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How often do you wash your jeans?

Twice a week? Once a month? And do you buy 'swimsuit shampoo'?

By Donna_Freedman May 2, 2011 7:55AM

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 4 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 those are 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 here. I'm a writer, not a stable hand or a stevedore. 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 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.

Your clothes will last longer

My garment game plan is similar to the school clothes/play clothes dichotomy of my youth. My sisters and I were expected to change out of our dresses as soon as we got home. (Back when the Earth was still cooling, girls were not 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 came from thrift shops. Two of my nightshirts came from Wal-Mart 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 description. 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 mother, 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 little paragraph factory.

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. And as a woman who wears her meals with pride, I sometimes have to wash a garment right after lunch.

But the rest of the time? Nobody's going to care. I live alone. There's no roommate or relative to say, "Isn't that the same Ani DiFranco shirt you wore on Monday? And, come to think of it, on Tuesday? Eeeewwww!"

Is Febreze 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 Febreze if you're squeamish; some people swear by watered-down fabric softener as a cheaper alternative.

(Note to Foxworthy followers with Y chromosomes: These things will not make up for the kinds of odors you're asking about. If you have to ask, you probably shouldn't re-wear it.)

And speaking of odors: Real Simple recommends that pricey swimsuit soap because it gets rid of "that notorious chlorine smell." Uh, guys, it'll smell that way again as soon as I get back into the pool. Besides, the fragrance reminds me of my mother.

How about it, folks: Do you wash your jeans after three or four wearings? Is it because they're all Spandex-y or do you just like doing laundry? And for extra credit: How often do you wash sheets and towels?

MSN Money columnist Donna Freedman blogs at Smart Spending and Surviving and Thriving.

More on MSN Money:

May 2, 2011 11:48AM

I wear my jeans at least a week before washing them, unless I've been in the garden or something.  It's just good sense...they don't get that dirty and last much longer without repeated washings.  The only things I always wear just once and wash are underpants and socks.  Shirts go on a case by case basis. 

You'll find that the older you get, the less likely you are to worry about whether or not your clothes are spotless; after a long career in the legal field, I had thousands of dollars worth of "nice" clothes, which, after starting my own business where I work from home, were sold for a nice profit at a consignment shop.  Now I have five outfits, one for a professional meeting, court, etc., and the remaining four are worn one day, two days, three days sometimes four days in a row - they're washed when they get dirty!  I've also cut my shoe closet down to one pair of dress shoes, three pair of hiking boots and a couple of jellies!  Don't sweat the small stuff, literally!
May 3, 2011 1:55AM
You're supposed to wash jeans?  Now they tell me!
May 3, 2011 8:18AM
I'm with you. If it smells, wash it. If not, put it back in the closet. I seldom wash my towels because I figure that I washed myself in the shower so the only thing on the towels is clean water. If they start to smell musty, or if someone wiped their hands before they got all the yuck off, of course I'll wash them. Sheets are such a pain to get back on the bed that I don't wash until I have a volunteer to help me remake the bed. It can be a month or two (or three - oink). The only things I wear just once are socks, underwear, and sweaty workout clothes.
Nov 15, 2011 1:14AM
I rarely wear a dress shirt, so I don't count the number of times I've worn it but how many hours and was the weather hot or cold. When it comes to sheets, I like the feel of clean sheets, so I religiously shower every night before bed and in the winter I can go several weeks before the sheets need to be washed. In the summer, it's usually only one week. But, regardless of the weather, I shower every night before bed to keep the sheets clean. I prefer to wear short pants almost year round ( southern California allows this ) and I rarely wear my shorts more than one day before they hit the hamper. When the sun goes down, I just climb into some sweats and enjoy the evening. I have a sensitive nose to odors, even my own. I've been accused of being able to smell a gnat's fart in a hurricane, so usually before anyone can tell me my clothes smell, I've smelled them hours before and changed them.
May 14, 2011 12:09PM
I do wear clothes several times per week until they get sweaty (and the workout clothes only go in on Sundays), but I'm finicky about my towels and bedsheets. I only have a few towels that are used to wipe up practically everything, so they get germy fast. Our bathroom is badly ventilated so they stay moist and acquire smells within days. And the sheets I spend at least 7 hours a day lying on, and the cat sleeps on them another 10. That's a lot of skin cells and surface bacteria and whatever the cat tracked in soiling up my pillows. If I don't wash them at least once a week, I get horrible cystic acne. So by washing frequently, I think I'm saving myself the cash that would go into expensive medications and creams to combat the infections, as well as the suffering of my SO, who's sensitive to dust and hairs.
May 3, 2011 7:14AM
If I make my bed I can go a couple of weeks without washing sheets.  Towels get washed every month or sooner if musty.  Jeans & pants are worn until they stretch out, shirts are worn for 24 hours over the course of a week or two.  

I live alone, and am disabled but semi-active, and do three loads of laundry a month + a load of sheets & towels prn.  

When my kids started doing their own laundry I was amazed at the decrease in electricity and water.  Until that point, there was a $1 charge for every CLEAN item that was tossed into the hamper in their haste to clean up their rooms.  
Nov 14, 2011 9:04PM
I have horribly oily skin around my shoulders and neck so I can never feel clean wearing a shirt twice. I just pick it up and can feel the cool dampness that saturates the shirt... yuuuuck.
But I do try to wash my jeans twice a month, jackets as soon as they start to smell a bit funky.

May 3, 2011 12:35AM
My shirt goes to the hamper once it gets doused with that spaghetti sauce. Or once I have my sleeves wet from wiping my drippy nose! Otherwise, since I am one of the few who's blessed without smelly male pheromones, my shirts go to the hamper only once every three days.  I wear my work jeans forever. They get crusty and tattered before they get a taste of Tide.
May 2, 2011 4:33PM

I'm baaaad.


I wear my jeans a good ten times.  Shirts - I wear and wear til the stink test.  And I've been known (on a weekend of course) to wear a shirt, sleep in the shirt, wear it the next day! (and STILL put it on the hanger when done.


And sheets!  I didn't know how often you were suppose to wash sheets until I got married.  I would go months sometimes.  I never knew! (PS still go months sometimes.)

May 2, 2011 12:57PM
Weeeird.  I wash my clothes after every time I wear them.  Jeans, pjs, shirts--everything.  If it's been worn, it's dirty.  Sheets once a week, firm.  Towels twice a week, but I have a ton of towels so really each one gets washed once a week.  Let me restate that:  Towels get washed after one use.  So do washcloths, hand towels, etc.  Dishtowels get washed every couple of days.  I'm still wearing clothes that I bought 8-10 years ago, and I don't buy expensive clothes, so either I'm really skilled at doing laundry or clothes are tougher than you think they are.
May 2, 2011 3:11PM
It's a complete myth that washing shortens the life of your clothes. Dirt literally acts like sandpaper to wear away at fabric. Washing clothes more often is what makes them last longer.
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