How Often Should You Be Washing Your Clothes?

Designed by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
Fact: Nobody looks forward to laundry day. After all, granny panties, a top knot, and your old college sweats don't exactly scream “Party!” But, if you’re doing it right, you should never find yourself piling 15 pounds of clothes into the machine and wondering why, WHY you let it come to this. The key to doing laundry — not only to preserve your sanity, but to preserve the life and quality of your clothes — is washing items as you go, and understanding that different pieces require different levels of care.

While you might think laundering rules are common sense, there are some guidelines you probably didn’t know about, and others you can ignore completely. (For instance, did you know the whole “never wash your jeans” thing is a dirty myth?)

We spoke to eight experts to find out exactly how to treat every item in your closet — from denim, jackets, sweaters, and socks to lingerie and exercise gear. Click on for insider tips that will be positively sanity-sparing come laundry day.
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Designed by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
We’re not sure how it started, but there are all kinds of myths about how often we should be washing our jeans. We spoke to Matt Eddmenson who cofounded denim label imogene + willie with his wife Carrie. Eddmenson says there’s some truth in the rumors that we should wash our jeans sparingly — but not too sparingly (and no, sticking them in the freezer over night does not count as a cleaning).

“If you don’t remember the last time you washed, chances are you're doing it right, but that’s not always the case. So, here it is: first wash, no sooner than three months; make that four months, unless you’re a construction worker. Second wash and all other washes should happen every time someone sits next to you and has a weird look on their face. Translation: Your jeans stink!”

He also suggests hand-washing jeans in the bathtub, “at least the first three times. Here’s how: Run lukewarm water. Place jeans in tub. Leave them in the water until the water turns cold. Drain. Rinse with cold water. Hang outside to dry.” Eddmenson says when you’re not wearing your jeans (“which should be when you're in your bed, or someone else’s”) in order to maintain their integrity, you should hang them up to air them out, or use a denim refreshing spray like Juniper Ridge or Benchmade.
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Washing underwear after each wear is a no-brainer (we hope), but bras are different — after all, they don't look dirty after a wear or two. Still, Fortnight designer Christina Remenyi tells us we should be washing our bras every two to three wears, as “heat and natural oils from our bodies break down elastic, so the more you wash your bra the longer it will last.

Remenyi suggests hand-washing bras by soaking them “in the sink with a gentle soap. You can use anything you wash your body with (with the exception of moisturizing shower gels). My personal favorite washing method: Just bring your bra into the shower with you and wash it there. Then, it never feels like a chore! Storage-wise, it’s best to keep them folded with hooks fastened so they don’t snag or pull anything else in your delicates drawer.”

Also blowing our minds right now is Christina’s advice that the way you put on your bra can affect its life span. “For wire bras, you want to be conscious of the wires becoming misshapen or bent. For this reason, it’s best to put your straps on first and fasten the bra behind you (instead of fastening at the front and twisting the bra around your body).” Who knew?
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Cotton T-Shirts
As it turns out, you probably don’t need to wash your cotton T-shirts as often as you do. An expert at Everlane advised, "There is really no hard number on how often we should be washing our tees. That said, the less you machine wash and/or dry your tees, the longer they will last. Our recommendation based on general industry practice is to wash a T-shirt every third or fourth normal wear. Generally, machine washing cold and laying flat to dry will keep your tees in the best shape and lasting longer."
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Wool Sweaters
Summer is on the way so it’s time to put those woolies away for the season, but not before giving them the proper care they deserve. Demy Lee of DEMYLEE says to wash sweaters “every eight to 10 wears, unless you spill, sweat, or are around smoke,” because “washing your sweaters too often can wear them out and lose [their] shape quickly.”

Spot cleaning is also important when it comes to wool sweaters: “If you’ve spilled something on your favorite sweater, and it is manageable to spot clean, use a sponge and water to blot the stain out. Never rub, because that will break down and weaken the fibers in the yarn, which then leads to pilling or felting.”

When it comes to off-season storage, Lee says, “airtight storage solutions are essential. Investing in Space Bags, plastic storage boxes, or even large plastic freezer storage bags helps protect against dust and, more importantly, moths. I prefer the plastic bags because conventional mothballs tend to leave a chemical odor. Do not use mothballs if you plan on using plastic bags, because the chemicals in the mothballs can cause plastic to melt into the wool. Another moth repeller is lavender! I don’t know about you, but I’d rather smell like lavender than a chemical-based bug repellent any day.”

Buffy Reid, cofounder of &Daughter suggests “turning your knitwear inside out for washing and hand-washing at a low temperature, or machine wash at 30 degrees if your machine has a special hand-wash or wool setting. Always use a detergent specially for wool, such as as Woolite. A small amount of hair conditioner added to the water will also help keep your cashmere super-soft. How you dry your sweater is just as important as how you wash it: Never tumble dry. Dry flat on a clean towel; hanging knitwear whilst wet will cause it to stretch and [deform].”
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Exercise Gear
Exercise gear can be tricky to decide when to wash. If you’re doing high-impact training where you sweat a lot, you’re probably going to wash every time, but when you’re doing low-impact studio classes, sometimes washing after every workout doesn’t seem justified.

Stephanie Tran, cofounder of Jock, a new website exploring peoples’ relationships to fitness, says that no matter your workout style and frequency, “it's still important to take care of your gear, especially if you're like me and have favorite items.”

Stephanie washes “everything by hand once I get home from a workout — whether it's an easy yoga class with little sweat or if I'm drenched from boxing or running. I recommend a 30-minute natural soap soak/hand wash. I use the sink or a large Tupperware container, and then I hang everything to dry. If it's not dry enough to wear the following day, I'll wear something else, and then repeat. Then, everything gets a gentle machine wash after two to three wears. The best way to ensure your workout clothing lasts is to minimize machine washing and drying. And, when you do use the machines, wash cold with like items, and hang dry. Treat your workout clothing like lingerie!”
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Designed by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.
Winter Coats
Sara Månsson, design assistant at Won Hundred gave us some advice on how to care for our wool coats (also about to go into hibernation for the summer). She says how often you wash your coats depends on the fabric:

“Most winter jackets are in wool, and in that case you should have it dry cleaned one time when the season ends. During the season, you can leave the jacket in a damp bathroom and afterwards leave the jacket in open air to freshen it up... Wool should be dry cleaned; cotton can be machine washed.”

When caring for your wool coats, Månsson says, “The way you keep your jackets is also important. A wool coat should hang on a hanger with some width, so the shoulders maintain their shape. Down jackets should be kept in a bag laying down, not hanging, in order to keep the down even inside. Never hang your coat by the neck loop — the jacket loses its shape.”
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Socks are the underdogs of the wardrobe. You wear them almost every day, and yet you probably pay the least attention to caring for them. Malkiel Berry Diagne, global PR director at Happy Socks, says, “Socks should never be [worn] more than once before [being] washed. If you want to keep your feet happy, use a fresh pair of socks every morning.”

Diagne adds that we should “always wash socks inside out at 40 degrees," and avoid tumble drying, instead laying them flat to dry.
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Leather Jackets
Chances are, you've buffed your leather shoes, but what about your moto jacket? We spoke to Rebecca Minkoff, cofounder and creative director of her namesake label, who said:

“When you initially purchase a leather jacket, it’s a good idea to treat it with a leather oil or conditioner right away. In terms of maintaining the life of your leather, I suggest having it dry cleaned by a professional leather cleaner once a season, and spot cleaning with a leather cleaner as needed. I always recommend Apple Brand Leather Care products, from protectants to cleaners, which are available through Amazon. After any spot treatment, always hang your jacket — on a shapely hanger to avoid distorting the silhouette — in a dry, well-ventilated place. And, never put heat to it to rush the process.”
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Designed by Isabel Castillo Guijarro.