Don’t Ditch Damaged Clothes: Repair Them to Help Save The Planet

It’s frustrating when you stain, tear, or damage clothes—especially your favorite pieces. Follow these tips to repair stained or ripped clothes and help reduce waste.

Photo: Ekaterina Platonova via 123RF

It’s frustrating when you stain, tear, or damage clothes—especially your favorite pieces. Tossing them out and replacing them with new ones is an easy solution. However, sending more unwanted goods to the landfill is not the best choice for the environment. Instead of ditching damaged clothing, follow these tips to repair stained or ripped clothes and help reduce waste.

The Stain-Removing Power of Vinegar

Nothing is more aggravating than getting an unexpected, stubborn stain on your clothes. Fear not—a common household staple boasts mega stain-busting power: distilled white vinegar. In many cases, you soak or saturate the stain in vinegar and then wash it as usual. Some substances may require adding salt or baking soda to vinegar and scrubbing the solution onto a stain with a toothbrush.

Here are some tips for treating common stains with vinegar:

  • Coffee/Tea: Mix 1/3 cup vinegar and 2/3 cup water, soak stained fabric in the solution, let it dry in the sun, and then run it through the laundry as usual.
  • Mustard: The tangy yellow condiment can be tricky to remove from clothes. First, soak the stain with undiluted vinegar. If it doesn’t come out, spot treat with laundry soap and wash as usual.
  • Tomato: Soak tomato/sauce stains in full-strength vinegar, then wash.
  • Grass: Remove grass stains by soaking clothes in undiluted vinegar for half an hour, then wash it as usual. If the stain persists, treat it again with a vinegar and baking soda paste, scrubbing it into the spot with a toothbrush.
  • Blood: Pour vinegar directly onto a bloodstain as soon as possible after it appears. Let the fabric soak for 15 minutes, rinse it with cold water, and launder it immediately.
  • Ink: Tackle tough ink stains by spraying the soiled area with hairspray, then lightly apply vinegar to remove the stain.
  • Set-In Spots: For stubborn, set-in spots, soak the area well with undiluted vinegar, then scrub the stain with an equal mix of vinegar and baking soda paste. If the stain won’t lift, add two tablespoons of vinegar to two tablespoons of laundry soap in a bucket of water. Soak the garment in the solution overnight, rinse, and wash as usual.

Sew On Missing Buttons

Don’t cast off a coat, shirt, or sweater that’s lost a button. It’s easy to sew on a new one. Check interior seams on the garment for a hidden replacement button. If you don’t find one, grab the closest match you have, along with a needle, thread (in a complementary color), and a pair of scissors.

First, cut enough thread for the job. If you’re doubling thread for strength, you’ll need about 24 inches. Slide the thread through the eye of the needle and then double it over (now you’re working with about 12 inches) and tie the two ends together in a knot.

Next, follow Treasurie’s step-by-step video tutorial for “absolute beginners” to sew on two-hole, four-hole, and shank buttons. If you prefer reading instructions, check out Homesteading’s informative How to Sew a Button guide.

Photo: Iryna Khabliuk via 123RF

Use Easy, No-Sew Fabric Fixes

Don’t fret if you can’t sew. There are several no-sew fixes for clothing holes or tears.

For example, you can seal a tear on the seam of a pair of pants by applying fabric adhesive/glue on both sides of the tear. Press the sides together and allow the glue to dry to keep the gap closed.

Similarly, you can add or repair a hem in pants, a skirt, or other fabric by turning over the edge to create the hem and then inserting double-sided fusible permanent hem tape in the hem. Then, press it in place with an iron. Decorative iron-on patches can also cover holes and add a fun twist to your favorite clothes.

Finally, you can use garment tape to temporarily fix holes or fabric rips. Just press the ripped edges of the fabric together and tape them shut from underneath. Note: This method doesn’t require heating, but it will not hold up during washing.

Learn Basic Sewing and Stitching Skills

Learning basic sewing and stitching techniques is a valuable skill that can extend a damaged piece of clothing’s useful life to ultimately reduce landfill waste.

In today’s vast digital landscape, you can learn how to do just about anything online, including taking a sewing class. Popular, free YouTube tutorial sewing channels include Made to SewAnnika Victoria’s Sewing HacksAnita By DesignGood Housekeeping, and more.

Doing a Google search for “basic sewing hand stitches” turns up many helpful articles, including “9 Basic Hand Stitching Techniques Every Sewer Should Learn” from Martha Stewart offers more online instruction in “Modern Mending: How to Patch a Hole, Mend a Seam, and Fix a Hem.”

You can also enroll in local sewing classes or ask a skilled relative or friend to teach you how to repair a hole in a shirt pocket, darn a sock, and other valuable sewing techniques.

In whatever way you choose to do it, repairing fabric flaws breathes new life into your wardrobe favorites and helps save the planet!


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