The Art Of Caring For Vintage Clothes


From a cheeky vintage Nike sweatshirt, all the way to a bold 80s Adidas track jacket, our favourite vintage gems need to be cared for. So, if you want to make sure your most treasured garms have more years ahead of them than behind them, here’s how to care for you vintage clothes…

Cleaning clothes

Washing your clothes can, quite literally, be a messy business! Nightmares of opening the washing machine to be faced with a jumper half the size it used to be, or a t-shirt with all the print peeled off have haunted even the best of us. So, to sooth your worries we’ve compiled our step by step process for staying safe in the mine field that is washing your clothes.

1)      Assess the marks and dirt on the clothes.

Most marks on clothing can be spot washed. If a laundry messiah walked this earth, the first of his Ten Laundry Commandments would be ‘Though shall not over wash thy fibres’. Incessant machine washing is one of the most common vintage clothing sins. What most people do not realise is that the fibres in fabric deteriorate over time in the washing machine. And when it comes to your most treasured pieces, you want to preserve them for as long as possible.

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2)      Assess the type of fabric

It can be difficult to read old and worn tags on vintage clothes to see exactly what the fabric is and how to best wash it. A general rule of thumb is that fabrics can be grouped by weight, thickness and feel, however, for a more detailed guide on identification, see exactly what fabrics can be ‘recognized with your fingertips’.

If you have any concerns about the delicacy of your item, or special features it has that may be damaged by using machine washing, then always consult a local, reputable, dry cleaners and either get their opinion or use their services.

3)      Group different clothes by the type of fabric and by colour.

Wash different fabrics and colours separately as different types of fabric can catch on each other and colours can mix.

4)      Wash at 30 degrees.

The vast majority of vintage clothes can be machine washed at 30 degrees. Generally speaking, most t-shirts, sweatshirts, shirts, trousers and jeans that don’t have any delicate features or print can be safely machine washed as long as:

  1. a)All zippers are fully done up as they may catch on clothing and cause damage
  2. b)All buttons are undone so the cycle of washing does not put any strain on them
  3. c)All clothing is turned inside to preserve the outer design and thoroughly clean the inside

Use an eco-friendly detergent where possible as these use chemicals that are less harsh on fabric, keeping your garments in top condition for longer. Plus, theirs the added bonus of not contributing to the destruction of the planet. Also, avoid adding too much detergent as this leaves suds that do not fully rinse out of the garment.

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5)      Air dry

Once cleaned, air dry the clothes and avoid using the tumble dryer whenever possible. Not only is the tumble dryer an incredibly energy intensive appliance, but the rapid heating of clothes can shrink the fibres, leading to irreversible wear over time. But accidents happen, and clothes get shrunk, so if you find yourself standing 5ft10 tall with a toddler size t-shirt fresh out the tumble dryer, follow this guide to ‘unshrink’ your clothes.

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Storing your vintage clothes

Storing your clothes can be as confusing as it is tedious. So, if spending 30 minutes scouring your wardrobe for a top to eventually find it crumpled in the corner, with a slightly damp smell, sounds like a terrible way to start the day, then you should carefully follow these tips for keeping your vintage gems safe from the ravages of time:

  • Ensure that any storage area is dry and free of humidity. It’s pretty obvious that you should never store your clothes somewhere that could be described as ‘hot and wet’, but it’s still worth reiterating. Over time, damp storage areas develop a musty odour and cause rot damage to the fibres.
  • Make sure that all clothes are fully dried before storage. We know that you’re desperate to get your washing off the line, but no one appreciates you smelling of damp.
  • Do not iron clothes before storing them away. This leaves creases in the clothes, and the fabric will weaken around these creases.
  • A dilemma for the ages, hang it or fold it? Just like all the other philosophical questions that humanity has grappled with since the dawn of time, this question has no one true answer. It really comes down to the storage space you personally have available. But let’s pretend that you have the world’s most spacious wardrobe. When you’ve got the necessary space, you can follow this guide on how to organize your clothes.
  • For every type of clothing, there is a perfect method of folding. And yes! This is just as exciting as it sounds, so just follow this simple guide to folding clothes.
  • When it comes to your most beloved items, the ones that cost you an arm and a leg and you only wear for the most special of occasions, extra precautions should be taken. Keep these items stored separately from other clothes, giving them room to breathe as natural oils and chemicals can transfer between items of clothing.
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Infographic: Art Of Caring For Vintage Clothes

Art Of Caring For Vintage Clothes
Art Of Caring For Vintage Clothes

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