How Often Do You Wash Your Jeans?

Is it smart or gross to save money by washing your clothes less often? Or is it both?

If you take Real Simple’s When-to-Wash-It Handbook as gospel, then I’m a total pig. Apparently I should wash my jeans after four to five wearings, launder my PJs every three or four days, and spend $10 on four ounces of a special swimsuit shampoo.

I don’t do any of those things. Oink, I guess.

Good thing I don’t wear silk PJs – Real Simple says they’re supposed to be washed daily.

In fact, I don’t wear a nightgown at all except in the winter. Sorry if that’s TMI for you. But I have an even dirtier image to share: Sometimes I wear a shirt twice before washing it.

I’m not talking about a uniform shirt from a lutefisk factory. Most of my days are spent in sweatpants and a T-shirt. But if I have to go somewhere looking like something, I’ll put on jeans (or black slacks, if it’s a fancy to-do) and a shirt with buttons. Should the errand/event not take very long, the shirt goes back on a hanger when I get home.

And why should I wash my jeans every four or five wears if the “wear” lasts an hour or two several times a week? I can, and do, go a month without laundering them. Is that poor hygiene or smart savings? You decide…

My clothes last longer

My garment game plan is similar to the school clothes/play clothes dichotomy of my youth: We were expected to change out of our dresses as soon as we got home. (Back then, we weren’t allowed to wear slacks to school.) Sometimes that meant the dress could be re-worn later in the week, but the rule was also designed to preserve the life of “good” clothes.

My jeans and bathing suit both come from thrift shops. Two of my nightshirts came from Walmart more than a dozen years ago, and the other one was from an online outlet store. Thus “good” may not be the correct adjective for these garments – “good enough” is a better fit. Still, I see no reason not to have them last as long as possible.

Fewer washes and machine dryings will extend the lifespan of a garment. It also costs me less in quarters ($1.50 to wash, $1.25 to dry) and detergent (although I never pay retail thanks to coupons).

So it’s sweatpants and a T-shirt for me most days, unless I have to leave the apartment. Full disclosure: Sometimes I wear the same T-shirt more than one day in a row. My mom, a serious laundry freak whose favorite flavor was Clorox, would be appalled. But I’m not toting barges and lifting bales, after all – just laboring in my work-at-home job.

Mind you, the rule is not absolute. If I’m picking blackberries on a hot summer day, my T-shirt will go into the laundry bag when I get home. As a woman who wears her meals with pride, I sometimes have to wash a garment right after lunch.

Is Febreeze the answer?

I am not advocating the Guy Approach to Laundry, as explained by comedian Jeff Foxworthy: “Does this stink too bad to wear one more time?” If it stinks at all, put it in the hamper already.

But sometimes you can get away with hanging it up to air and then hanging it back in the closet. Spritz it with Febreeze if you’re squeamish – some people swear by watered-down fabric softener as a cheaper alternative.

And speaking of odors: Real Simple recommends that pricey swimsuit soap because it gets rid of “that notorious chlorine smell.” Uh, it’ll smell that way again as soon as I get back into the pool.

More stories from Donna Freedman:

Stacy Johnson

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  • Donna: 

    I’m with you all the way. I don’t wash my jeans until after wearing them quite a few times. Also, while I wash my undershirts after each wear, I wear my shirts 2 times in the summer and 3 times in the Winter (I sweat less in the winter) before washing them.  I even have a system for keeping track of number of wears using hangers.Thanks for sharing,-Bernardo

  • Anonymous

    Many people think that wearing out clothing comes from wearing them. The damage comes from washing them too much. Where do they think all that lint comes from?

    • Anonymous

      I remember reading an article from Consumer Reports that mentioned how not using the dryer could add years to the life of a garment. Ditto machine-washing. Both processes involve pulling, stretching, pounding and heat (unless you wash in cold water).
      So while I’m not advocating walking around smelling bad, over-washing isn’t good, either.

  • Anonymous

    I have to admit. I don’t wash my jeans that often. I have about 12 or 15 pairs of jeans, but I only wear 1 untill I really felt that I just went and abuse it. ok! thats about a month later. then I take my second pair and goes for another month. so by the end when the cycle of jeans runs out, I have no other choice but to wash them. OMG! a year later? (I wonder if the first pair that stays unwashed for a whole years actually develops any little creatures within the fabric?) then all the 12 jeans goes in the washer in hot water and I hated it when they are washed. First wear is always like I just put on weight. Am I the only one who does this?

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