Treat your clothing as an investment and own your style. Choosing a quality garment is going to make it easier to keep things looking good. Spotting quality in textiles and garments, as with all good things, comes down to the details. For clothing, this means stitching, finishing techniques, lining material and details, seams, the quality and material of hardware, and often most importantly, the type and quality of the textile itself. Usually, if a manufacturer spends a great deal of expense on the cloth, they will also take the time to pattern well and finish properly. There is a lot to know, but learning a few basics will help you out in the long run. When you spent time looking for a great piece that fits perfectly, you want to hold onto it for as long as possible.
Every time you wash, you are slowly degrading the fabric and structure.
Other than undergarments and basics, most items do not need to be washed after every wear unless there is an odor or a stain (which can usually be spot treated). Wear t-shirts or light shirts under button-downs and sweaters so they aren't touching your body directly. Give your clothes some space - this means not throwing them into a pile, not mixing clean and dirty, and using the power of fresh air and sunshine.
Care tags are there to help you and give you insight as to which clothes can be washed together and what they require. Once you have your wardrobe organized, you will become familiar with each piece and what it requires for washing, storage and care. If you feel the need to cut off a tag (sometimes they're itchy or in an odd place), snap a picture first and save it.
Once an item does need to be washed, you should choose a gentle, natural soap or detergent. The idea of washing is simply to remove odour, any stains and to refresh garments that lose their shape with wear (knits/wool). The exception here would be dirty, heavy duty work wear or athletic gear but the average lifestyle doesn't require strong, toxic cleaners to keep things looking good. More soap doesn't do a better job - it can stain and leave residue, clog your machine, waste your money and contribute to pollution. Most people use way too much soap - don't free pour like a cocktail bartender.
Using cold water is more gentle on fibers, saves on your utility bill and can make a major environmental difference. Delicates are as they sound, and should always be washed in cold water by hand, or inside a mesh laundry bag to protect them from getting snagged inside the machine.
Have you heard about microfibres? These are tiny little bits of plastic that end up in our water supply and our aquatic food sources (fish). They can come from doing your laundry. If you wash athletic/leisure wear that has elastic (spandex, lycra) or is made from synthetic materials, you are contributing to the micro-plastics problem.
Click the link for information on avoiding the release of microfibres.
Sensitive items should always be laid flat to dry - never ever in the dryer. This includes undergarments, bathing suits, anything athleisure, because heat breaks down the elastic properties over time. However, every item can benefit from air drying - whether on hanger, flat or on a line. The tumbling action of the machine creates a tangle of clothing which can stretch items or snag them. The heat of the dryer can shrink the fibers, which is detrimental to natural fibers and synthetics alike. Save on your utilities and keep your clothes pristine.
If anything air dries a bit crispy, spritz it and throw it in quickly to fluff. Or if you must use the dryer, definitely grab some reusable wool dryer balls. These reduce the need for dryer sheets full of chemicals. If you miss the scent, you can add a few drops of essential oils to them before you throw them in. They soften clothing and reduce static cling. They can also help reduce the machine drying time. Wool dryer balls can be used hundreds of times, and are compostable when they've served their purpose.
Keep your items organized, store them appropriately and don't crowd. T-shirts should always be folded, not on hangers because they will eventually stretch out. Wool and knits are best folded and stacked - with tissue paper in between if it's expensive or has embellishment. Jeans can be stored however you'd prefer - folded, rolled or hung up like in denim retail.
Don't continue wearing something if it needs a fix, it will make it worse and sometimes even unrepairable. Do any repairs or alterations when items are clean, it is better for the garment and it shows respect for your tailor/seamstress.
Avoid putting away damp or dirty items (especially smoke or perfume), particularly if it's over a whole season. And there aren't many items that will benefit from being sealed in airtight plastic, you want there to be a flow of air (pretend those wool sweaters need to breathe). You can add some cedar into your storage container if you have moths or other garment eating insects in your region.