Extend the Life of Your Winter Wardrobe

June 28, 2023

I always love bringing out my favourite winter clothes when the cooler weather arrives. Recently I took a trip out to Warwick where the morning temperature was -1 so I had to dust off the winter coat, beanies and scarves. It had me thinking about the fabrics used and how best to treat my valuable clothes so that I can prolong their life for many seasons to come.

I spoke to Alexis Harris from the SCRgroup, which is the country’s largest and most innovative clothing recycling company to glean some tips from an expert. Alexis encourages Australians to rethink the way we care for our garments at home and to embrace a more sustainable way of shopping. Australia has a huge clothing waste problem and currently we are sending 30 million kilograms of clothing to landfill every year. Extending the life of your clothes is the simplest and most cost effective way to keep clothes out of landfill. Alexis gave us her top tips on how to best wash and prolong the life of your clothes and accessories this winter.

1. Jumpers – Jumpers are a winter staple, but they can easily lose their shape if washed too often. It’s best to wash jumpers every 2 – 3 wears to keep them soft and maintain their shape. When washing woollen jumpers, make sure you’re using the wool setting on your washing machine or wash by hand. Wool can shrink so it’s important to treat it carefully. Read the instructions on the best drying method.

2. Coats and Jackets – The fabric of your coat or jacket is the key to determining how frequently you should wash. In general these items don’t come into contact with skin, so don’t need to be washed as frequently as you think. Down jackets, leather jackets and wool coats only need to be cleaned once a season and it’s always best to have them dry cleaned. Suit Jackets and blazers should be dry cleaned every 4 – 5 wears and fleece jackets every 6 -7 wears. At the end of the season, it’s really important to have your coats and jackets washed and dry cleaned before you store them away. Moths are attracted to perfumes and food odours and you don’t want to find holes in your clothes when you go to wear them next season.

3. Beanies, scarves and gloves – These well loved accessories are often forgotten about when it comes to washing, but it’s important to remember that they come in direct contact with facial oils, perfume build up, plus the germs you pick up with gloves, so at a minimum you should be washing them once a week. Check the fabric and care instructions of each item for the best way to wash them and they’ll keep you warm season after season.

4. Jeans – An everyday wardrobe staple for many of us, but this item is shrouded in confusion! There are many myths about how to look after jeans, including not washing them at all, or putting them in the freezer to clean them. Both are incorrect! You should definitely be washing them, however, you don’t need to wash them often. To keep your denim looking great and out of landfill, turn them inside out when you wash them, put them in with similar colours and ALWAYS wash in cold water. This happens to be better for the environment too. For me, I always reshape and lay my jumpers flat to dry so that they don’t lose their shape. I prefer hand washing wool with a wool washing powder, after my favourite bee cardigan turned to doll size after washing it in the machine. I also noticed that in Queensland leather and suede are the first fabrics that are affected in a mould outbreak. The cleaner they are the less likely they are to succumb to mould. I am glad that Alexis debunked the old chestnut of putting jeans in the freezer. My boys always told me this one when they first bought Nudie jeans. This myth has been around for years.

For any items you can no longer wear, drop them off at one of the 1500 SCRgroup collection hubs around the country. I always cull and pass them on to younger friends who love my vintage clothes and they breath new life into them. I swap with friends and repurpose, mend and re -use vintage finds. It’s the best way to make your style uniquely yours. As Alexis shared there is always so much more we can be doing to create a circular economy and encourage more sustainable fashion. If you treat your winter clothes well they will repay that love for many seasons to come.

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