Now that you have made the mental shift to get your wardrobe to pay you for wearing it, your days of wear without care are over. It’s time to maximize the resale value of your clothing and it begins with maintaining them in the best condition possible.
There’s nothing more disappointing than a beautiful piece of clothing that’s been ruined through carelessness or ignorance. I see it all the time and in most cases, the situation was avoidable. Cashmere and merino riddled with holes. Silks that have made a perilous trek through a washer and dryer. Wool sweaters that look doll-sized now but at one time were actually intended for real people. “The Secret Life of Clothes.” I can just imagine the movie now, with all the clothes sharing their sob stories of abuse and neglect. Accidents happen, I’m not trying to shame you for messy eating, though you could think about a napkin or eating over your plate (the mom in me compelled me to say that but growing up I was the kid that spilled everything under the sun on myself).
Does it really have to go down this way? Let’s reason together for a bit and see if I can convince you to do better. For starters, it’s important to see clothing neglect as double waste: you have wasted the money you spent on your clothing because now it is ruined and unwearable, but you have also depleted any resale value (whether you resale yourself or expect to consign the item). Essentially you have placed those clothes on ‘landfill row’. No one wants to buy things that have holes, stains, significant pill (those little tiny balls of fabric all over your sweaters), or fade – to name just a few deal-breakers in the resale world. What’s to be done to avert these tragedies? Let’s go fabric by fabric and then we can talk about specific non-fabric related issues.
These fabrics are very prone to holes, and it is likely moth damage. Don’t use mothballs, they smell awful and are just as bad as moth holes at ruining the resale value. Use cedar in your closet instead, it’s easily sourced in the closet goods section of most big retailers. Also, it’s a very good idea to store these sweaters in sealed bins or plastic zipper bags. This simple step can help your clothing last longer for your own use and have great resale value when you are done with it.
If they say “dry clean only” don’t think you can get away with washing/drying, is your washer/ dryer pure magic and able to work miracles? Not likely. It will fade the pretty sheen of your silk and there’s no coming back from that terrible place. I will say that some fabrics that say dry clean, particularly polyesters, well you might be able to disregard that dry clean only sentiment, but do so thoughtfully and with experience as your guide. In almost every case, you really do have to follow dry clean only instructions and especially with silk. Washable silks are different, but just make sure that is what you are working with. Strive to keep that silk alive!
Any Type of Sweater Knit
Be it wool, merino wool, cashmere, acrylic, cotton, or a blend – it needs to say fade and pill-free. The best way to do this is to never let them see the inside of a dryer. Some of these fabrics will be dry clean anyway, but even if they are not and say “machine wash/machine dry”, don’t be fooled!! Don’t do it. The dryer is the number one source of pill and fade. That is what all the dryer lint you are collecting represents, the very real (and now lower) resale value of your clothing. Get a drying rack, whatever kind suits you, and use it.
These are generally the easiest care, they tend to stave off pill/fade if they are flat and not a sweater-knit type fabric. Machine wash is generally fine, and a few times here and there in the dryer probably won’t hurt, but if you wear it often and want it to last, you may still want to consider line drying.
That’s a general overview of fabric-specific care, now let’s move on to addressing specific problems you will face with clothing resale that are independent of the fabric. We will cover deodorant staining, food stains, and finish off with some miscellaneous issues.
Deodorant (My arch-nemesis, scowl)
Nothing says “gross” like deodorant under the arms of a clothing item. It can carry with it a horrible smell but more often it is just an unsightly white film. Deodorant was made to repel moisture so using a wet cloth will not solve the problem. You want to think “dry” and “textured” – these will be your two best allies. I like to use a dry, textured terry washcloth or bath towel. Don’t be afraid to apply some pressure depending on the fabric type. A disagreeable smell will only come free with proper laundering.
Food stains could take years to go over all the possibilities so this is going to stay very high level. Grease stains – you want to use something like dish soap that is intended to break down oils. Simple surface stains – try some warm water first, sometimes that is all you need if it’s not a set in stain BUT only if it’s not a dry clean fabric, using water on dry clean items can leave a ring stain (if you’ve read “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back”, it’s just like that, you’ll be trading one stain for another). For set in stains, I like to use an Oxy Clean soak, the number of hours I let it sit depends on how significant the staining is. Be careful not to mix colored and non-colored items together when soaking as colors tend to run during an Oxy soak.
Last stop, miscellaneous land. Fix any mending issues before reselling – this includes sewing down loose buttons, putting hemlines back in that have fallen out, checking zippers, making sure no nose-puckering smells are present…basically you want to aim for zero issues because online buyers seem to be the owners of the world’s most powerful microscopes and have the most dainty little noses. If you do have pill on a garment, you can try a few things: pull them off one by one (or pay your kids to do this, mine are always
greedy grateful for any opportunity to earn money), use a lint roller, iron the item, or on some flat fabrics a stiff brush is often very effective. Once you’re confident you have no mending issues, no holes, pill, fade, or stains, you’re ready to go move on to the next stop, the photo booth. While I have much to learn still, my resale pictures have improved tremendously over the years so I’ll share my photography journey in a future post.