Ever since my wife and I bought our own washer and dryer I’ve been hyper-aware of the amount of laundry that we do. Seriously, it seems like the laundry baskets are always full. And there’s just the two of us! I’m sure those of you who have kids are saying, “Oh, just wait!”
It seems like laundry is a never-ending task, a perpetual motion machine that sucks time, water and money into an endless black hole that drains into a pipe in the wall. Needless to say, I’m not the biggest fan of doing laundry. But, like death and taxes, it seems to be inevitable.
I’ve been experimenting with our laundry to lighten the load so to speak. I don’t have any hard statistics to back this up and I can’t prove anything conclusively, but I am starting to notice a small difference. The experiment is this:
I’m trying to reduce the amount of laundry I have by reusing things as often as hygienically possible. (Click to Tweet this)
Basically, if it’s still clean, I hang it up and wear or use it again.
Here’s the details:
Bath towel: 5-7 uses. I figure (and certain websites with laundry tips tell me) that I only use my towel to dry off a freshly cleaned body, so it can stand to be reused for about a week. Hand towels in the kitchen and bathroom receive the same treatment, unless said towels are used to clean up messes.
Underwear and socks: 1 use. They’re in direct contact with the warmest, sweatiest parts of the body and need a wash after one use. Unless you’re on a 50 mile hike or at scout camp, please change your underwear every day. Please.
Pajamas: 6-8 uses. I think pajamas can be worn for about a week before they need a good wash. Again, this depends on your personal preference. If you sweat more at night, wash them more often. If you’re sick or spill something on your pajamas, you should definitely wash them ASAP.
Exercise clothes and anything I do chores in (using cleaning agents, working outside, cleaning the car, etc.): 1 use. These get a lot more sweaty, dirty and stinky than most of my other clothes do. It would be gross to wear them again.
Sheets: 1-2 weeks. This depends on how motivated we are and if we actually remember to do it sometime during the week. I’m sure you can relate. If it gets past 2 weeks we change them immediately. I mean, we spend 1/3 of our day in bed sleeping, so they need to be changed with some frequency.
Dress/Office shirts: 2-3 uses. I’m working full-time and I don’t sweat much at my air-conditioned desk job. I’m still experimenting with this and looking up what constitutes hygienic when wearing a shirt multiple times before washing. I’m thinking 2-3 days would be about right. In the future I will probably alternate days with shirts, so I will give each shirt a day to rest before wearing it again.
T-shirts/Weekend clothes: 1-3 uses. This will depend on the time of year and what I do in said T-shirt. Am I working in the yard? Or am I just lounging around inside? Is it 100 degrees outside or is it a cool 70 during the Springtime? These will factor into if a shirt gets worn again later in the week before getting washed.
And finally, my pants. This is something I have struggled back and forth with for a while now. Do I wear them again? Do I was them after one wear? How do I know if they’re clean or dirty? The answer really comes down to personal preference and falls heavily on what you do every day (and a quick smell test wouldn’t hurt, either). I work in an air-conditioned office all day so my khaki pants stay pretty clean. I’m trying to wear them 2-3 days before washing them.
Update: after some great feedback from some Twitter peeps, I’ve decided to stretch my khakis to 3-4 days of use (as long as they pass the smell test). This will obviously affect the numbers and graphs below, so I’ll update those soon.
So, pants: 3-4 uses.
For jeans, I used to wear them 2-3 times before I was them, although again it depends on what I’m doing. If you work in a warehouse all day or on a construction site, you probably need to wash your jeans after one wear. If you’re wearing your jeans for casual Friday in an office, hang them up and wear them again throughout the next week. You’ll be surprised at the general lack of people who judge you for re-wearing a pair of jeans more than 4 or 5 times.
Jeans: 7-14 uses. This, again, depends on your jeans and what you do while wearing them. But from articles I’ve read and a lot of feedback I’ve had on Twitter, I’m going to wear my jeans at least 6 or 7 times before washing them, but probably more often than that. Thanks for the feedback, guys!
The basic premise of this experiment is to shrink our laundry load to a more manageable and sustainable size. This will save us time, money and water and soap. And those last two will help save the environment, too! Obviously my guidelines are for me. You should do research and set your own guidelines depending on where you live, what you wear and what you do every day.
I want to simplify my life and my budget by wearing clothes multiple times before washing them.(Click to Tweet this)
If it doesn’t need to be washed after one wear or one use, then why toss it in the laundry bin? This just creates more work, more stress and wastes time, water and money. It also creates a false need for more clothes.
Think about it with a little bit of math: I go to work 5 days a week. I wear khaki pants for 4 days and jeans on the 5th day. I wear a dress shirt all 5 days. So that’s 5 pairs of pants and 5 shirts. Before this experiment I used to put my shirt and pants in the laundry at night. That’s 10 items of clothing (not counting socks and underwear) from my work week.
With my new system of wearing clothes more than once before washing, I basically cut this number in half. I can wear my khakis twice, so I only wear 2 pairs. I wear my jeans on casual Friday and again on Saturday or Sunday (or both, depending on what I do on Saturday). I can wear my dress shirts again if they still seem clean, bringing the number of shirts to 3. So now we have only 6 items of clothing and my jeans will get worn again throughout the weekend.
I made this nice graph to illustrate how this could affect the amount of clothing I wear on a weekly and monthly basis:
I know that this won’t entirely cut our laundry in half, but for batches that include jeans, khakis and dress shirts, it will effectively cut those in half. Meaning we can do those loads every other week instead of weekly. This will cut down our water bill, the amount of soap we use and the amount of time we spend sorting, loading, folding and putting away clothes.
I made another cool graph that shows how this could potentially affect the amount of laundry we have every week and every month. These are based on rough estimates and only on the clothes that I wear (this doesn’t include my wife’s clothes, or things like towels, underwear, socks, sheets, etc.):
I hope that if you started out a little skeptical that you’re at least willing to accept that it might work. After all, saving time, money and water can be pretty life changing, right? Will you join me in this laundry revolution?
But please please please only wear your underwear once. Even if it saves time, money and water. It’s just not worth it. Not even a little bit.
If you still need some convincing or if you like facts, the two links below provide some helpful tips about the cleanliness of wearing things more than once and give guidelines for washing and caring for different types of clothes.