(USA Today): Despite some germophobic tendencies, I’ve never been one to wash denim after every wear. If my jeans stretch out over the course of the day, I might throw them in the dryer to tighten things up. But wash them? I simply don’t have enough time—or enough pairs—for that.
It turns out, I’m not alone. When I asked my friends if they were with me, everyone—men and women—seemed to agree: It’s perfectly acceptable to wear jeans more than once. “I don’t wash them until I absolutely have to,” said one friend. On the extreme end? “I wash my jeans maybe four times a year,” said one particularly candid friend. (Turns out he’s washing his jeans all wrong.)
After I discovered that wearing some clothing more than once can do more harm than good, I started second-guessing my own laundry habits. I needed to know: Am I washing my clothing often enough?
Does it matter if you wear clothes more than once before washing?
In short, yes. “In one day—without even working out—your body produces one liter of sweat, 10 grams of salt, 40 grams of grease and sebum, and 10 grams of skin cells and flakes,” says Mary Johnson, a principal scientist at Tide and Downy. “So, if your wear clothes more than once, you are producing layers and layers of body soils, which make it more difficult to remove these soils from your clothes.”
Clothes made up of mostly synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon, and/or elastane are particularly attracted to the natural greases and oils like sebum produced by your body, she says. When these things build up on your clothes, even quality laundry detergent can’t always do the job.
“Clothes might smell clean after laundering, but when you put the clothes on, the heat and moisture from your body can cause the odors to ‘rebloom,’” says Johnson. It can also cause clothes to appear yellowed, dingy, or dull, thanks to a build-up of that sweat, sebum, and dead skin.
Some clothing does need to be washed after every wear
Underwear and socks, T-shirts, tank tops, camisoles, leggings/jeggings, tights, and workout gear should all be washed every single time you wear them. And if you’re going commando in those jeans? The rule about wearing them 2 to 3 times prior to washing goes right out the window.