Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In the Kids' Closet: Getting the Most Out of Children's Clothing

I feel a little odd writing about laundry, since I am far from being a laundry queen! I don't have quick fixes to every last stain catalogued in my brain -- generally, I "treat" a stain by wringing my hands, spraying or rubbing something into the stain, and then crossing my fingers. Oh, and then I usually forget to check the stain before tossing the garment into the dryer, where any leftover residue is likely to become permanent.

But now that I've reassured you that I know what I'm doing (*wink*), I do have a few tips for getting as much wear as possible out of the clothes you buy for your children. After all, if you've spent the time and money creating a functional, frugal wardrobe for your child, you want the clothes you've purchased to hold up!

1. Pop the collars. Nothing makes a polo shirt look worse than a faded, lopsided crease in the collar. I can't tell you how many second-hand polos I've passed up due to the horrible condition of the collars! By simply unfolding the collar before laundering, uneven fading and permanently wonky creases can be avoided. To avoid extra time while sorting laundry, just make "popping" a habit when undressing small children and teach older children to do it themselves.

2. Use bibs. This only applies to children young enough to be "subjected" to bibs, but preventing stains in the first place can go a long way to keep clothing in pristine condition. When I forget this, I often regret the results! Little Man has a small selection of fun bibs (his "boat," "New Zealand," "Cowboy," and "Minion" bibs, as he's dubbed them), and he gets to choose what bib he wants at dinner.

3. Use a laundry bag for socks. Is anyone else kind of shocked by the price of children's socks? These tiny garments are adept at hiding (I once found a missing sock months later in a spare pillowcase), so it's a good idea to save time and money by washing them in mesh laundry bags. I can't remember where I first saw this idea, but it works! I'd much rather pull one bag of socks out of the dryer than spend extra time shaking out clothes with my fingers crossed.

My little zip-up bags were under a dollar. I haven't been consistent with this in the past, but I've grown tired of lost socks and am determined to stick with it this time! I've even added a fabric detail to the bottom and a ribbon to the zipper pull, in the hopes that such decoration will keep my enthusiasm up until it becomes a habit.

4. Use gentle detergents and pre-treat agents. Natural detergents are better for children's skin, and are better for laundry, too. Your laundry may not look as "bright" without the added chemical agents, but they'll be just as clean and considerably healthier. I use the same detergent and pre-treat agent for cloth diapers, adult clothes, and children's clothes, so my laundry routine is simple. I do have one or two "stronger" stain removers, which I'll pull out for especially difficult stains.

5. Wash with cold water. Admittedly, I don't wash all of our children's clothes in cold water. "Average" clothes are usually washed in warm water, and heavily soiled or utility clothing is often thrown in with towels on a hot setting. But for nicer garments (especially those that are likely to fade), cold water is the best.

6. Dry on low (or air dry). Again, I generally save this for clothes I'm really concerned about preserving. I've heard that tossing clothes in the dryer for ten minutes before (or after) hanging them on the line helps avoid the "crispy" aspect of line-dried clothing. I don't line dry many entire loads, but there are a few items I hang dry inside (especially linen garments).

7. When all else fails, get creative. Stains happen. However, sometimes you can salvage a stained item if you have some basic sewing/crafting skills. Strategic patches, reverse or regular applique, and embellishments can rescue a garment that otherwise would be scrapped. If you're willing to go a little further, consider more extensive alterations -- pants can sometimes be hemmed into shorts, and long sleeve tops can become short sleeve!

Solid color clothes that have faded may be rejuvenated by a little fabric dye -- if you're ready to discard the garment due to fading, it might be worth a shot!

And that's it! I warned you that I'm hardly profound when it comes to laundry (though someone please tell me that my collar-popping idea has totally revolutionized your faded collar laundry saga). Any other splendiferous ideas for getting the most out of clothing? Please share!

1 comment:

  1. I never thought about the unfolding collars before! I'll have to try that for my husband polo's. I've actually been using a laundry bag for socks from the beginning, and I've always credited that to the fact that the girls socks wear out and have to be thrown away, rather than ending up in a mate-less pile. :-)


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