Frugal and green ways to make clothing last

People seldom notice old clothes if you wear a big smile.
~Lee Mildon

I just ripped the ass out of my camo shorts. Literally. I stood up, heard a rip, and thus were they finished. Well, according to my mother they were finished when holes started appearing along my right leg, but I prefer to wait until the ass gives out. Yeah, I’m one of those people…the kind that run around in worn out clothing until it’s just too threadbare and old to patch anymore.

But hey, it means I buy less clothing and spend less money. And once I find a piece of clothing I really like, it means I get to wear it more. But unlike organic clothing, making existing clothing last longer is actually green.

Of course, the first step is finding clothing that will last. My camo shorts didn’t last nearly as long as my old camo pants because the material was thinner and of a lesser quality. Sturdier clothing will last longer, and this is very important with pants and shorts.

And once you buy it, you have to take care of it. I don’t wash my jeans every time I wear them…generally just every second or third time. Washing clothes wears on the fabric; fewer washings means less wear. I wash my clothing in cold water, which also uses less electricity and is less stressful on the fabric. A trick I just learned is to wash with the zippers zipped up so they don’t catch and tear other clothing while in the wash. And I skip the dryer altogether, which can also wear clothing. One of the nice things about living in Texas is that there’s usually enough sunshine, even in the winter, for me to dry my clothes outside on the porch. If I can’t, I bring them inside and hang them on the shower rod in the bathroom and on various knobs in the apartment. This may seem strange and hippieish in the U.S., but in most countries it’s considered the norm to hang-dry clothing. Even my jeans dry in about two hours, it saves me money, uses no electricity, and the clothes smell like fresh air.

And then there’s preventative maintenance. Holes should be mended or patched before they tear further. The large hole in my camo shorts started out as a little hole. If I’d patched it then, I wouldn’t have to throw them out now.

Knowing how to mend clothing is also key. I’ve replaced buttons, sewn up tears, and patched holes. Here’s a how-to guide for making minor clothing fixes. I do almost all my fixes with plain black thread. I pop in a dvd or a long Youtube video and sit in my chair mending something. I’m usually done in less than fifteen minutes.

Truthfully, I have yet to find a good means to recycle ripped up clothes. Turning pants into shorts is easy, but usually when I get around to recycling my pants, there’s a hole in the ass. Sure, there are five billion articles on things you can turn old shirts and clothes into, but how much cute useless bullshit do you really need? I can do without blue jean purses and t-shirt quilts, thank you very much. Maybe if I had a lot of pants I could turn them into a weird hippie comforter or something, but it takes a lot of material to cover a queen-sized bed.


3 Responses to “Frugal and green ways to make clothing last”

  1. Dargon Says:

    My mother is the type wherein the ends of the legs start to fray and they’re done. Me, well, you’ve seen my work pants.

    I would like to emphasize in the patching, patch with good material. Sparkly fun time may look pretty, but if it’s a thin, crappy fabric (as print and other fun fabric tends to be), the patch won’t last.

    And if I may pass along a little tip that was given to me, quilting thread all the way. That stuff tends to be pretty beast compared to general-purpose thread. Often times the fabric will give before the thread does with that stuff.

  2. Growing up, we tended to re-purpose super worn-out clothing into rags for cleaning and wiping up oil and paint and whatnot. Of course, there’s a bit of a top-end of how many rags you can really usefully have, but I also know there are companies that take old, ripped-up and worn-out clothing and box them up to sell to companies as rags. Hell, all the rags we use out in the shop where I work are just this. It’s a little funny at first wiping up grease with the frilly bottom part of an old dress, but you get used to it.

    • Dargon Says:

      Kind of funny, Many of the rags at work here are also old clothing items. A few of my work shirts just got repurposed into shop rags at home as well (and in good timing too, as I abruptly learned you are supposed to drain your engine oil before pulling a starter motor)

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