Dirty laundry secrets - are you washing your clothes enough?

Dirty laundry secrets - are you washing your clothes enough?

We've all guiltily pulled a dirty top out of the laundry basket before, but how long should we really wear things without washing them?

Does it even matter?

Tops are one thing, but bras, pants and socks are another matter entirely and can become a germ-haven if not laundered enough.

Learn how often you should wash pyjamas, dresses, suits and pretty much everything else in our essential washing guide below.

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1. How often should bras be washed?

colourful bras
Are you washing yours enough?

We have a weird relationship with bras. Although they are categorised as underwear, the majority of us don't treat them that way. Three, four, five, hey, even a week's worth of wear out of a bra doesn't seem too unreasonable.

But is it?

Thankfully, it looks like we're ok. Washing your bra more frequently than every 3-4 wears can actually do more damage than good, as it will damage the delicate fabric.

2. How often do socks need washing?

Two words: smelly feet. While not everyone's feet are prone to smelling like a pungent camembert, if you don't wash your socks often enough they soon will.

Socks, like underpants, should be washed after every wear to remove dead skin cells and keep them smelling fresh.

3. How often should I wash pyjamas?

Another item many of us wear for longer than we should, is our pyjamas. Stuff them under the pillow in the morning, pop them on again at night, one, two, five, ten days in a row?


Pyjamas should only be worn for  two or three wears before washing. At night, the average person can release as much as 25ml of sweat an hour - if that's not enough to convince you to throw yours in the wash today, I don't what will!

4. How often to wash jeans

stripy nautical laundry basket
Washing jeans too much is actually usually the problem!

When it comes to washing jeans, things get slightly more complicated (and contradictory!)

Renowned jeans brand, Levi, recommend washing your denim as little as possible to preserve their appearance.

The CEO himself actually says a good pair should never need to be washed, which is music to our ears.

5. Do handbags need cleaning?

They look lovely on the outside, that's what matters, right?


Take a look inside your handbag, a real look, and you may be surprised at what you find. Empty wrappers, crumbs, part of an old, sticky sweet, crumpled receipts...germs, basically, and lots of them.

Handbags should be cleaned periodically - every season or so.

Emptying out the inside and wiping with a lightly soaped sponge before spraying with fabric freshener and allowing to dry should do the trick.

6. When to clean your shirts

Let's face it, ironing shirts can be a real pain, so the idea of washing them after every wear is a frightening one.

Luckily, shirts needn't be washed after every wear.

Depending on how much you perspire, you can get away with two to three wears without having to go through the whole washing/ironing ordeal.

7. Washing your dresses

washing machine
Are you washing your dresses enough?

Just like shirts, there's no need to clean dresses after every wear.

As they're looser fitting, they will be less affected by dead skin cells and sweat, meaning you can get away with a good three wear before throwing them in the laundry basket.

8. How often to wash tops

Tops are one of those items we think we can get away with wearing more times that we probably 'should' without too many consequences, and in most cases, we're right.

The material and fit of your top will determine how well it fares over the days.

More breathable fabrics and loose fitting tops will be fine worn for two to three days, whilst tighter fitting, synthetic tops will be ready for the wash after one.

9. Is it time to wash your gym kit?

washing machine controls

Think your legs had a hard time during that spin class? Just imagine how your sweaty gym kit feels!

Germs and gym clothes are a problem, and to make matter worse, most gym clothes are made from polyster which can't be washed at high temperatures.

As a result, gym kits should be washed after every use, preferably with the addition of an anti-microbial additive if you're not able to wash at 60°C.

10. How to wash jumpers

Jumpers lie in the murky waters between tops and coats.

How often do they really need washing?

As jumpers don't come into direct contact with our skin, they don't need washing as frequently as tops and trousers.

That's not to say they should be worn for months on end, however. Every four to five wears should be fine, unless you are a prone-perspirer, in which case two to three wears is more realistic.

11. When to clean joggers & sweatshirts

laundry basket lights & darks

Joggers and sweatshirts - the equivalent in comfort to pyjamas, but slightly more socially acceptable.

Where do you wear yours? Exclusively for lounging around on the sofa? To cook in? On quick dashes to the supermarket?

If you're wearing your joggers and sweatshirts for pretty much everything, they should be washed them every few days or so.

There are only so many sauce stains that a hoodie can take!

12. How often to launder suits

Suits - expensive to buy, expensive to clean, where does it end?!

If you do have to go suited and booted to work each day, find comfort in the fact that suits don't need to be washed every day, or even close to that.

The general recommendation is once every five days or so, with light spot cleaning in between.

13. Do jackets & coats need washing?

Jackets and coats don't get dirty, surely?

Whilst many of us don't give a second thought to laundering our outerwear, it needs washing just like the rest of our clothes.

Coats and jackets are draped over all kinds of surfaces and pick up mud and other debris from outside, so it's important they get a deep clean every now and then.

If you have a few coats and jackets that you alternate, you should be able to get away with washing them once a season. If you're wearing the same one every day, they should be taken to the dry cleaner's every month.

14. Scarves, hats & gloves

Winter accessories
Winter accessories need washing too!

You may be quite surprised to even see the scarves, hats and gloves on our list of laundry - easily forgotten, aren't they?

Despite gloves being worn on hands - the dirtiest part of our body - few of us ever consider washing them.

It's a similar story for hats and scarves. Whilst these do come into much less contact with germs, the outdoors and all its elements mean they too need washing.

Wash winter accessories three to five times a season, depending on wear, to keep them clean and germ-free.

How often do you wash your clothes? Go on, be honest! Your secret's safe with us.

Stephanie C


Lover of all things fashion & foodie...I look to satisfy my tastes without obliterating my budget. Wannabe interior designer, I'm an avid cushion cover maker and charity shop hunter.

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  1. Author Catherine Atkinson on January 26, 2018 at 9:33 am

    We live in a world of information overload and frankly some information just needs to be binned - why add to the stress? Our bodies are covered in 'germs' (just another word for bacteria). Many bacteria are actually good for you - think of fermented foods such as kefir - so stop obsessing about bacteria. If clothes looks dirty or smells, they needs a wash. If you are concerned about germs (eg if you are visiting someone in hospital and definitely if someone has a sickness bug) add a couple of capfuls of anti-bacterial laundry cleanser to the wash or wash at higher temperatures occasionally. Don't tuck nightwear under the pillow; if it's at all niffy or you haven't washed it for ages, stick it in the machine, otherwise air it on top of the pillow (sweat is mostly water and will evaporate). Fold back your bedclothes and give the bed a regular air with the window open when weather allows. Stop fretting and wasting time and resources: Use common sense!

  2. Author Me on January 26, 2018 at 10:29 am

    What about towels?

  3. Author Tony on January 26, 2018 at 11:19 am

    Hi I know this isn't part of what you are talking about but I thought it might be related and am I the only one who has this problem? Just wondering have you got any ideas on how to get rid of the black water stains that are on the rubber that goes around with the drum I hope that makes sense. I think we live in a very hard water area and the smell that goes with it by any chance? I've try bicarbonate soda, white vinger, bleach, lemon juice etc you name it. Its got to the stage wear I'm pulling what little hair I have out. Thank you so much your tips are all very good and handy and are a great read. Keep up the great work. Regards Thank you so much Tony

    1. Author Stephanie C on January 29, 2018 at 10:03 am

      Hi Tony. I know exactly what marks you're talking about, and this probably is due to you living in a hard-water area. Do you use limescale preventer tablets/powder? These will help reduce the staining on the washing machine. If you have already tried bleach, I would consider getting a new rubber seal as mould can be difficult/impossible to remove when it is engrained into the seal.

  4. Author Sylvia Galvin on January 26, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    I couldn't possibly wear my bra more than one day without putting it in the laundry basket I would feel dirty

    1. Author Stephanie C on January 29, 2018 at 9:45 am

      Hi Sylvia. If you are washing your bra every day, you can do thing such as wash on a low temperature with mild detergent and use a mesh bag to help prolong their lifespan.


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