Ever since my son was born, I’ve been a lover of mess. There’s just something so joyous in watching my little one explore his environment fully, unhampered by concern or self-consciousness.
This mindset of “embracing mess” has been baked into First Peak since its inception But even I – the true mess-embracer – have my limits. I want to allow my son to get messy, and I also want his clothes to bounce back to freshness after we get cleaned up. I’m ok with a little extra meal-time play, but I don’t want food smells to forever persist in his clothes. He should be able to splash in a stream, and dry quickly enough to stay comfy. To me, adventure-ready kids’ clothing needs to be designed with a level of durability and resiliency against the elements.
I’m also a realist: many high-performance garments require distinct care practices that I just couldn't imagine recommending to parents. As such, in sourcing fabrics, I require machine washability, and a level of no-brainer care that’s reasonable to impose even when you have so much else to juggle.
But even the simple can be optimized. As I’ve learned more about fabrics – especially eco-friendly, natural fibers – I’ve also learned a few tricks that really keep clothes in their best condition. Here are a few of my favorites.
What’s special about natural fibers
First, a quick explainer on why I’m calling out “natural fibers.” These are fabrics like cotton, Tencel, wool, and Modal, made from natural materials that are often the most sustainable for our planet. These natural fibers also share a common, somewhat irksome, habit: they shed. This shedding can fill our lint filters, and it’s also the source of “pilling,” those little balls that collect on a fabric’s surface. Pilling doesn’t actually threaten the integrity of the fabric itself, but let’s face it: it’s annoying. The tips below are some of my favorites because they’re simple ways to minimize pilling for any natural fabric, ours included.
This tip may seem too obvious, but I’ll call it out nonetheless: simply washing clothes less will prolong their lifespan. Especially with our antimicrobial fabrics, enhanced with gold and silver, I’m often amazed by how fresh clothes can remain between washes, and how simply rubbing them off the next morning can often remove the majority of surface debris.
Hand-washing and hang-drying are certainly gentler than machines (and are great options for travel or camping!), but they’re also more time- and labor-intensive. Assuming that a machine is your standing solution – it’s mine! – take a beat to ask yourself if garments are fine for another wear before you toss them in the hamper.
Wash and dry inside out
Simple friction is one of the biggest expediters of fiber shedding, so simply flipping clothes inside-out before washing helps to protect their exterior surfaces. It can also help to separate clothes so that tougher items with zippers or coarser surfaces don’t create more friction, particularly in the dryer.
Try an Enzyme Detergent
Enzyme detergents were a very recent discovery in our home. They’re generally celebrated as a more eco-friendly solution that’s particularly good at odor and stain removal. But there’s an added bonus to these detergents: many contain cellulase, an enzyme that helps shedding fibers release from garments, rather than hanging on.
Dirty Labs has been our favorite brand so far, and they share a nice explainer about cellulase in detergent. I’ll note that enzyme detergents definitely have a higher unit cost than something more standard, but they’re also far more concentrated, so a little goes a long way!
Use the Gentlest Dryer Settings
At the end of the day, the dryer is often the top culprit in wearing down clothes. But if you adjust the settings appropriately, you can make a big impact. Here are some simple tweaks: lower the temperature and use the lowest tumble speed/setting. Even better: pull items out when they’re still 20% damp, and let them air-dry on a flat surface.
There you have it! 4 tips that shouldn’t add more than 1-2 minutes to your overall routine. And let me also reemphasize, these tips are just ways to boost look and longevity. Wash however you wash, and our clothes will be along for the ride.