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Simple Secrets to Make Clothes Look Better and Last Longer

You should see the big wad of lint I just plucked from the trap of my clothes dryer. Ack! Where does all of that come from? I know I emptied all pockets, and I’m certain I did not wash a bag of pillow stuffing.

I’ll tell you what it is, and I am not happy about this: It’s visual proof the dryer is wearing out our clothes. Those fibers were neatly woven into these clothes only 30 minutes ago. For all the convenience a clothes dryer offers, it may come at the price of having to replace clothes much too often.

Overdrying clothes causes them to shrink, and not only the first time they’re washed. Sleeves and pant legs continually get shorter and shorter when machine dried improperly.

There are tactics to counteract the abuse suffered in a clothes dryer, and you don’t have to machine dry your clothes to death to end up with comfy jeans and fluffy, soft towels.


Residual detergent in fabrics causes them to feel rough. Measure carefully, erring on the side of too little detergent. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the last rinse. This will help remove the residual detergent from the fabrics. Even when air-dried, they will be softer.


Never machine dry clothes completely, especially jeans. Ten to 15 minutes is sufficient for most items to remove the major wrinkles. Then hang them from a clothesline, if you’re lucky enough to have one, or an indoor clothes rack.


Remove partially dry jeans and all other pants from the dryer, and hang them by the hems on pant hangers equipped with clothespins or clamps. The weight of the pant will pull the fibers into place and keep the pants from getting shorter every time you launder them.


When you need something to dry in a big hurry, here’s a great tip: Place the wet item and one dry bath towel into the dryer. Set on the highest temperature safe for that particular item. You will have dry jammies (or whatever) in less than half the time because the towel will absorb a great deal of the moisture.


Any item that has a rubber backing, like a bath rug, should never come in contact with the inside of a dryer. Lay it flat to air-dry and that rubber backing will last a long time. Put it through a drying cycle or two, and expect that backing to crack, flake and finally crumble. What a mess.


Fabrics that contain spandex, latex or elastic or have painted or silk-screened logos should not meet the heat of a clothes dryer. Even the elastic in pajamas, underwear and so on will break down quickly if dried on Hot. Make sure you always read the labels to determine fabric content and laundering instructions. Get a portable drying rack, or install a few extra towel bars so you can air-dry these more delicate fabrics.


If you’ve ever encountered the mystery of tiny holes in T-shirts, we can probably solve that right now: zippers, especially the metal ones on jeans. When left unzipped, the zipper turns into a tiny chainsaw as it agitates and tumbles through the wash and dry process. Those open teeth! The solution is to always close zippers before they go into the washer and dryer.


When some types of fabric agitate and tumble during washing and drying, they rub against one another, creating pilling. Those are the tiny little balls that make fabric feel rough and look less than lovely. If a fabric is going to pill, there’s not much you can do to stop it other than to hand-wash it and dry it. But you can discourage it, if not prevent it altogether, when you turn clothes inside out. This way, the wrong side of those shirts and jeans will receive the agitation, while the right side will get a much gentler treatment.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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