How often should you wash clothes?
Many have offered their answers and solutions to this age-old question.
Some have proposed the good ol’ sniff test. On the other hand, some have offered the wear and wash method.
Well, washdays seem to be more complicated than that.
The sniff test can tell you if your clothes smell already, but it will not always tell you how much dirt and bacteria have built up on your clothes.
On the other hand, the wear and wash method can ensure your clothes are always clean and fresh, but this method might also ruin them immediately.
There are several things to consider when it comes to deciding how often to do the laundry. Let’s take a look at each one.
First, we need to clarify what pieces of clothing are in question. Different pieces of clothing have different needs when it comes to washing.
Underwear follows the wear and wash method. To clarify, this category includes knickers, boxers, undershirts, and socks.
We know there is an ongoing debate if socks should be considered as an undergarment. To make things easier, we’ll consider it as one here.
Now, you might think that list is missing something. Well, you’re right.
Bras are undergarments but it was not mentioned in the list because it doesn’t follow the wear and wash method. Bras should be worn 2 to 4 times before you wash them.
Wash tops like polos and shirts after 1 to 2 times of wearing them. This range could still change depending on the other factors. We will talk more about it in the following portions.
Bottoms like jeans and skirts are a little more forgiving than tops. You can wash your bottoms after 5 to 7 times of wear.
Pieces of clothing like jackets and sweaters are similar to your bottoms. You can wear them up to 6 times before giving them a good wash.
Of course, this is assuming you’re wearing something underneath. If not, it would fall into the tops category and would need a good wash after 1 to 2 wears.
Now, if we’re talking about suits, then you might be expecting these fancy things needing a good cleaning after a single wear. Well, you might be happy to know that suits are almost as forgiving as bottoms. You can wear your suit 3 to 5 times before it goes to the cleaners. [6 Steps To Dry Clean Clothes At Home]
If you’re not used to wearing suits, then you might be wondering if dry cleaning is similar to doing the laundry at home. Well, let’s take a look at what exactly dry cleaning is:
Your pajamas need a good wash after 3 to 4 wears. If you shower before going to bed, you might be able to squeeze in another wear in there.
As you might already expect, gym wear follows the wash and wear rule.
While we’re talking about gym wear, it might be a good time to note that you should also be washing your gym bag once or twice a month.
Like undergarments, swimsuits follow the wash and wear rule and need to go in the laundry pile after one use.
Generally, your winter gear needs a good washing at least once per season. This list includes your gloves, hats, scarves, and the likes.
The Other Factors
The numbers we’ve listed above are only meant to be a general guide. Depending on the following factors we will be discussing, it could still change.
Many of the following factors usually lead back to this one.
Sweat is also the reason why many clothes are worn only once or twice. As you might have already noticed, pieces that need a good wash after a single use are those that had direct contact with the skin. In other words, those that were able to soak up more sweat than others.
If you’re having a hard time remembering all the numbers above, there are two rules you can use as a guide. One, the closer the piece’s contact with your skin, the earlier it needs to go to the washer. Two, the sweatier you were wearing it, the earlier it needs to go to the washer.
If you’ve sweated a lot, whatever piece of clothing it is, it needs to go to the washer as soon as possible. Sweaty clothes could be problematic if not handled immediately and properly.
Stains and Smell
If the article of clothing in question already looks and smells bad, it would have to go in the washer earlier than it should.
With stains, you would want to get it out as soon as possible in hopes of it not being permanent.
On the other hand, a rank smell is a good sign of bacteria building up on your clothes. Not only would the smell not be favorable for your nose or the noses of people around you, but it could give you all sorts of skin problems. [10 Tips To Get Rid Of The Sweat Smell Without Breaking A Sweat]
Are you currently in the middle of some laundry problems with your clothes? Are the store-bought detergents not working? Try homemade solutions with things like baking soda, lemons, and salt.
The Season and the Weather
As we’ve said earlier, many of the factors here lead back to sweat and sweaty clothes.
Depending on the season and the weather, the numbers above would change. If it’s summer, you would have to wash your clothes earlier. On the other hand, you might be able to squeeze in a few more wears during winter.
In places where it’s usually hot, the numbers would probably not work. The wear and wash rule would probably be more applicable for those living in tropical climates.
On the other hand, some of these estimates might be too quick for those living in colder areas.
The material or fabric of the piece would also affect how soon you have to wash it. For example, it is advisable to wash silk pieces after every use.
How long did you wear it? Many articles of clothing need to be washed sooner the longer you’ve worn it. As you might already expect, if you’ve worn something for a short period, you can most likely wear it more than those that you wore for the whole day.
Where did you wear it? You can wear your home clothes a few more times compared to your outside clothes. That’s because the clothes you wear outside have most probably accumulated things like smoke and dust.
Other Things to Consider
Being mindful of when and how often you should wash your clothes is a good thing. However, it is not the only thing you would want to keep in mind when it comes to your laundry.
Make sure you don’t overload the washer when doing your laundry.
It might be tempting to chuck in everything at one go, but that is not the best way to go.
Overloading is not only not ideal for your clothes but the washer as well.
The washer will not be able to wash your clothes properly if you overload it. Additionally, it will also give the machine a hard time even if it won’t be able to do its job well enough. As you can see, it’s not cost-effective.
Since we’re already talking about the washer, it would also be a good idea to check it from time to time and do some maintenance while you’re at it.
Making sure the washer is always working at its best is a great way to avoid and prevent many clothes-related problems.
The general rule is to separate the whites from the colored ones. To add to that, it would also be a good idea to separate your coarser clothing from the more delicate ones.
Again, this step will help prevent many clothes-related problems, and it might even be what saves your favorite shirt!
Finally, let’s talk about care labels. The care label is more than just the itchy tag on the shirt.
Many people ignore the care labels on their clothes. We do understand why. Those symbols could be hard to understand if you’re not familiar with them, after all.
Well, you might want to get familiar with those symbols if you want to keep your favorite shirt for as long as possible! You can familiarize yourself with those symbols here.
How often should you wash clothes? Well, as you’ve seen, the answer to this question is a lot more complicated than some would expect. Several factors need to be taken into account when answering this question.
There is a general guide for each article of clothing, but the guidelines are only an estimate. Depending on the other factors like the materials used and the climate in a place, those approximations could still change.
Wash days are not the best days for some. However, as we’ve seen today, some clothes don’t need to be washed as often. Hurray for these small victories!
Jessica Oliver is a fashion enthusiast with more than ten years of experience in the industry. She previously managed her own clothing store in New York before becoming a mother of three. With a passion for sustainability and a desire to share clothing care and recycling tips.