How Often Should I Wash My Clothes?
There are some pretty big pros and cons when it comes to washing your clothes, but you may be surprised to see what the experts suggest for how often you should wash your clothing. As the saying goes, there can be too much of a good thing
Let's keep in mind though that some good old common sense and self awareness comes into play with cleanliness. Did you sweat in it? Might need a wash. Did a gooey-handed child come in for a hug? Wash. Does it stink? Wash. The goal is to find that happy place between being a cleaning extremist and a full-blown frat boy.
We don't need to spend too much time going over the pros of having freshly cleaned clothes : general cleanliness, removing sweat, body oils, soiling, smells good, etc. Proper cleaning maintains your clothing and helps them (and you) looking and smelling great! But just how often should we be washing our clothes to ensure they look good and stand the test of time?
A couple months ago I did a survey on social media about how often people wash their clothes and was surprised by how many responded saying that they wash after every single wear!
That said, let's talk about some of the drawbacks of washing too frequently:
Faded Colours : Every time clothes are washed, some of that dye gets rinsed away. Shrinking and/or Stretching : Water and heat can cause some materials to constrict or others to stretch out and lose their shape. Pilling : Washing clothes creates a lot of friction when the item rubs against itself or other things in the wash, this contact is what causes pilling. Pilling happens when the fabric strands get broken and are rubbed into little balls (aka: pills) Damage to the fabric : Clothes take a beating in your washing machine and dryer! Spin cycles, heat, bumping and grinding with its other clothing friends... The washing machine is like one big textile mosh pit followed up by 40 minutes at the sauna (aka the dryer).
Tip : Wash your clothes in cold water. Believe it or not, cold water can do anything that warm water can do and most washing machines and detergents are created for cold water cycles. Plus, less heat to your clothes means it's given a longer life! The exception comes in when an article of clothing is stained, but you can spot treat the stain with warm water and stain remover (check out my top stain remover combo at the end of this post) and continue to wash in cold water.
The goal is to help us keep our clothes looking great (which in turn helps us look great), but also to alleviate some of the endless laundry-day stress. When we're doing less laundry, it opens up time for you to do things you actually enjoy! Plus, let's just think about the money you'll be saving on your water and energy bills! Really, there's nothing but wins with this!
Let's break things down into "How Often Should I Wash It":
After Every Wear
- Socks and underwear. I feel confident that I don't need to expand on this. (For the frat boys- the "turn it inside out" method is not effective!)
- Work out clothes. Sweat = stink...and it's hard on clothes too.
- Whites. To keep your whites looking crisp and clean, regular washing is key to removing anything that may dampen that crisp white colour!
Tip : Let's not do what my husband does- leaving a pile of clothes on the floor for days on end. Hanging your clothes after wearing allows the materials to air out, which keeps them looking and smelling fresh. When you leave your clothing in a crumpled-up pile, this traps moisture, oil and debris, which settles into the fabric. Let your clothes breathe!
After 2-4 Wears
- Sleepwear. Use your discretion with this one. Every once in awhile I get some pretty wicked night-sweats, those pj's can't go for another wear. But since you're quite inactive while sleeping, you can easily get away with a few nights of wear!
- Bras & Slips. These items are close to the skin and require regular washing to not only get rid of the body oils, but to also maintain their shape and the integrity of the fabric.
- Tees, tanks, camisoles. Unless you have an overly sweaty day, you can wear these items a few times before they need a full refresh.
- Leggings. Again, unless used for working out, leggings are typically made with a very breathable material that they can often go a couple wears without needing a wash.
- Dress pants. If you wear dress pants regularly to work, washing every 4 times will keep them fresh and polished.
- Shorts, Chinos/Khakis. To deter sagging bums or knees, wrinkles, or stains, washing after every 2-3 wears is the way to go!
- Jeans. This is one of the largest debated clothing items when it comes to washing- but the fact is that denim does not need to be washed often! In fact, washing your jeans too frequently takes a toll on the colour, the shape, and how long they last. If you love a jean with some stretch, heat and washing deteriorates the elasticity. Washing your jeans after every 4-5 wears helps keep bacteria and odor at bay, but most experts recommend washing your denim much less (say after every 10 wears) to help maintain their longevity.
- Sweaters. Depending on the fit, material, and if you wear a shirt underneath, most sweaters are breathable and can go quite a few times without needing a wash. Knits are the most susceptible materials to quick aging due to washing, so be gentle and only wash as needed.
- Sweatshirts. Same as sweaters, but typically these items need to be washed even less when worn casually and not for exercising.
- Cardigans. I'll be honest, I rarely wash my cardigans. I am always wearing other clothes underneath, which means my cardigans come into very little contact with my skin. However, they can still get dirty and do require periodic washing.
- Blazers. Blazers and most suiting should always be dry cleaned every 6 wears to help maintain the shape, structure and look.
- Jackets and Shackets. Similar to cardigans, jackets and shackets need to to washed, but not often. We want them to be clean, but we also want to ensure that they're looking great.
Tip : For any items that require handwashing and/or air drying: Squeezing or wringing out your clothes stretches out the material which leaves your garment all out of shape. Instead, lay your item flat between two towels and press the moisture out. From there, lay everything flat to dry rather than hanging it up. Sure, hanging takes less space, but a wet article of clothing is heavy, and when hung that weight pulls the item down causing it to lose it's shape. Here's a great drying rack similar to one that I have, but there are lots of options out there to suit your space and drying needs.