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. Did you know there are certain days when it's bad luck to wash clothes? Find out more in our other article. 

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1. Is it time to wash your gym kit?

gym kit
Be sure to clean it properly.

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 polyester 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.

2. How often do socks need washing?

Two words: smelly feet. While not everyone's feet are prone to smelling like 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 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. 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.

5. How often to wash jeans

Don't wash them too often!

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.

If your jeans are a bit stiff, just give them a vinegar treatment. It'll also stop the colour from fading. 

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. For extra protection, be sure to wear an undershirt to absorb moisture. 

Be careful with linen - read our guide to find out if it shrinks. 

7. Washing your dresses

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. 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. If that's you, two to three wears is more realistic.

10. How often should bras be washed?

When was the last time you washed yours?

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. You should also take care when drying them, and avoid putting them in the tumble dryer. 

Would you know how to whiten bras? Take a look at our tips!

11. When to clean joggers & sweatshirts

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

These often get forgotten!

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. 

Looking for hand washing tips? Take a look at our other article. 

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.

  5. Author Heather on July 1, 2019 at 9:01 am

    I just hope common sense may come to those manufacturers who decided to remove the 50 degree wash since I used this for underwear, shirts & anything that 40 was too cool & 60 too hot. 50 was just hot enough to rid germs without damage. Infact they put in 3 or 4 variations of the 40 degrees where 1 or 2 is enough. I could also wash sheets & pillowcases at 50 if I felt 60 was too hot.

    1. Author Joanne A on July 1, 2019 at 10:32 am

      I'm with you on that one, Heather! 40 doesn't always do the job, but 60 is far too high for delicates.

  6. Author heather on July 2, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    Can we then, through your site, pressure these washing machine designers to bring back the 50 degree wash? Don't know why they got rid of it in the first place. Do any others feel the same? The thought of my undies in 30 degrees makes me shudder, plus there are products to add to your wash to make it more hygienic just more money wasted.

    1. Author Joanne A on July 2, 2019 at 3:34 pm

      That's not a bad idea, Heather!

  7. Author Heather on July 28, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    Hello again. Now I need some advice which I can't find. My husband has splashed a little Ronseal woodpaint onto his shirt. I've tried everything, from soapy water, Ace stain remover, a drop of white vinegar, some dabs of white spirit & even a small dab of bleach. Not even a hint of ridding it. Any ideas please team? WHAT will dissolve it? Big thanks.

    1. Author Joanne A on July 29, 2019 at 10:22 am

      Hi Heather! Unfortunately, it sounds like you've tried all of the available options - the shirt might be a goner! If you're thinking about binning it, consider upcycling it into cleaning cloths first. Alternatively, you could consider options for covering the stain - maybe with an iron-on patch depending on where the stain sits?

  8. Author Anita on August 14, 2020 at 2:32 pm

    I live in London and washing my jacket or coat once a month is definitely not enough. Especially light coloured jackets and coats, as well as light coloured tops (if the weather allows going out without a jacket) will get dirty within a day of wearing. I once had a white denim jacket that had to be washed after wearing it for only one day. It simply looked grey at the end of the day. About jeans, I've heard you can put them in a plastic bag in the freezer to freshen them up.

    1. Author Joanne A on August 14, 2020 at 4:33 pm

      Yes, I can imagine clothing needs washing more if you live in a city! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Author Anne on March 7, 2021 at 9:23 am

    We dont have a washing machine so all is hand washed, all bedding is done weekly, all undies & tops etc are daily trousers & skirts every 3 days easy to do if organised the worst to dry is a thick towelling dressing gown but we manage

    1. Author Joanne A on March 30, 2021 at 12:44 pm

      That sounds like hard work! Well done, Anne.

  10. Author Eileen Fiona McKenzie on August 22, 2022 at 9:12 am

    Many of us have seen the pictures of large pieces of plastic, such as bottles, which litter our oceans. The waste is very visible, as is the damage when it traps marine wildlife. But tiny microfibres get eaten by such creatures and do not break down so they pass through the food chain. 66% Proportion of clothes containing plastics like polyester, nylon or acrylic 17 million Microfibres released in a washing load 1600 tonnes Microfibres added to oceans each year Textiles experts state we are washing our clothes too much. Its obvious! Energy costs rising, plastic everywhere, lets not make things worse by encouraging more washing!!!!

    1. Author Joanne A on September 5, 2022 at 5:17 pm

      Thank you for sharing, Eileen! It's definitely something we would like our readers to take into consideration.

  11. Author susan bowden on September 26, 2022 at 4:18 pm

    I wash undies at 30 degrees in bio detergent - it's made to clean at lower temperatures, after all! I add Zoflora or similar instead of fabric conditioner (I hardly ever use that - white vinegar works just as well) and if they come out smelling nice I know they've been disinfected. It works out much cheaper than using laundry disinfectant and I find the clothes last longer.

    1. Author Joanne A on November 10, 2022 at 3:08 pm

      Hi Susan! Washing at lower temps and using white vinegar is a great idea - an excellent way to save money and energy. We would, however, stick to using laundry disinfectant instead of Zoflora in your machine. Zoflora could cause skin irritation.

  12. Author Elizabeth on April 10, 2024 at 8:46 am

    Wash jackets when needed especially with my dogs! Undies wear once tops and jeans same as jackets

    1. Author Joanne A on April 15, 2024 at 11:24 am

      Thanks for sharing!


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