Patch Before You Purge: Skills that Just Might Save Your Wardrobe

published Aug 2, 2017
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(Image credit: Emily Billings)

In a world filled with fast fashion and disposable trends, taking proper care of our clothes has become less and less of a priority. While this is partly due to the decreasing quality of mass-produced attire, the reality is that, unlike generations before us, many of us don’t know how to correctly care for our wardrobe. And even though poorly made clothes rarely deserve our long-term attention, it’s important to have the ability to tend to ones that do. From mending seams to de-pilling a sweater, here are some basic skills that will help keep your favorite garments in tip-top shape over time (and maybe even save a few from the donation pile).

Before you toss out that scuffed pair of shoes, try this…

1. Easy home remedies: Your dingy running sneakers can get a new lease on life by cleaning them up with nail polish remover and a cotton ball. Scuffed pair of suede shoes? Nothing a nailbrush can’t fix. You can even throw your dirty canvas sneakers in the washing machine (on cold) and score a semi-fresh pair of shoes.

2. Polish: If you’re dealing with a pair of well-worn leather shoes, make a point to shine them regularly to keep them looking fresh and to sustain their wearability. All it takes is a soft rag, shoe brush, and a can of polish (in a matching color) to make your leather shoes appear shiny and new.

3. Protect: Searching for a way to care for your kicks way before they get a chance to get dirty? The web is filled with cool waterproofing polishes and stain repellants that you can apply to new pairs of shoes to protect them from scuffing in the first place.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Before you donate that old shirt, try…

1. Fixing bleach stains: If you think your bleach-stained shirt is past its prime then think again. Turns out there a plenty of ways—including white vinegar (just make sure you’ve thoroughly washed the bleach out first), Sodium Thiosulfate (which neutralizes bleach stains) and even permanent markers—to fix unsightly bleach spots and revive your favorite t-shirt.

2. Redying: Looking to restore a faded shirt to its richly colored glory? Try brightening your darks with coffee or pick up some good old-fashioned fabric dye and voila: your shirt looks brand new.

3. Fixing color runs: If you accidently stained your favorite white shirt with a red sock in the washing machine, no need to worry. Color run removers can work wonders on a streaked top and will help brighten your whites while they’re at it.

Definitely don’t get rid of those pants without…

1. Hand sewing a tear: The days of Home Ec class might be behind us but the importance of knowing how to sew still perseveres. Whether it’s fixing a tear or mending a torn seam, using the correct hand stitch for the job is often all is takes to repair a favorite piece of clothing and extend the life of your wardrobe.

2. Patching holes: Just realized you have a hole in your pants or shirt? No problem. It nothing a patch of fabric (the back of a pocket often provides enough material to use), pair of scissors, and needle and thread can’t easily fix.

3. Mending hems: Whether you’re looking to shorten an outdated skirt or fix a fallen hem, knowing how to mend a hem on the fly is a great way to repair your clothes in a pinch and breathe new life into a stale wardrobe.

(Image credit: Anna Hoychuk)

And worn out sweaters should be no problem if you…

1. Make a habit of hand-washing your sweaters: Wool sweaters tend to crumble quickly in the washer (thanks to tumble-cycle-induced locking fibers) and shrink up when exposed to heat. That’s why it pays to hand wash and hang dry your sweaters at home to save them from future pilling.

2. Try spot-treating stains: Instead of washing your sweater every time you see a single speck of dirt, try spot-treating your stains first. Not only will it save you time, it’ll spare your sweater from an unnecessary washing (and inevitably make it last longer).

3. De-pill: Dealing with pilling sweater and not sure you can save it? Try a Sweater Stone (they have a cult following for a reason) or a sweater comb to de-pill it. If that doesn’t work there are tons of tried-and-true, battery-operated fabric shavers on the market that should definitely do the trick.