It takes a great deal of time, expense, skill and effort to build a wardrobe. There’s more to protecting this investment than most realize. Following those washing instructions is only the start.

Start at the beginning

You need to start making the right choices right at the store. While getting quality fabric does go a long way, there’s more. There’s no point having clothes last when they are excessively trendy. You aren’t likely to be able to wear them a year later. Buying clothes that come with dry-clean only instructions can make life difficult, too. If you can’t keep paying professional cleaning bills, you’re likely to clean less often and end up with clothes that don’t make it very far.

The first step to a longer-lasting investment in clothing, then, is to buy carefully — classic styles that will belong 10 years from now and materials that are easy to wash at home.

Once you have the right clothes, it’s all about the love and care.

How about your water?

When it comes to your laundry routine, good care starts with the right kind of water. Hard water can deposit corrosive salts in your clothing, leaving them dingy looking right away. They will also shorten the amount of use that you get out of them. You need to get your water tested and invest in a water softener if the test results point to excessive hardness.

Try not to use the machine

Many make a terrible mistake using excessive quantities of soap in their machines. Leftover soap on your clothes can be corrosive. Even when you do use the right quantity of soap, machine washing wears clothes out excessively.

While cottons and other hardy materials can survive machines reasonably well, woolens do not do well at all. Sweaters quickly lose elasticity when tumbled in a washing machine, especially if there’s hot water involved. The gentle, squeezing action of hand washes makes sweaters last forever. You should remember to wash them inside out to prevent pilling.

Longer Clothes

The high heat that dryers use can damage fabric. If you are in a building that doesn’t allow line drying, you want to set aside a part of a room to dry your clothes in. If the room is ventilated, has even a little heating and a fan going, your clothes will dry quickly, and it can be wonderful for them. If you have to use the dryer, use dryer balls. They help clothes dry more quickly and minimize the possibility of heat damage.

Familiarize yourself with home dying touchups

DIY clothing dye brands such as Rit help reverse fading. They are easy to use, and can greatly extend the serviceable life of any article of clothing that has solid color rather than patterns.

Establish a clothing care routine

Most people have no care routine for their clothing at all, save for the laundry run. Clothes do need special care, though, and the sooner you learn to work those needs into a routine, the better your clothes will look.

Learning to steam your clothes on a regular basis can help. Each time you get your clothes out of the dryer or the line, you want to steam them. The process helps moisturize and pump up the fibers. Going over your clothes with a steamer is far gentler than ironing, and it stresses the fabric far less. While you’ll still need an iron for difficult wrinkles and for a sharp crease, using steaming can minimize ironing.

Establish a clothes storage routine

Clothes don’t do well when hung, especially sweaters. They like being laid out flat. When you do hang clothes, you need to go with good, substantial hangers. They help your clothes retain their shape.

If you find that your clothes don’t last as long as you would like, the reason usually is that you haven’t begun to see that clothes need special care. Once you begin to understand the needs that fabrics have, you’ll quickly put yourself on the path to having wardrobes that last a decade or longer.