, your bras will wear out faster from being stretched for 14 to 16 hours a day.
15. Store handbags on shelves. It may sound counterintuitive, but “hanging a bag by the handles lessens the life span of the bag,” says Chris Moore, owner of Artbag, a New York City handbag boutique and repair shop. Hanging puts stress on the strap seams, and “it can leave unsightly marks on the handles,” says Moore.
16. Protect delicate buttons and beading. Ask your dry cleaner to wrap foil or baste fabric over these delicate areas. “Covering embellishments prevents them from falling off or becoming damaged,” says Jerry Pozniak, managing director of Cameo Cleaners of Gramercy Park, in New York City, which cleans the costumes of the Metropolitan Opera. Not all professionals do this automatically, so ask about it up front.
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Sneakers, Separates, Jeans, and Rings
17. Never leave sneakers in the car. Extreme temperatures―hot or cold―will wear down the rubber, and heat especially can warp EVA (the material in the midsole). “That will mean less shock absorption for your feet when you’re working out,” says Sharon Barbano, a spokesperson for Saucony. For the same reason, don’t dry running shoes on a radiator or in a hot dryer. Let the shoes air-dry.
18. Dry-clean all the separates of an outfit together. Otherwise one piece will fade at a faster rate than the others. “And when it comes to dry-cleaning suits,” says John Mahdessian, president of Madame Paulette, a dry cleaner in New York City, don’t overdo it. Three or four times a year is sufficient, as the finishing and pressing process can damage fabric over time.
19. Wash (unstained) jeans every third wear. “Most people wash their jeans too often,” says Melissa Ladines, a fit expert for Levi Strauss. Launder them inside out and in cold water. Obsessed with preserving the deep dark rinse? Skip the clothes dryer and let them air-dry, or take them to a dry cleaner.
20. Tap the stones of your rings. “If you hear a rattle, the setting is loose and in danger of coming undone,” says Krodel. Get it repaired before you lose a precious gem.