How often should we wash our clothes? You might be surprised…

I have a confession to make. As I was taking my raincoat out of the hall cupboard yesterday, I realised something rather shocking. What? That I hadn’t washed any of my scarves, gloves or coats for as long as I could remember. It got me thinking. How often should we wash our clothes? When I looked into it, I was surprised to find out that some people wear their jeans for literally months before deciding they need to be cleaned. Conversely, quite a few of us may be cleaning our clothes more frequently than we need to. Read on for some guidelines and other washing tips…

How often should we clean our clothes? You might be surprised...

Apparently clothes will last longer, stay in shape, retain their colour and we’ll be doing our bit for the planet if we wash them a little less frequently. Every time we do millions of plastic microfibres are released into the environment. And of course we’ll save that most precious of resources, water. Plus the longer our clothes last, the more sustainable they are. So where’s the balance between keeping things clean and hygienic, but not needlessly wearing out your clothes, releasing microfibres and using unnecessary energy and water?

“Basically, in life, rule of thumb: if you don’t absolutely have to clean anything, don’t clean it.”

Stella McCartney

Lots of people go by the sniff test – if it pongs, wash it. Or if it’s stained, wash it. Otherwise a good rule of thumb is:

  • After every wear/use: shirts, blouses (especially if white or made of silk), swimsuits, t-shirts, camisoles, face cloths and tea towels / e-cloths
  • After 1 – 2 wears: Shapewear, underwear, socks, tights, dresses
  • Every 2 -3 days: hand towels
  • Every 3 – 4 wears: bras (wash them in a pillowcase to stop them getting distorted/elastic weakened); leggings; pyjamas
  • Once a week: Bedding. Jeans (turn them inside out to reduce fading.) Bath towels. 40 degrees will effectively clean these items.
  • Every 5 – 7 wears: skirts, trousers, fleeces, sweatshirts, jackets, blazers, jumpers.
  • 3 – 5 times per season: hats, gloves, scarves
  • Once a season: wool, suede and leather coats

… and some more useful tips

  • Dry towels separately – they take longer than other items and shed fluffy lint which can be tricky to get off other clothes.
  • Delay doing a load unless you can fill your machine to save water (unless it has a half load option). 90% of all the energy used by a washing machine goes to heating the water. So, ensuring you have a full load makes sense.
  • If you don’t overload your machine there will be less friction (and less microfibres released). Washing at lower temperatures and using a liquid detergent also helps.
  • Every few weeks run your machine when it’s empty on the hottest wash you have. Keep the detergent drawer clean (if you use it) and wipe the rubber ring around the drum after every wash.
  • Machine door won’t unlock? Potential solution is to turn the machine off at the socket, wait a minute and then turn it back on again.
  • Smelly washing machine? Run it empty on a hot cycle (you can also add a cleaner such as Dr Beckmann). Leave the door ajar when not in use to allow air into the drum. Wipe the door seal after every wash to remove any trapped water.
  • If you are on an Economy 7 tariff, using your washing machine at night can cut the running cost by about half.
How often should we wash our clothes? You might be surprised...

Most washing machines have a quick wash programme. Usually takes around 15 mins and you can choose between a 30 and 40 degree wash. It is my most-used wash cycle. Apart from being super speedy, it’s cheaper in terms of electricity usage and less wear and tear on the machine.

But there are a few things to remember, if like me, you are have one of these programmes.

Speed wash shouldn’t be used for bedlinen. It’s a ghastly thought I know, but our beds are the main dust mite zone (a typical mattress can have as many as ten million loitering in it), so washing linen (and towels) at 60 degrees is pretty much essential.

Hope you’ve found some of these tips useful. If you have any of your own that you’d like to share with A&G readers, please do feel free to leave them in the Comments section underneath this article. Thank you.

You might also like to read Annabel’s article on how to dry clean at home.

How often should we wash our clothes? You might be surprised...