Have you ever looked at something and wondered how often you should wash it? A few months ago, I was reading a Facebook debate about how often you should wash jeans. Let me tell you—opinions varied widely and strongly! I saw every answer from “never” (for real?!) to “after each wear” to someone who stored their jeans in the freezer to help them retain their shape.
This debate got me thinking about all the other pieces of clothing and household items we use and how often you should wash them. Do you really need to wash every piece of clothing every time you wear it? What about towels? Pillows?
None of us wants to walk around in dirty, smelly clothes. But it’s also no secret that frequent washing can wear out your clothing and shorten its lifespan. So, I decided it was time to figure out (and share), once and for all, how often should you wash…everything!
Table of Contents
- How Often Should You Wash Your Clothes?
- How Often Should You Wash Knits and Casual Wear?
- How Often Should You Wash Jeans?
- How Often Should You Wash Bras? Underwear? Socks?
- How Often Should You Wash Pajamas?
- How Often Should You Wash Workout Gear and Athleisure?
- How Often Should You Clean Sweaters?
- How Often Should You Wash Workwear?
- How Often Should You Clean Formal and Dress Attire?
- How Often Should You Clean Coats and Outerwear?
- How Often Should You Wash These Household Items?
How Often Should You Wash Your Clothes?
There’s no blanket answer to how often you should wash your clothes. This is especially true for children’s clothing and items that see heavy use. With some kids, you’ll probably need to wash shirts and play clothes after each wear (let’s face it, probably after an hour).
Other items, like kid’s dress-up clothes, work clothing, suits, ties, and even pajamas, have different timetables. The first rule is always to check the label and read the manufacturer’s instructions. If you need a guide on what all those little symbols mean, check out my post on deciphering laundry icons and their meanings. (I even created a printable guide to help you translate the hieroglyphics.)
As for the general guidelines, here’s when you should wash the following items.
How Often Should You Wash Knits and Casual Wear?
A lot of casual wear, like tees and tanks are knits, which means you can safely wash these items every time you wear them. Most clothes that you wear next to your body as a base layer should be washed frequently because oil and sweat tend to get trapped in the fibers. Plus, knits tend to stretch out and get misshapen when they aren’t washed regularly. Washing these items after each wear gives you a chance to treat pit stains, too!
Most knits can be washed with like colors, following the guidelines on the label. 100% cotton items tend to shrink a bit during the first few wash and dry cycles, so you may want to let them air dry or remove them from the dryer early. To prevent wrinkles, simply pull the items of out the dryer immediately, and fold them. Hanging can also be good for some items, but keep in mind that hanging can stretch out the neck and lead to shoulder dimpling in some knits.
How Often Should You Wash Jeans?
The source of the great debate—jeans! So, how often should you really wash your jeans? Well, jean manufacturers recommend washing every 3-10 wears. For raw denim (those expensive, designer jeans), washing should be very sparing to prevent fading, but for “regular” jeans from the Gap or Levi’s, you can safely wash them about every three wears. Oh, and the freezer method? It doesn’t work!
For dark denim, turning the jeans inside out can help prevent fading. You’ll also want to avoid throwing stretchy denim in the dryer for too long, as the elastic can break down in high heat. Keep in mind, though, if you pull out jeans when they’re still damp, you’ll need to fold or hang them right away, or you may end up with a strange crease pattern.
How Often Should You Wash Bras? Underwear? Socks?
Bras seem to be another area of debate. I’ve explained before why you should always handwash your bras to extend their life and keep them looking great. Wash your bras every 3-6 times you wear it. If you must use the machine, put it in a lingerie bag and wash it on the delicate cycle. Good bras can be a serious investment, and as every gal knows bra shopping is the WORST, so don’t destroy your bra by boiling and cooking it in the wash.
As for underwear and socks, it probably goes without saying, but you should wash these items every time you wear them. Sweat and bacteria accumulate on our feet and nether regions, and it’s hygienic and healthy to wash these items every wear. If you’re concerned about keeping your “good” underwear nice, you can definitely wash them by hand or use a lingerie bag to protect them. As for socks, the best practice is to make sure to unroll them and flatten them out before you throw them in the washer, so they’ll end up properly clean and dry.
How Often Should You Wash Pajamas?
Pajamas are another clothing item that I get asked about. Do you need to wash your pajamas after every wear? Doesn’t that add so much to your laundry load? Good news! You don’t need to wash your pajamas every time you wear them, especially if you’re just putting them on to go to bed and taking them off in the morning. As long as they still smell fresh and clean, you can wear them 3 or 4 times before washing. You can wait a little longer if you shower at night right before putting on your pj’s.
Bathrobes can go for many uses before you need to wash them, but again, make sure your robe passes the “sniff” test. If it starts to smell sour or off, then it’s definitely time to wash it. If you only put it on after bathing (and especially if you put it on over your pajamas), then you can wear it quite a few rounds before you need to launder your robe.
How Often Should You Wash Workout Gear and Athleisure?
Workout gear is a little tricky. Unnecessary extra washing can break down fabric, but so can sweat, sunscreen, and deodorant. You may notice that your antiperspirant causes the armpits of your workout tops to get a little stiff or yellow. You can spot-treat pit stains with a bit of vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.
Your sports bra will likely need to be washed after every workout. Hand wash and air dry to help preserve support and elasticity. If you are doing light exercises and sweat minimally (like a gentle yoga workout, for example), then you may want to wash it every other wear. The same goes for yoga pants and leggings.
Unfortunately, unwashed workout clothes can lead to breakouts. The special sweat-wicking fabric pulls moisture away from your body, but traps it in the fabric fibers. This leads to that sweaty, musty smell that we all want to avoid. If you want to play it safe, wash your workout gear every time you sweat. Yes, the items may not last as long, but look at it as an excuse to shop for more comfy, casual athleisurewear.
Jackets, sweatshirts, hoodies, and other layered gear don’t require a frequent washing schedule. Laundering these items every 5-10 wears, especially if they’re worn as outer layers to stay warm, is usually enough. As always, read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions before you throw them in the wash.
How Often Should You Clean Sweaters?
Have you ever pulled a sweater out of the dryer and panicked? It’s easy to forget while you’re in a laundry-doing mood, but most sweaters are dry clean only (see the information about reading labels above). Due to the loose weave of the fibers and materials like synthetics, cotton, and wool, sweaters don’t like too much heat, or even water.
But dry cleaning gets expensive, especially in the wintertime when your sweaters are in heavy rotation. You can refresh sweaters by gently hand washing them using mild soap and vinegar. Gently roll the sweater in a towel to squeeze out water, and then lay flat to dry.
If you layer your sweaters over another top, you may be able to get away with dry cleaning them once or twice a season. Use caution when you store sweaters for the summer months, though; sweat and food particles can attract moths and other pests, so it’s best to store them after they’re cleaned.
How Often Should You Wash Workwear?
Assuming you have an office job, you may need to launder jackets, blouses, suits, and ties regularly. Read every single label so that you don’t wreck an expensive piece by accidentally washing it when it’s dry clean only. Once again, you don’t need to have your workwear dry cleaned every single time you wear it. If it smells fresh and is holding the shape, you can probably launder it every 3-4 wears.
Can you do dry cleaning at home? There are special at-home dry cleaning kits you can buy that allow you to clean clothes at home. These kits are useful for refreshing and spot-treating your clothes, but they won’t do the same work that a professional dry cleaner can do. Many natural fabrics can also be washed by hand and ironed at home, but proceed with caution. You may want to test fabric for bleeding or fading in an inconspicuous spot before dunking it in a water bath. Anything that’s embellished or made of delicate materials (like silk) should be left to professionals.
How Often Should You Clean Formal and Dress Attire?
The little black dress you bring out once or twice a year for the wedding season probably doesn’t need to be cleaned after each wear. Unless you spill during the toast or work up a sweat on the dance floor, you can hang the dress back up in your closet and wear it several times. If you do spill, quickly blot up or scrape off as much of the stain as possible, treat it if you can, and get the item to your dry cleaner ASAP.
Suits, tuxedoes, and formal dresses should be cleaned by a professional. These items are often far too expensive to make a wash mishap worth the risk. Protect your investment and splurge on dry cleaning after several wears (which may only be every few years).
How Often Should You Clean Coats and Outerwear?
Your winter coat will last almost all season without requiring professional cleaning. Some parkas are machine washable, so check the label. Be sure you remove any fur trim or other accessories, if possible. And zip up or fasten the coat to keep the hardware from damaging the fabric during the wash cycle.
You should have most coats professionally cleaned before you put them away for the season. Always use a professional cleaner for wool, leather, and suede (or coats with a lot of embellishment). Dry cleaning a coat can be expensive, but it’s often worth the cost of around $25 to preserve an item you’ll wear for several years.
How Often Should You Wash These Household Items?
Now that we’ve covered the definitive list of how often you should wash your clothing, let’s look at household items. Many of these pieces go under the radar when it comes to regular washing, but after time they can get dust mites, mildew, and worse. Here’s how often you should wash these everyday household items.
How Often Should You Wash Towels?
Do you wash your towel after each use, or do you hang it up and let it dry for the next shower? If you designate one towel per person in your household and they only use the towel after bathing, you don’t need to wash it each time it’s used. Presumably, you’re drying off your clean body that you just washed, so the towel should stay clean as well.
Wash bath towels after 3-4 uses. You may want to wash them more frequently if they start to look dingy, if you dye your hair (and the dye transfers to the towel), or if someone in your household uses Benzoyl Peroxide for their skin, which can fade clothing and other items.
Washcloths should be washed after each use, hand towels should be changed every day or every-other-day, depending on the frequency of use. Kitchen towels need to be cleaned daily to prevent the spread of bacteria and foodborne illness.
How Often Should You Wash Table Linens?
Tablecloths are less popular than they were a few decades back. Many of our mothers and grandmothers would clean and starch tablecloths and napkins almost every week. These days, most of us only haul out the “fancy” tablecloth and napkins for special occasions. Placemats and table runners are the norm.
Table decorating trends aside, you can probably get away with washing your tablecloth after several uses, assuming nothing spills on the table. Foods and oils stain, so if there are any drips after Thanksgiving, you’ll want to spot treat and get the tablecloth into the washer right away. Most table coverings are now made from stain-resistant polyester, making them easy-to-wash and wrinkle-free (vintage table linens will need a more delicate touch).
How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets?
You should wash your sheets weekly, at least every other week. Clean sheets are especially important for people who suffer from breakouts and skin problems because oil and sweat can transfer to your bedclothes in the night.
Fortunately, most sheets are easy to care for. You can simply pop them in the washer and dryer, and they’re ready to go, no special treatment needed. If you remove the sheets from the dryer right away, they’ll stay wrinkle-free and look great. Fold the fitted sheet, then the top sheet, and wrap them inside a pillowcase to keep every set neat and together.
How Often Should You Wash Pillows?
Allergy sufferers might be surprised to discover that your pillow can be a significant source of discomfort. Pillows trap dust mites, dander, and even pollen. It’s essential to wash your pillows regularly, and even replace them often!
I was amazed at what a difference washing my pillows made. They went from dingy to bright white and brand-new-looking in just one simple wash. It was easy to launder them and now I do it regularly. Experts recommend washing your pillow covers every three weeks, the inner pillow every three months, and replacing pillows every six months to three years.
How Often Should You Wash Blankets and Bedding?
Like pillows, your comforter and blankets can trap dust mites, pet fur and dander, and more. It’s best to launder your blankets and other bedding regularly. Comforters may require professional dry cleaning or a trip to the laundromat. Often the larger capacity washers and dryers can handle bulky blankets better.
It may seem like a pain to wash these items often, but washing your duvet or comforter once a season will help everyone in your household stay healthy and breathe easily. If someone in your family gets sick, you should wash and clean all the bedding, including the comforter, to prevent the spread of illness.
Hopefully, this gives you a good idea of how and how often you should wash everything in your house. Keeping up on your laundry regularly will help make the task less overwhelming and a little easier. Once you get in a routine, you may find that you’re doing less laundry than before (just be sure to take your jeans out of the freezer and put them in the wash)!