Laundry clothes hanging on clothes line

How often is too often?

I've noticed recently that there's been a lot of discussion about how often we should be washing our clothes. 

It's no surprise that many of us are washing our clothes way too often these days in comparison to the Victorian days, as it is so much easier to do so now. We don't have to spend a whole day hand scrubbing, soaking, manually squeezing out water etc etc. We have machines that can do quick washes for us, and we can even time the washes so that they will be washed ready at a time convenient for us to take out and hang to dry, or some machines will even dry the wash-load for us.

I know I got into a habit of wearing an outfit, and immediately throwing it into the laundry basket after one wear. I'm sure many of which did not need washing so soon.

With mixed opinions on how often we need to wash our garments, let's look at reasons why we we shouldn't wash so often:

  • Less washes means using less electricity and less laundry products, saving money and products;
  • There is less agitation on the fibres of our clothes which means the quality will stand for longer;
  • Less washing means that dyes are going to wash out less often - our garments will look brighter for longer rather than faded and worn;
  • Some laundry products contain harsh enzymes that break down stains which may sound great, but over repeated exposure, may actually break down the fibres in the process too making your garment weaker than it should be;
  • Less laundry is less work!

The obvious reason we need to do laundry is to rid our clothes of bad odours and bacteria. Therefore, how often we wash a garment will be different for each one of us. Some people tend to sweat more often, which means they may need to wash their garments more regularly to remove odour and bacteria. Some people who suffer with skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis may also need to wash their clothes more often to rid any bacteria that affects their skin. People with young children may need to wash more often as they are covered in fluids and food!

Also, the environment in which you wear your clothes should also contribute to how often you wash your clothes. For example if you work in clinical conditions such as in a doctor's surgery, you should probably wash your clothes often. If you've been wearing clothes on a night out where it was likely that alcohol or food may have spilt and sloshed around, then the smells and beverage stains will mean your clothes need cleaning! If you work alone, sat down in an office, then perhaps you don't need to wash your clothes after wearing them just once.

Laundry is all about good hygiene, so underwear and socks should be washed after each wear, as a lot of bacteria forms in intimate areas. 

Generally speaking, synthetic fibres absorb and hold on to odours persistently. If you use too much laundry detergent or fabric conditioner for example, these products can end up coating the fibres of your garments and thus trapping the odour within the fibres. 

Be more environmentally aware:

  • Only do a load of laundry in your washing machine once it is full. But not too full! You should be able to place your hand in the drum on top of your laundry and move it freely. Putting a wash on with only one or two garments is a waste of energy, as you could have washed many other items at the same time. Putting a wash on when it is too full will mean your clothes will not be washed properly as there has not been any room for agitation and for detergent and liquids to disperse effectively.
  • Keep light coloured garments separate from dark colours to avoid any colours washing out onto each other, thus prolonging the life of the garments
  • Use natural laundry products where possible that don't contain chemicals that can damage fibres, be sensitive to skin, and be harmful to the environment in wastewater
  • Choose laundry products that don't come in plastic packaging. If you have to purchase liquid detergents, try and buy in bigger bulk sizes, or try and find refill shops, thereby avoiding excess amount of plastic packaging
  • Don't use too much of your laundry product. Excess amounts of laundry detergent is counterintuitive: it won't clean your clothes better, in fact it may not all wash out properly and end up leaving a residue or coating onto the fibres of your clothes making them feeling waxy and unclean, and feels like it needs another wash!
  • Where possible, avoid using a tumble dryer and hang your clothes to dry outside
  • If you're lucky to have sunshine, drying any stained garments in the sun will help bleach out the stain!

Use your judgement to work out what needs washing. Sometimes, some garments just need a good ol' airing! But if something starts to smell, look or feel dirty, it's safe to say it needs a wash! 


Photo by: Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto @ Pexels

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