Fashion Police Ask: How often do you wash your clothes?


When we wrote about repeating outfits last week, quite a few of you commented about issues of wearing the same thing for two days in a row, or how outfit choices can sometimes be restricted by what happens to be clean at the time, and this got us thinking about how often people wash their clothes.

We, for instance, know some people who wash ALL their clothes, EVERY time they wear them. Every single thing. Skirts, tops, even sweaters which are worn on top of other sweaters: they all go straight into the laundry basket as soon as they’re taken off.

Now, this strikes us as crazy. For one, who has the time for THAT amount of laundry? And for two, well, as far as we’re concerned, most clothes don’t actually NEED to be washed every single time they’re worn. Constant washing is bad for clothes, and it’s bad for the environment, and while we’re not advocating for a second that people walk around unwashed (personal hygiene: it’s a good thing!), we tend to split clothes into two distinct groups when it comes to laundry, and we don’t mean “whites” and “colours”. (Although that too, obviously. Or you’ll end up with a machine full of baby pink clothing, like the Chief of Police did on that day last month when a bright red gardening glove found itself going through a spin cycle with a load of whites.)

1. Clothes that have direct contact with skin – i.e.underwear, hosiery,  tops with arms which come into close contact with the underarm area, etc. These get washed after every wear, no exceptions. Also, workout clothes: there’s no way they’re being worn again once they’ve been sweated on.

2. Clothes that don’t. Things like skirts, jeans, jackets, and anything else that’s usually worn over another item of clothing, and which therefore doesn’t come into contact with the skin. For example, a skirt worn in winter, over tights and with a shirt tucked into it will only really need to be washed after one wear if you’ve dropped something on it, or been sitting in a smoke-filled room for hours. Items in this category get washed on an “as needed” basis.

Obviously, the second category is a lot harder to define than the first, and really depends on what you’re doing in the clothes in question. If something gets stained, or dirty, then obviously it’s getting washed, regardless of how long its been worn for. If you live in, or are visiting, a hot climate, you’ll probably need to wash things more often. And if you spend a lot of time outdoors, or work with animals or on the land, or something, then your clothes will get a lot dirtier a lot faster than someone who drives to work in a climate-controlled office every day and doesn’t get any closer to dirt than looking at it through the window will.

As for ironing: well, that’s a whole other discussion, which we had back in this post, if you want to take a look!)

So, those are our rough guildelines for clothes washing (and we must stress, they are very rough!), but we want to know about yours. Tell us: how often do you wash your clothes?

21 Comments

  • July 18, 2011

    Nell

    I’m with you – tops, underwear etc get washed every time I wear them – no questions asked.

    Jeans, trousers, skirts etc – well I use my judgement – usually I wash them after a couple of wears.

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    • July 18, 2011

      Daisy

      I’m completely with you as well. The only trouble I have is with dresses: they do get in contact to your armpits (why is that such a disgusting word to write?), but in the meanwhile they take more effort to wash and iron. I’m no stranger to sniffing my clothes at the end of the day to see how fresh they are, I have to admit. And sometimes I’ll just hang them out on the washing line so they can get some breeze, which helps as well to give it a cleaner feel. What I used to do as well (we just recently -last week- had a new smoking ban imposed in bars and clubs), was to deliberately not wear fresh clothes out on the town. Because they would just get smelly instantly in the smoke filled bars, and then they would go straight in the wash, which is a pity. I was strategic like that. But now I can wear fresh clothes, yeay!

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      • July 18, 2011

        Nell

        Yep dresses fall into both camps…. I do the smell test on dresses, but mostly, I’ll just wash them to be ‘safe’.

        My sister has a really weird thing – with clothes that need dry cleaning. She doesn’t want to pay the bill for dry cleaning, so she just hangs them out in the fresh air… I think this idea works in theory, but can’t help thinking – YUK. Anyone else do this?

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      • March 15, 2013

        Claudia

        I use these self-adhesive armpit liners on clothes made of fragile materials which I do not want to wash too often. They are like panty liners for your tops and the adhesive has never ruined a fabric yet. Before they came on the market, I used to attach cotton liners to the seam allowance with these microscopic safety pins which you sometimes find on new clothing, where they hold lables. If possible at all, I wear a tight cotton t-shirt under everything I do not want to wash after one day.

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  • July 18, 2011

    Holly

    I have the about same rules as you. But some of my shirts, tops and t-shirts retain more odors than others. I have tops I can wear 3 times before they lose their freshness, while I have t-shirts that can’t be worn more than once because they get disgusting. I guess that depends of the fabric and a bunch of other stuff (hot weather, stains, etc).

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  • July 18, 2011

    Claire

    My workout clothes definitely get a wash after every wear – and even then I find after a while they have to be thrown out as they start to smell a bit funky!

    Knickers and socks get washed every day, bras get a longer wear between washing. Tops definitely get washed more than bottoms (skirts, trousers etc).

    I have no idea when I last washed my jeans.

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  • July 18, 2011

    Moni

    Generally I agree with Amber:
    Underwear and socks get washed after every wear (although my bras usually also get a second go unless it’s very hot), the rest is on a “if needed” basis. Usually T-Shirt are being washed after being worn once, but if they look okay and don’t smell, I often wear them a second time after hanging them out for ventilation.
    Jeans are “due” after about a week, and sweatshirts, blouses, jackets, etc. even more rarely (always provided I don’t spill anything on them, which I am prone to…).

    The only things I do iron are blouses and tablecloths.

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  • July 18, 2011

    Itzel

    It’s pretty much the same for me, unless it’s been quite hot outside sleveless tops and dresses are worn twice. This also has exceptions, if they have been worn at a concert, pub, party or any place where people could have been smoking it goes straight to the wash, as do I grrr smokers. I’d never admitted to it because everyone in my family washes everything after being worn once so this has always made me feel a bit dirty! It’s good to know I’m not the only one doing this.

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  • July 18, 2011

    Rudi

    About half of my clothes are hand wash only, and since hand washing an entire load is fairly time consuming I usually just give things a quick skoosh the evening before I wear them. Anything else is t-shirts and cardigans, which have a strict two day limit, but usually only get worn once.

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  • July 18, 2011

    Lili @ Relatable Style

    I feel slightly out of line here, but I’ll admit it (up until now, I didn’t even think of it as something I’d have to “admit” ^^): I don’t wash every single thing that comes in contact with my skin after each use! ZINGGG!!! Of course, underwear is never ever re-worn. Once it is off my body, it’s not going on again before it went through a laundry cycle. Also, I don’t do laundry basket digging (which is apparently a thing), ever. If what I desperately want to wear is in there and I have no time for washing it, so be it. I won’t wear it (this goes for all items of clothing). But, and here comes the admitting thing: I do re-wear t-shirts, tank tops and bras. I rarely sweat (no, really), so what’s the use of washing it if it not only looks and feels clean but also smells fresh? So I’d say, for me, underwear gets washed after every wear, no exceptions EVER. Anything else is on an “as needed” basis, with of course very different lengths of time between needing to be washed 😉 Bras and hosiery are on the shorter side while hoodies and pants last longest (unless stained or dirty in any way, of course).

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    • July 18, 2011

      Amee

      Nah, I’m that way too. I barely sweat, so I can wear most of my clothes a few times.(except underwear, of course). I tend to do the sniff test, and if it smells clean, it’s good.

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      • July 18, 2011

        drea

        I’m pretty much exactly the same, as long as it smells okay, it gets worn.

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    • February 9, 2012

      Janet G

      I do the samething. I thought, I was the only one that did that stuff, with my clothes. If i had them on that long and they do not smell. I do however wash my socks and underwear all the time.

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  • July 18, 2011

    Theresa

    I don’t sweat much, so unless my workout clothes get really gross the first time, I usually wear them twice because I don’t have enough to wear new ones every day (but they do air out!) Underwear and shirts usually get washed every time, but sweaters, pants/skirts, and anything that’s a pain to wash generally goes 2-4 times between washes, depending on the season and the condition of the garment. Part of the reason I don’t wash things as frequently as I may like is also because I’m poor, and don’t have enough quarters to do laundry frequently.

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  • July 18, 2011

    naiadknight

    Underwear/ socks: once and wash, no exceptions.
    Bras: the ones that get worn get tossed into the next load, be it that they were worn once or 5 times. After 5, they meet the laundry basket regardless.
    Shirts/ slacks/ sweaters: if I wore it outside in summer for more than walking to and fron the car, it gets washed. Same goes for if I got something on it or wore it in a smokey area. Otherwise, it goes back in the closet until it either smells odd or meets one of those two criteria.
    Jeans/ shorts: I’ll wear one pair for the entire week after work. They get washed on laundry day.
    Blazers/ jackets: Not unless I spill something on it.

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  • July 18, 2011

    Emsk

    Like most people here, socks and knickers every day (who wouldn’t?). Bras – in summer, yes, but in cold or cool weather two days; however I am in the bath or shower every day, so particularly clean. I don’t put them in the washing machine though. Workout clothes, yes, after each wash. Don’t really wear jeans, but I have lots of dresses and they are regularly dry-cleaned to look at their best. There’s no way I’d be wearing them if they were smelly in any way, but I usually find I can wear a dress quite a few times before it needs cleaning. But quite apart from cleanliness, clothes don’t look good once they’re ‘bummed’, as my mum would say.

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  • July 19, 2011

    Nikki G

    I am bad for the environment, I must admit. I wash everything after I wear it once. I don’t wear anything twice without washing. Same with towels. I only use them once. I don’t like the way clothes feel if I have already worn them once before.

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  • July 19, 2011

    Laura

    Underwear gets washed after one go. Anything else depends on how hot it has been and how fresh it feels/looks. England isn’t exactly hot so I can get away with wearing tops several times; same with trousers and skirts. It’s all about climate really.

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  • July 19, 2011

    Cookie

    Uh, I’m a bit strange there. Anything that touches the skin gets washed immediately. Since I own a breed of dog that slobbers quite a lot, even most of slacks and dresses and skirts get chucked into the laundry right away. I did, however, start bending that rule because a wet sponge clears the doggie-love right off, and apparently, a cycle through the wash is no guarantee that the garment in question will come out doggie-love free.
    However, most of the summer dresses and tees and blouses just get the fast/light dirty cycle.
    I do, however, admit, to being an obsessive ironer. I seem to iron everything, and I have my grandma to thank for most of it, since she taught me that even underwear should be ironed “just to be sure all is clean”, as she liked to put it.
    And that coming from a woman that would first hand wash all the laundry, and then put it in the washing machine because she never trusted them to do the job properly.

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    • July 19, 2011

      The Fashion Police

      I’m an obsessive ironer too – I just can’t stand the thought of putting on wrinkled clothes, or, indeed, hanging them up wrinkled: I have to iron them!

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  • July 13, 2014

    Myra

    I’m with you on the laundry, and as my bed linen is white was it every 5-6 days (tip from the White Company for white bed linen to avoid yellowing via sweat).

    I hate ironing too, and as I have sciatica can’t stand to do it, and am now do it sitting.

    My daughter though puts her clothes away when washed, and only irons them to wear. She factors this time into her routine. She says it makes much more sense as the clothes are creased when she takes them out of her drawers/wardrobe (yes they are stuffed) so would have to iron them twice. Logical thinking and it works for her.

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