You invest in your clothes, so naturally, you hope to get as much wear out of them as possible. But how many times have you had to toss a favorite dress, sweater or handbag because it lost its original shape or color? TODAY style editor Bobbie Thomas shares at-home ways to keep your fashions fresh and fade-free.
Wrinkle-free results
Wrinkles, the sworn enemy of most light, luxe fabrics, often can take an army to smooth out. Fortunately, there are plenty of products that can keep your clothes looking pressed, even without an iron. Swash Steam It Out by Tide($5.99; Drugstore.com) is a wet tumbler sheet that works with the heat of your dryer to freshen clothes in just 10 minutes, while Downy Wrinkle Release ($7.99; )and Wrinkle Wiz Clothing Fabric Spray ($10.95; Amazon.com) are two spritz-on solutions that instantly get rid of wrinkles. Just dampen any article with a light mist, and spread out with your hands for a crisp, fresh look. For tougher-to-treat items, I swear by a steamer. I was surprised recently to discover that many of my Facebook and Twitter friends have never owned or used a garment steamer. This affordable, convenient way to effectively combat creases can be used at home, but is also great for gals who travel. My Little Steamer ($29.99; BedBathandBeyond.com) is a small but powerful option that delivers 850 watts of steam for up to 15 minutes per filling, and can easily be stored when not in use. And Conair's Micro Pro Steamer ($23.99; Amazon.com) is perfect for trips as it conveniently tucks right into your travel bag.
Stay in shape
One of the simplest ways to care for your clothes is to protect their shape. It's easy to do, but often overlooked during the everyday hustle and bustle. However, by picking up a few helpful tools or repurposing pre-existing household items, you can keep your favorite articles and accessories looking like new. Worn during the cold, snowy and rainy seasons, boots typically take a lot of abuse. But you can protect your pairs with products like Austin Abbot Boot Shapers ($29.45 for pack of 3; Shoebuy.com). They fit snugly into most boots and keep them from slouching or becoming trampled in your closet. You can also try using old, empty wine bottles for similar results. Handbags go through a lot of wear and tear as well, and can easily lose their shape and elasticity. Pursendipity's Handbag Form ($25-$30; Pursendipity.net)is designed to fit any bag, and the moldable foam fits right into the corners of your purse to help maintain its integrity for years. In a pinch, cardboard, foam or newspaper can also help keep your bags in shape. Lastly, specifically designed for sweaters and knits, Precision Hangers ($16.95; PrecisionHangers.com) fit your clothing naturally, providing support and eliminating the dreaded dimples that many other hangers leave behind.
Cleanse and refresh
Your clothes are only as fresh as the area you keep them in, so it's important to make sure your closets, cabinets and storage areas are clean and moisture-free. The Container Store's Dry Out Dehumidifier ($4.99 each; ContainerStore.com) usesunscented calcium chloride pellets to keep your closet mildew- and odor-free, while their Keep It Dry Packets ($5.99 each; ContainerStore.com) do the same for cabinets and drawers, using moisture-absorbing granules. Along the same vein, Smart Storage Desiccant Packets ($3.99 each; ContainerStore.com) are great to use in areas that house precious items like photos, scrapbooks or heirloom clothing such as wedding dresses or christening gowns. The 100-percent silica gel sachet absorbs and traps moisture in the air before it can cause odor or damage. Once your storage areas are dry and deodorized, don't forget to care for your hard-to-launder items, including wools and cashmeres. The Laundress Wool & Cashmere Spray removes odors and freshens yarns while repelling bugs and moths, and the shampoo cleans and preserves the natural components of the fabric, adding extra care for seasonal storage. ($10-$19; TheLaundress.com)
Spot treatment
Anyone who has ever had to say goodbye to a barely worn item due to a difficult stain knows how frustrating it can be. Thankfully, there are many new products out there specifically created to fight even the most impossible scuffs or smudges. The Janie Dry Cleaner Stick is made of natural clay and absorbs all types of stains, from oil to grease to dairy. Simply apply, let dry, and brush off. ($4.99 each; ContainerStore.com) For complex stains, Madame Paulette's Stain Removal Kit is trusted by designers like Vera Wang to treat even the most delicate pieces. With special formulas to fight three primary stain groups, the kit helps you identify what caused the spot, and then appropriately treat it for optimal results. ($12.50; MadamePaulette.com) And for all of those white T-shirts and blouses that have developed unsightly yellow marks under the arms, Deo Go removes antiperspirant and deodorant stains, keeping your whites crisp even longer. ($10.50; Getdeogo.com)
Anti-aging
If you wish you could hold on to your favorites forever, but thousands of wears and washes later, it just doesn't seem possible — guess again. Items like the Sweater Saver Brick ($5.99; HollywoodFashionTape.com) and Restora Sweater Brick ($3.50; Veils-by-Roxanne.com) easily remove that annoying layer of fuzz that builds up on your sweaters, while Simple Spray's Paint It Black solution revitalizes any faded black garments you're not ready to part with. ($20.99 for 4 cans; SimplySpray.com) And to prevent the premature aging of your clothes, Shout Out Color Catcher cloths work in the dryer to prevent color from leaking onto garments, allowing you to wash your whites and colors together. Finally! ($4.49; Drugstore.com)

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Reproduced with permission of MSNBC, from "Tips to make clothes, shoes and handbags last longer: Now you can say goodbye to worn-out shapes and faded colors" by Bobbie Thomas, February 9, 2011; permission conveyed through Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.

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