Tights — How to make them last (pantyhose, too!)

One way to evaluate the cost of clothing is based on number of wearings it provides. In other words, if I spend $100 on a coat and wear it every wintery day for two winters, it cost me about 33 cents per wearing. (Winters are long here in the Midwest!) A $100 dress worn only to two formal events comes in at $50 per wearing.  When it comes to tights, well, they’d have to be nearly free to be a good buy for me. That’s because every time I wear a pair I rip them. 

Stop. Don’t tell me to put them in the freezer. Virtually every article on making your tights last says something to the tune of: We don’t know why this works, but it does! Wet them until damp, put in a plastic bag, then place in the freezer overnight. Let them come defrost and dry at room temp, then wear. Oh, and you only have to do this once, when you first get your tights.

The rationale is that the freezing makes them more durable by strengthening the fibers. I can find no scientific basis for this oft-claim. Nor is it logical. Problem is, even if frozen fibers are stronger, freezing won’t strengthen them permanently. As soon as they defrost, they’re back to their old delicate selves again. In fact, the Good Housekeeping Institute tested the freezer trick and found no difference in performance between tights that had been frozen and those that hadn’t. 

There are some ways to help tights last more than a wearing, though. These tips work for pantyhose TLC, too:


• Buy tights that are larger than necessary. Not so big that they’ll bag at your ankles, of course, but big enough that you don’t have to stress them to get them on. (I always buy them large just because I hate wrestling myself into tight ones.) If you have to pull them up while wearing them, it’s much easier to break the fibers if they’re snug than if there’s a little give. 

• Keep in mind when purchasing that opaque tights are much more durable than sheer ones. Check the label for “denier” content. Denier is a measurement of a tight’s thickness. The higher the denier, the stronger the fiber. Sheer tights are about 20 denier, and fully opaque ones are 100 denier and higher.

• Look for tights with reinforced toes. Don’t you hate taking off your shoe to discover your toe is peeking through your tights? (Assuming you didn’t already feel it coming through, which is worse!)

• Pass on the bargain and invest in a better pair of tights. I’ve been reluctant to spend more than the minimum amount for tights because I go through them so fast. But I’ve been told that more expensive brands do last longer, so I’m going to experiment a bit to see if they’re worth the investment. 

Wriggling into Them

• Make sure your nails and skin are smooth before putting your tights on. File any jagged nails and put lotion on rough hands. Take off your rings and bracelets before you put them on and before you take them off . 

• If the skin on your legs is dry, put lotion on them before putting on your tights. Let it dry first, though, or your tights can get hung up on the lotion.

• To put your tights on, sit down, gather the leg, and slide your toe in. Then slide them over your heel and up your leg, releasing a bit at a time as you go. Then do the other leg. 

• Wear thin, no-show socks under or over your tights to protect the toes. If you’re wearing boots, you can wear any kind of socks over your tights to protect wear and tear on the toes.

• Some experts (hosiery manufacturers) recommend wearing hosiery gloves while putting on pantyhose or tights. Just sayin’! (I’m not heading out to buy hosiery gloves.)


• To wash tights, turn them inside out. Put them in a mesh bag for washing delicates—but not along with your bras, which have hooks to snag them. Wash on a delicate cycle, with cool water and no softener. Better yet, hand wash them.

• Line dry; never dry tights in a clothes dryer, which will destroy the elastic fibers. 


• Don’t sit on benches that aren’t smooth (rough wood or concrete, for example). And be careful crossing your legs if your shoes have buckles or accessories that might snag your tights.

• If you do have a run, paint clear nail polish over the tear. (This is an oft-recommended tip that does work!)

• Roll your tights up loosely and store them where they won’t get snagged on the inside of a drawer or accessories, etc.

What’s your cost per wear for tights? Do you have tips for making them last?

You might also like: Prevent pilling—How to keep your sweaters, bedding, and other items from pilling.

4 thoughts on “Tights — How to make them last (pantyhose, too!)”

  1. I hear you, Karen! Snagging your tights on the first wear always makes me want to curse. Sometimes I do. While I am pretty careful and follow most of your instructions above as a matter of common sense, I HAVE been drying my tights in the dryer. Shame on me. While I must admit I still expect to resort to the dryer in certain (time sensitive) situations, I am going to make a concerted effort to pay closer attention and hang them to dry as often as I can muster. Thanks for the lesson.

    • I do think the drying makes a difference, Mary! I feel lucky to have a pair last long enough to wash, but when I do they get dried on the rack. Good luck!

  2. I have two pairs of opaque tights. I don’t actually know the denier, but they are not knit, and when my knees are bent while sitting I can just just see a little of my skin color though them. I wear them all the time, and I’ve had them for several years now, after my mother gave them to me used.
    Bottom line, if you want bang for your buck, get tights with a higher denier! It’s definitely more cost-effective, less stressful, and keeps your legs warmer if the goal is layer in the colder months.
    Bonus: I avoid buying clothes that contain plastics, and elastic tights can really only be made by using inorganic fibers. By buying higher quality/ higher denier tights, you can avoid the waste associated with accidental tears in very thin tights.

    • Thanks so much for sharing this, Juli! That is a long time for tights to last! I’ve certainly never had them last long enough for handing down! Happy to hear the testament for investing in higher denier. Love the bonus, too. Cheers!


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