Washing machines are highly effective at cleaning your laundry, but did you know that they can also reduce the lifespan of your clothes?
The high temperatures and vigorous spin cycles cause colours to fade or transfer to other items, fabric to shrink or become misshapen, and can make a garment virtually unwearable.
The best solution to this problem is to wash your clothes sparingly. Although we are taught to clean our clothes after every wear, this is not always required.
There are plenty of other ways to freshen up your laundry, such as airing your clothes.
Airing clothes instead of washing them is an excellent way of refreshing a garment and preserving its life at the same time.
We‘ve put together a handy guide on how to start airing your clothes so that you can have a go at doing this yourself. Read on for everything you need to know!
What Does It Mean to Air Clothes?
Airing out your clothes is the most natural and straightforward way of freshening them up and removing odours between wears.
The idea is to hang your garment up after wearing it to allow air to circulate around the fabric. The ventilation picks up odours and disperses them into the environment.
Airing generally works best when the garment is made of natural fibres, such as cotton, linen, viscose, or wool.
You can still air clothes made of synthetic fibres (e.g., polyester and nylon), but the fabrics are less breathable, so they will not benefit as much from airing.
If needed, you can use a fabric spray before handing the garment to help the process along (see below).
Where Should I Hang Clothes to Air?
To ensure the fabric doesn’t retain any unwanted odour, we recommend spacing your hung items apart and leaving them to air overnight.
Although airing clothes outside will make them fresher, simply hanging them outside your drawers or wardrobe will make a noticeable difference.
If you don’t have any space to hang your clothes, those who own a tumble dryer can also use the “air dry” setting to the same effect.
Because this setting does not use heat, any odour, lint, or dust on the fabric will be removed without the risk of shrinkage.
Do Clothes Last Longer if You Don’t Wash Them?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Washing machines are very convenient for freshening up clothes that have been worn. However, the harsh conditions of a wash cycle can cause damage to your garments, therefore reducing their life span.
In most cases, your clothing will eventually become worn out due to the high levels of friction in the machine.
This is especially true when the drum is overloaded, or a high wash temperature is used. Machine washing can also cause fading, stretching, shrinkage, or dye transfer in some cases.
To reduce the damage done to your garments during a wash cycle, it’s always best to follow the item’s care label instructions.
Reducing the regularity of your washes will also go a long way in preserving your clothes.
Is It Okay Not to Wash Clothes?
For many people, it has become a habit to take off their clothes at the end of the day and throw them straight into the laundry basket, ready to be washed.
This habit is often instilled at a young age and causes people to feel dirty when they re-wear clothes.
Although this is sometimes the case, re-wearing your clothes between washes is usually perfectly hygienic.
In fact, over-washing your clothes is unsustainable and causes them to wear out more quickly, as we’ve just covered.
Of course, you can’t stop washing your clothes entirely. Over time, stains will become permanent, and odours, germs, and bacteria will build up on the fabric.
This increases the chances of skin problems and can cause nasty germs to spread around your home or to other people.
However, wearing the same item of clothing multiple times without washing will not cause any problems—just don’t let the garment become ridiculously dirty!
What Clothing Items Should Be Washed Most Frequently?
How regularly you need to wash your clothing differs depending on the type of garment. In general, you can follow these rules to ensure your clothes are always fresh:
- Underwear: Underwear needs to be washed after every wear, no matter what. The only exception to this rule is bras which can be worn up to seven times.
- Workout clothes: Like underwear, your workout clothes also need to be washed every time they are worn. This is because you typically sweat more when working out, and this will cause the garments to have a foul odour.
- Work clothes: Smart clothing, such as suits, dresses, or shirts, can usually last between four and five wears before they need washing. In the summer months, they may need cleaning slightly more regularly.
- Day wear: Like work clothes, garments that are worn day-to-day (e.g., tops, trousers, and skirts) can last between four and five wears. Depending on what you do while wearing them, this may need to be done more frequently.
- Jeans: When it comes to denim, you need to try and wash the fabric as little as possible. Jeans can typically go between 15 and 30 wears before needing a wash.
Other Alternatives to Machine Washing
If you want to reduce the number of times you wash your clothes but don’t feel like airing is for you, you can try several different alternatives.
Some of these can also be combined with airing to increase the freshness of your clothes.
1. Fabric spray
Your first option is to buy a fabric freshener spray from a store. These products are designed to remove unwanted odours from your clothing so that they smell fresh between washes.
They work best when sprayed directly onto the source of the smell (e.g., the underarm area of a t-shirt) and can be combined with airing to great effect.
2. Clothes brush
Clothes brushes can be used to remove surface-level dirt and lint from your garments between washes.
This makes the fabric look clean and removes any grime that could start smelling if left to sit.
Most clothing items can withstand a typical clothing and upholstery brush, but we suggest using a cashmere brush instead for delicate fabrics.
If you own a handheld steamer, you can freshen up your clothes using steam. The high temperatures will effectively eliminate any odour-causing bacteria from the fabric and cause any wrinkles to drop out as well.
Alternatively, an iron can be set to the “steam” setting and used the same way – just make sure not to make direct contact with the fabric to avoid damage.
When you accidentally spill something on your clothes, it is normal to throw that garment straight into the wash.
However, although the stain does need to be addressed as soon as possible, you do not need to clean the whole garment.
Instead, try using a stain remover (such as this citrus-based stain remover) on the spill and wash the affected area in the sink.
The final way to keep your clothes feeling fresher for longer is to store them properly. Crumpling up your worn clothes on the floor will cause wrinkles and trap unwanted odours in the fabric.
It is always best to fold or hang your clothes neatly and put them away. You can also use scented drawer liners or sachets to add extra freshness.
Hannah is a freelance content writer with a passion for cleaning. She worked her way around Australia by cleaning hostels in exchange for free accommodation and used her cleaning skills to bag her a job as a chalet host for a luxury ski company in France.