How often do you wash your clothes?

posted in: Organisation | 45

I used to wash anything that had touched skin after one wear (eg socks, underwear and blouses/T-shirts/woolies). Everything my kids and grandkids wore went straight off their backs into the laundry basket. Skirts and jackets I would take the cleaners after 6-12 wears I guess. But for a number of reasons I have cut right down.

Nowadays I wash knickers and tights after one wear. Everything else when it needs it. I use a visual test and a sniff test. If it doesn’t have obvious marks (eg food stains or mud), and if smells good I just fold it up and put it back in the wardrobe. Kids clothes too, get examined and sorted. PJs, school trousers and jumpers can last a week if there are no obvious stains. Adult skirts and jackets now go for ages without laundering. I brush them down, use lint rollers and steam or press them. I hardly use dry cleaners, not least due to the cost  – £5-£10 for one item – that may have cost less than that to make or buy.

For  decades I have ignored “dry clean only” tags on RTW goods. I prefer my own skill and judgement. Anything made of natural fibres is washable, and with care so is viscose, polyester and elastane. However I dislike hand washing and have found most things can go in the washing machine. The silk, wool and cold cycles on my machine are excellent. According to the Daily Mail the average family spends £320 a year on dry-cleaning, while those who wear suits to work can spend as much as £640 a year. I find this statistic unbelievable although it must be true if it is in the Daily Mail. 

From time to time I machine wash woolen jackets and skirts, pressing carefully afterwards to refresh them if they become grubby or smelly. But some have gone on for ages without a wash or dry clean.

Some will find this revelation disgusting.

Others will admit they are equally “lazy”, “tight” or “green”.

I don’t like making work, or wasting money or damaging the environment but I am not at the extreme end of any of these standpoints. I just think excessive cleaning is a bit of a con. Like the idea of daily shampooing of hair, this is based on social anxiety about dirt, grease, animal secretions, slime, mould, decay, dandruff, BO and squalor, rather than any objective filth.

A seamstress has an advantage over a member of the public

  • we have knowledge of fibres and fabrics
  • we know how our garments are constructed eg with iron-on or sewn in interfacings
  • we know how to press, and the impact of water or steam on our fabrics
  • (if we have too much washing to do, especially if there are lots of towels and bed linen we know we can take it to the laundrette for a service wash – £30 for a huge bag that will be washed, dried and folded).

This means we don’t have to accept the myth that we will be socially unacceptable if we don’t launder daily.

Until the 1950s washing clothes was a major palaver. I can remember “blue”, green soap, yellowish soap for collars and cuffs, a scrubbing board, a boiler, tongs, a plunger and a kind of big stick, a mangle, a washing line, pegs, peg bags, and a sort of wooden stick to push the washing line up with (was it called a prop?).

Glasgow women watching their clothes dry (and knitting).

Monday was washing day and it took lots of time to get the washing done. Unsurprisingly, apart from sheets, shirts and underwear, not much was washed. The domestic washing machine was invented in 1937 but when I was young (1950s, early 1960s) my mum was still using old-fashioned techniques. When we got a machine it was a top loader and had a rubber lining and a kind of central stick around which the clothes circulated.

Old style washing machine

A little further back less was washed, and less often. The laundry process took several days.  The “Great Wash” took place every few months and may have involved hiring professional washer women to help.  According to a book published in 1860 the washers would prewash in cold water, rising until the water runs clear, then soaking for 24 hours, further soaking in warm lye (including ashes and soapy agents), heating the water again and again, beating the washing with sticks and finally rinsing, wringing and drying.  The labour was so extensive that many clothes, especially the outer garments, were never washed at all.

Today washing and drying at home is largely mechanised. However I don’t have a tumble dryer. Therefore every item has to be hung up to dry on the rack,  or more recently as our flat is a bit damp, on a heated rail. The main reason I cut down the washing is that the drying is trying. If we have the heating on the clothes dry but the evaporation makes the air damp and we need a dehumidifier.

Clothes drying on “the rack” at Rainshore

Speaking to my friend Amo about growing up in Nigeria she says they just hung up wet sheets and they were dry and fragrant within a few hours.

The Dhobi Ghats of Mumbai

The sun would also sterilise linens.I guess the damp climate and cold weather has meant the British have always been a somewhat dirty and smelly race, certainly before soap and hot water were widely available.

I was wondering if women’s easier lives in modern societies were down to time-saving devices like washing machines and vacuum cleaners. But according to Tim Harford it is the reduction in food preparation and cooking that have changed far more and are actually responsible for women being able to work and feed the family. Again, thinking of life as I have seen it in India and rural Africa much of the women’s time is consumed with procuring raw materials and food preparation, and certainly my own Mum and Grandma spent several hours a day cooking.

45 Responses

  1. My laundry is my sanctuary. It’s where I go to get away from family (!), I love my laundry, no one is allowed to touch my washing machine and they all know it. My mother lived a very hard life, she had no washing machine or dryer and washed everything by hand. Her hands were so dry and rough it makes me sad to think of them and why they were this way. However I don’t wash everything after a single wear, as much as I love being in that little room. It was a revelation to me when I left home to hear that it was OKAY! to wash bedlinen fortnightly rather than weekly – and I haven’t looked back. Now it’s less than fortnightly. I once worked with a woman who washed her towels for a family of six daily, I thought she was crazy. Common sense decrees that washing textiles too frequently will eventually destroy the fibres. Like you, Kate, I use the smell and look test for clothes after a few wears, all except for undies and stockings. I hate the smell of dry cleaning fluid so avoid the cleaners except for the rare ‘special’ item of clothing of mine and my husband’s suits. I have successfully washed jackets in my front loader washer. I find the knits go back into shape better if not washed by hand, and they dry quicker too. I once had someone stay with me from Taiwan who was horrified that I put washing outside on the washing line. She thought that they would get dirty because pollution would land on it. I pointed to our blue skies over Melbourne, I hope I convinced her!

  2. I hate to say that my career choices have focused on avoiding dry clean only clothing, but it haaaaas been something I’ve taken into consideration (what is the expectation of apparel? Wages minus transport and then minus dry cleaning? How expensive is this job going to be?). It all goes into the washer, except for the sweaters. They soak, and dry on towels. Most of it gets hung to dry (inside drying line), which has extended the useful life of a lot of my spouse’s nice shirts to 20 years and up.

    On the other hand: Socks. As the mother of teen boys, I’d make those kids change their socks half way through the day if I could.

  3. Paloverde

    Actually, the only times I go to the dry cleaners are to have something newly constructed pressed professionally. And that’s really rare. I live in a hot, dry climate and have only a washer and clothesline. Most of the year, you finish hanging a load and the first items hung are almost dry. Knickers (underwear in my book) get washed after one wearing. Tops that were worn for dancing (my main hobby) are also usually washed after a single outing because they’re generally wet with sweat. But other items, I, too, use the sniff and look test. Water is precious and expensive in the desert. Wasting it is not an option. I know that items dried in a dryer generally look better than those dried naturally, but I don’t care. Why waste electricity when the sun works so perfectly in my climate?

  4. A girl after my own heart!

  5. I agree with you, I usually wash my work clothes altogether after a few weeks rotation, I press them between wears if need be. Like Kerry I enjoy the cleaning process and ironing and like to see all my clothes ready to use for the next few weeks. All my knicks are either white or black and I have enough to go without washing for ages, they get put in a little basket until I have a load, they last longer that way and the white stays bright, and yes, I iron them too. I have a top range machine that has a great wool wash and also a quick 20min cycle that gets used a lot.

    Mostly I line dry or hang damp on a maiden I tumble in winter and I’ve just got a new prop, they’re telescopic now, I couldn’t line dry without one.

  6. I pretty much follow your philosophy as well. Reading the book “Ovedressed” taught me a lot about laundry and how we overdo it. We wear lots of wools up here and those only get cleaned as needed, which is rarely, usually by me in the machine on gentle and cold water. Most of the time I justs spot clean my wools. One thing I learned from that book is that previous generations hung their clothes out to refresh without laundering. I’ve gotten into that habit. I will come home, take off my work clothes and if sanitary I leave them out on hangars to “air out” overnight and will put them into the closet the next morning. There is a limit here,however. I don’t think I could ever espouse the ” never wash” method of owning jeans!

  7. Growing up in the 60s and into the 70s , Sunday was always a washing day and bed changing and it took all day! When my mother finally got a spin dryer that was my job and boy did I hate it….and resent it…..what a waste of time and energy…..the perfectly clean home and immaculate clothes had a negative effect on me and only made the divide bigger between my mother and myself……I’ve never put housework etc before having fun days with my kids and yes my home may not be pristine but hey ho…..everything on the cleaning and washing front is on a strict need basis…..great post

    • My husband’s family was exactly like this with a wash day, Monday, that brought out three ironing boards and everything from socks to undies getting pressed. It was a social event for his mom and sisters that lasted all day. These women had no hobbies or other interests. They cleaned. Little did they know that their son was going to marry a woman who never was asked to wash a dish or make a bed in her life. I did those things but when I felt like it,not by some rule or schedule or request. My mom had an upbringing, or serious lack of, that was abusive and challenging and her philosophy, which my father agreed with, was for her children to play all they ever wanted to, no responsibilities. My mom knew soon enough adult responsibilities was arrive. Wise, wise woman I miss so much.

  8. IRONING KNICKERS! I fainted a bit there…lol
    My mum’s neighbour used to iron EVERYTHING, including socks, tea towels and dish cloths. Bonkers. Each to his or her own though.
    I’m another for washing clothes as little as possible, it really does make them last longer. I was trained in the 70s to wash everything after one wear, but a lot of it was polyester or nylon, and we were sweaty teenagers, so I can’t blame mum for that. I slid slowly out of it in later years, but still needed to do multiple machine loads every week, and was grateful for a very long garden line to hang it all out on. Except when it broke.
    These days, we still produce a fair bit of washing every week, and the missus is a great one for washing towels all the ruddy time…

  9. I sometimes think I wash for the joy of pegging it all out on the washing line and watching the breeze catch the cloth. And then the glorious sneak out air dried linen. I hang out washing throughout the year on fine days – bringing it in by ‘four in winter and by seven in summer’. Not sure where that adage comes from, but it seems to work. I do live in the country side though.

  10. totally agree…..especially when you are doing your own laundry and the households. I will launder all baselayers a lot – I usually wear a baselayer under wool sweaters so the sweater gets handwashed as and when. I do think over laundering has a lot to answer for – it really wears out clothes and I dont think anyone spot cleans much – I dont have a tumbledryer, but what I did buy years ago was a whirlpool steamer (I had a flat with no washing machine at the time and used use a launderette) and its so useful for dryclean only fabrics as it extends the times between drycleans. and useful for the final steam to a hand made item! years ago it came into its own when a friend had the loan of a vintage chloe beaded dress from their archive, – her sister worked for them – and it stank – no drycleaners would look at it, so we put it through the steamer 3 or 4 times and there was a helluva difference. the steam will kill the smelly bacteria, and it also seems to ‘puff’ out the silk…..

  11. I follow pretty much the same logic with washing, and always have a base layer under my knits, so they get washed and the knits get spot cleaned as needed.
    Tumble dryers damage fibres, but with 3 kids I doubt I could manage without one! Heavier things like bath towels get hung on an upstairs airer, I don’t like wasting energy on something that’s not needed urgently. I have been known to cut large towels in two, because no body gets wet enough to need a bath sheet!
    Ps..I was delighted to see you mentioned on the fringeassociation blog – you’re storming through those knits!

  12. Linda Wilson

    Let’s call it green.
    Couldn’t agree with you more.

  13. Michele

    You’re not alone, underwear, tights, socks, sportswear (due to sweat) washed after 1 wear, everything else is done on look and smell. Towels and bedding once a week.

  14. Oh you took me back in time, there! Our big sticks were copper sticks, which my grandmothers must have used for poking the washing in the copper – a huge tub which didn’t do anything, but had the modern innovation of its own heating element. Very intriguing for a child whose mother only had an ordinary washing machine!

    I really miss drying washing outside, but as we feed the birds there were always plenty who enjoyed perching on the rotary and leaving “luck” on the laundry somewhere.

    I believe my clothes develop an odour when re-heated by a second wearing, so I’m still following the next-to-the-skin rule, old-fashioned or not.

  15. A topical discussion for me as we are out of town visiting a sick friend with minimal thought given to packing and thus a limited and climate inappropriate wardrobe but convenient free washing facilities. So where at home many socks and underpants accumulate and are washed together after there is a washer load, here the 3 pairs are going into the wash with shirts and slacks….and put back on right out of the dryer. At home we dry outside in the summer and either on an inside line or in a tumble dryer in winter. But neither place do we wash anything before it “needs it” (and that means gym clothes daily! No accumulating for them!). And that every day hair shampooing thing – my fine curly hair would be brillo broken off at the scalp!

    But my mom in her 90s still washes once a week unless there is some crisis, and it is still all line dried, although we have recently reached an agreement where I am allowed to take their sheets away and wash/dry at my house – she jokes about having a washer woman at last.

    ceci

  16. I am ‘tight’, ‘green’ and ‘lazy’, no question. I wear stuff at least twice mostly. (undies and tights excepted as well). It’s not always able to be done when it is 35 degrees celsius and 90% humidity. I find people don’t use their judgement anymore about anything. What happened to “smell the milk”. Marketing and consumerism have trained and brainwashed people into not trusting themselves. I think the dry cleaners are used mostly because of the pressing, who wants those poisonous chemicals on their clothes? Even in the winter here, we have beautiful sunshine at about 20 degrees and the washing dries quickly. I don’t (and won’t) have a dryer as it’s completely unnecessary in our climate. I love freshly washed sheets dried in the sun… the smell is divine. (Oh, and the stick inside the washing machine is called an agitator – very bad for clothing as it wears them out – that’s why front loaders are better as they pound the clothes. A friend’s agitating washing machine broke and didn’t go past the wash cycle while he was out for a whole day and the clothes were simply holes!)

  17. What a fascinating discussion that really highlights the difference between rural and urban, warm climate and cold. I live in one of Canada’s largest cities and I have to say no one in my area line dries anymore probably due to everyone out of the house working and our winter climate. I am fortunate to have a large laundry room with one front and one top load washer and one oversized dryer (I actually have several friends who have two dryers in their laundry rooms particularly if their children area active in team sports). In addition, I have ample built in hanging space for the many things that I do not put in the dryer. I also have a regular iron and a rotary iron or mangle style iron for linens in the room. I have always operated with the sniff test and have always told everyone in my family to wear a base layer under anything that is of a more difficult to wash or fragile nature. Camisoles rule for me! Base layers, exercise/active sports wear and socks/tights are all washed after one wearing, house hold linens weekly and everything else according to need. I do use a dry cleaner for work suits and my husband’s shirts as I do not press/starch them as well as they do but otherwise, wash everything else as needed and spot treat in between. I agree that airing out clothing after wearing prolongs the time between washing. Despite all the modern conveniences that I enjoy, I estimate that my family’s laundry needs still use up one full work day weekly (includes ironing time)!

    • I’ve lived in areas where there were protective covenants on the properties/homes, preventing any laundry lines being put up and laundry being hung out. Some people just like their perfect yards. I am not one of them.

  18. Tim Morton

    Reminds me of the great Katharine Whitehorn doyenne of the Observer

    “Have you ever taken something out of the clothes hamper because it had become, relatively, the cleanest thing?”

    We seem to have had the washing machine on every night for 30 years. It’s my job, oh and we dry the clothes outdoors and use a clothes prop or two. If wet on the Sheila Maid in the kitchen. https://sheilamaid.com

    • Yes – what we know as a rack is called a Sheila maid in your link. Invaluable! My grandparents, parents, me and my kids all rely on this contraption to dry clothes successfully and out of the way.

  19. I’m not-washing more, particularly now that my kids are old enough that I don’t *constantly* have spit up milk or bits of yogurt on me. And I’m moving towards wearing more undergarments – am experimenting with things I could wear under white blouses so that the underarms aren’t yellow after a season. Just had to get rid of a lovely Liberty blouse I’d made because it was even beyond the point where a bit of bleach would help.

  20. Theresa

    I live in a hot dry climate so I wash often, but not because things are sweaty and dirty but because I want the washwater to water my vines on the patio and augment the water to the grapefruit tree. When monsoon (our summer rainy season) hits, washing gets cut way back. We also harvest rainwater so I begrudge using potable city water to water plants. The rainwater gets cycled through the washer (we had a very innovative builder for this house) and then out to a greywater tank and from there to the garden. When rainy season is over and the rainwater tanks are dry we switch back to city water for the clothes washer, so greywater gets used again. I have a tumble dryer but it gets used for darks and things that need to be de-linted. Most everything goes out on the clothes line or when it is too rainy, on a drying rack set up in the garage.
    Theresa in Tucson

  21. This is a very interesting article and I will go back and read everyone’s comments.

    I live in Haiti, both a Caribbean country and an Official Third World Country. We have water problems, electrical problems, joblessness problems and a lot of sunshine!

    What it means is that: people have to manage water constantly, laundry is largely by hand, and anyone who can afford it pays someone else to wash they’re laundry if they can afford it. In the dry season ie summer, you can wash several loads of laundry if you want. Lately, we have been reaching 40C so natural fibers dry really quickly.

    When I was in school, in primary school in particular, we had two employees: a laundress/cleaner and a cook. Laundry was done twice a week, with one day for school uniforms. My uniform was a white blouse and a dark, plaid jumper/dungaree, white sox. I had 3 new jumpers/dungarees per year, and 6 blouses, 1 set being reserved for special school events/class photo/mass. (Helps that I am very short and had no growth spurts like taller cousins). My brother had a shirt, trousers and sox version in his school colors.

    Clothes were washed by hand in plastic tubs first in soap, then in clear water twice. Hung to dry on a line. We used bar soap or powdered soap, no softener. I remember my grandmother’s laundress melting the bar of soap to shape it into a ball or even cutting it up to dissolve it into the wash water.

    Now, I have a semi-automatic washing machine I bought about 10 years ago now. It might need replacing and I don’t relish the expense. You have to add/drain the water but it works on electricity.

    I mostly do the sheets, towels and trousers/denim or anything too tedious or difficult to wash by hand. Otherwise, we still largely handwash and line dry. I put up clothes inside out on the line because the sun bleaches colors horribly. I’ve even had fabric fade on the exposed side even before sewing it so I also try to line dry in the shade or wrong side out.

    I wear my clothes several times if possible. Like you, if it doesn’t look or smell dirty, it gets worn again. I don’t actually put my clothes back in the wardrobe, I use a rolling bar for work clothes or hang up (or throw on a chair, tbh) the rest. Clean clothes are in the wardrobe or the drawers.

    Having a completely knit work wardrobe is turning out to be impossible in this ever-increasing heat. I am currently sewing wovens in natural fibers. The downside is that they require ironing and that means marathon sessions (the other it gets, the less electricity we seem to get these past few years).

    I will say that my city, the capital of the country, has become so dirty and polluted and hot that it isn’t as easy to postpone washing as it was before.

    I sweat a lot and have no AC in my car so I find myself washing more often in June-Aug than the rest of the year. Mostly tops and bras, frankly. There is AC at work and if I had a functioning AC in my car, I would probably keep the old rythm. But the majority of the country doesn’t have this luxury and bus rides can become quite fragrant.

    One more thing, we have house clothes, usually downgraded work clothes. I see people in the US refer to lounge wear. I guess that’s it. And at my house, we wear pyjamas for a week, and change the bedding weekly too.

    As for hair washing, it’s only with the natural hair movement in the US that I realized some people wash their hair that often. Here, it was always once a week, twice if you did some dirty work or were getting a special hairdo for an event. Apparently, straight hair also get really greasy with sebum quickly whereas curly/kinky hair tends to be dry. But, as I said in the beginning, water is a major issue so that trumps any other aspiration.

    • Please excuse the spelling and other crimes against English. Trying to put everything in words, hope I’m making sense!

  22. one of the greatest mysteries of my life is how my mother has managed to a. work full time (usually from 7am to 5am) and make a successful career as an accountant, b. cook daily without using pre-prepped food (she has NEVER missed a meal and usually cooked for a 5-10 people weekly), c.keep a 3 stories house spotless clean, d. keep a 100sq mt garden looking like a fairytale. Admittedly she never had much of a social life (apart from family gatherings) and she could never watch a full movie (she would irremediably fall asleep on either me or my brother shortly after settling down on the sofa). She is also one of my personal style icons, and always kept her personal appearance immaculate. I can barely manage less than a quarter of that and don’t have children. Speaking of life goals, I would love to have half of her productivity! (And would spend it entirely on other interests!)

  23. I’ve recently had cause to be thankful for my modern washing machine as I’ve had extra washing caused by looking after someone who’s ill, and for the fine sunny weather for drying all the extra towels and bedding. Looking back at the 1950s, I think one of the reasons for not washing so much was that we had far fewer clothes – if you only had one or two warm jumpers in winter you couldn’t wait two days to dry them! And heating large quantities of water took ages and used a lot of fuel. There were several ways to make things last longer – my mum had little cotton pads which were pinned to the underarms of her blouses to absorb sweat. Men’s shirts came with a couple of separate collars held in place by collar studs. These got very grubby from their greased hair. Washing them involved scrubbing with a bar of soap and a brush, then soaking in starch. Most weeks only the collars were washed. My mum’s muslin work caps (she was a cook) were also soaked in starch and then ironed whilst damp. It was quite a skill not to scorch them. Aprons were always worn for tasks such as cooking and washing up. All cottons and linens were starched, it gave them a lovely texture and probably helped them last longer between washes. When my own children were babies disposable nappies were very rare and very expensive, so nappies were hand washed every day and line dried. Woe betide the poor young mother caught drying them round the fire by the health visitor! Personally, I am happy to wear things several times between washes and rarely use the dry cleaners. As I get older I am getting more and more concerned about the sheer amount of stuff we own and waste, and this includes clothes and laundry paraphernalia.

  24. I love the look of a clothesline sailing out over the yard, and wish I had a place for one. (And perversely, as my neighborhood becomes more gentrified with nary a clothesline in sight, I long for one more and more.) My childhood home had a pulley line from the kitchen window across the yard, with my mother following a strict order: underwear closest to the house, then blouses and dresses, then pants, with towels and sheets allowed to go furthest out.

    Nothing is hand washed, but I do use mesh bags for delicates. Cold water for everything. My dryer gets little use, except for sheets, tablecloths and towels. Everything else goes on a folding wall-hung rack in the bathroom, which seems to help with reducing wear on clothing. I’ve taken to wearing camisoles under my shirts, so can get several shirt wearings. Typically everything is hung overnight to air out, before going back in the closet.

  25. I think your washing routines sound common sense and nothing to feel bad about. I have a similar ethos to washing and it saves time and resources.
    We did have an exchange student a few years ago who did have strong body odour even though she showered daily and used deodorant and perfume. Her clothes smelt even after laundering so I do wonder that my family and I are not naturally ‘smelly ‘ people and perhaps some people do need to wash their clothes after just one wear against skin .

  26. I grew up in Chicago, but we were working poor. We didn’t have a washer and dryer (or car! Or vacuum cleaner!! And our family of 6 mostly lived in a 2 bedroom for as long as I can remember…) we would often go do washing at the laundromat and line dry at home. I LOVE line drying and wish I could put a line up, but I rent.

    Anyway! I dry clean blazers and lined wool skirts and dresses. But very infrequently.

    I wear underwear and exercise gear once. Anything that I break a sweat in, once. And this depends because I get HOT. Bras, tights, socks (unless I worked out in them), at least twice and then smell test. Other clothing varies. Most pants and skirts can be worn several times; jeans much more.

    There was a ridiculous discussion on GOMI where the site owner basically called people disgusting for wearing bras more than once. I don’t know what she’s doing in her bra that it can’t be reworn… :-p

    • I have to admit that I also happily wear my bras more than once. The owner of my favourite lingerie store is adamant that one wear is best as she says that the elastic deteriorates faster by being repeatedly stretched before recovering in the laundry process. However, since my non-sport bras still smell fresh and lovely after one wearing, I can’t see not wearing them again. I do rotate them though (as in rest them for a day or two and wear a different one in between).

      • SAME Dagmar! I will not generally wear them back-to-back but I do wear more than once unless I believe I can’t 🙂

  27. I’m going to send the link for this post to my two teenagers who generate WAY too much washing because they drop their worn clothes on the floor for days…then when they eventually get picked up, it’s straight to the laundry, dirty, clean or indifferent. Waste of time, money and resources. Does my head in a comprehensive way.

  28. Your approach is similar to mine…undies and work out clothes after each wear (sweaty!) and everything else as needed. I’m so glad to hear others think waging everything after every wear is a waste of energy and resources!

  29. Christine

    knickers and socks are washed after each wear. I rotate the next layer daily and only wash if they get stained or smelly. I use good deoderant and air each item after I have worn it. I think we have become obsessed with excessive cleanliness. The amount of water, power and detergents used to wash clothes on a daily basis is frightening. As a child we wore the same items of clothing for a week and certainly my parents did not have the wherewithall to change their clothes on a daily basis. And I cannot remember them being dirty. So I guess my rational is a mix of economic and environmental sustainability.

  30. Great post, agree with it all, and do that myself, I’m definitely in the lazy/dirty/green camp!

  31. Thank goodness – I thought I was the only one hiding my slovenly ways! I don’t think I ever smell unpleasant (someone please say if I ever do) and I am very happy to wear clothing more than once – undercrackers and sportswear are the only exception. It seems to be just common sense to reduce unnecessary work/use of resources. I also have a reputation of working on ‘kill by’ dates in the kitchen. Again, common sense tells if something is past it’s best.

  32. Kate, you always have such interesting posts! I am with you as well, socks and undies get washed after one wear, everything else is up for inspection, with the exception of work shirts. My work involves direct patient care, and I launder shirts and sometimes pants after one wearing. I also live with 2 teenagers: their shirts go in the wash after one wearing as well 😉

  33. I’m with you here Kate!
    The only thing that I was after one wear is knickers / tights. If I don’t want to be seen in the same top two days in a row at work I go back to it later in the week. I always do a sniff test and have different levels of acceptability for work wear or if it’s a home day. I’m lax with the children’s clothes as well. My 5 year old always looks like an urchin, if he’s not already dirty he soon will be so I just leave him to it!
    I love seeing the washing out on the line. I don’t have a tumble dryer and used to struggle over winter, especially with towels but then I discovered a local launderette where I take my wet washing and use the dryer. I can fit 3 loads of washing into one dryer and get it done for about £2. I struggle up the road with two big blue Ikea bags but it’s less heavy when dry!

  34. Ha ha! This is really interesting, I too have adopted the ‘inspect, sniff, decide’ technique on anything that’s not underwear! Especially since having children as I used to throw everything they had on in the wash after one wear, but then my kids can get through two or even 3 changes of closes in a day depending on what activities they’re doing, so that became a massive load of washing. Spot cleaning is also a way to stretch out the time between fully washing items. I always read ‘dry clean’ as ‘hand wash’ unless it’s a jacket or something like that.

  35. You do more or less what I do for laundry. If it passes the sniff test it can be worn another time before washing. But having a few weeks of very humid and hot weather each summer and poor air conditioning in my office means cotton dresses get washed after each wear. Everything other than sheets and towels get the low agitation cycle.
    My hand knit wool sweaters only get washed a few times each season. I lay them out to air after wearing and do the sniff test before it goes back in storage.
    I’m not brave enough to hand wash my wool gabardine pants. Years ago, hand washing shrunk a beautiful pair of wool Michael Kors pants my mother made for me. I’ve also managed to shrink a couple of purchased fine gauge knit merino sweaters, though my cashmere sweater has survived hand washing without shrinking.
    I avoid dry cleaning as much as I can. I spot wash my wool skirts or pants if they get a tiny stain. I should make a liner pant for my wool pants to reduce dry cleaning even more. My low wear wool flannel skirt has never been dry cleaned – I haven’t spilled anything on it and it’s always worn with tights/pantyhose and a camisole so it never rubs against my skin.

  36. I often feel like the maid from Downton Abby when doing the laundry. I am fed up to the back teeth of it. Bed wetting is my nemisis. They can be dry for days then every now and then they must make a pact to all wet the bed on the same night!

    • Oh Goodness! I baby sit weekly and my heart sinks when someone comes in with wet PJs. I sympathise. Just wait until you have incontinent parents as well.

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