How Often You Really Need to Wash Clothes to Keep Them Clean

Here's when to wash everything from bras and pajamas to jeans and winter coats, all in one simple chart.

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Admit it: You've gone a little too long without washing some of your go-to clothes. You're not alone. But, um, how long is too long, exactly? We're discussing why it's important to wash your clothes at designated intervals (because not every item should be washed after every use).

Recommended Washing Frequency

The following recommendations are meant as general guidelines rather than hard and fast rules. Remember, a sniff check is still a quick and easy way to determine when it's time for a wash. And of course, common sense applies here: Even if you can get by with washing a particular shirt every five wears in the winter, you'll have to wash it more often during the sweltering summer months. Also consider the efficiency of your washer and dryer set in not only cleaning but maintaining the integrity of your clothes.

For everyday items, like bras and pajamas, make a mental note to remember how many times you've worn each item. Remember, it's not an exact science—if you end up wearing those PJs for the fifth night, it will most likely be fine.

Can You Wash Clothing Too Little or Too Often?

Part of the reason for washing clothing regularly is not just to avoid body odor and look presentable (although, that is the first priority here), but also to maintain your clothing and keep your clothes looking like new for longer.

Sweat and body oils can damage delicate fibers when left on clothing for extended periods of time. Plus, the longer you let stains and soil set into the fibers, the harder it will be to remove them.

That said, certain clothing items may actually hold up better the less you wash them, like jeans—or some may require more washes, like bras. But the exact frequency will vary depending on who you ask.

How Often Should You Wash Your Bra?

When it comes to cleanliness, our recommendation is to wash bras every three to four wears. But not everyone agrees, and some experts recommend washing more frequently. Brassiere expert Danny Koch, an owner of Town Shop, recommends every other wear, or by the third, maximum. The same goes for different types of shapewear.

"When you're strapped in for 10 to 12 hours a day, the garment not only collects oils from your skin and deodorant, but the elastic stretches and loses its form through wear," Koch says. "And when you're investing anywhere from $50 to $100 for a quality piece, you need consistent care to maximize your investment." Just make sure you wash your bra according to the care instructions while using a laundry bag so that the excess washing doesn't compromise the garment. Don't put them in the dryer—use a drying rack to air dry your bras.

How Often Should You Wash Your Jeans?

For keeping bacteria at bay, we think you should wash your jeans every four to five wears. However, depending on the type of denim you're sporting and your devotion to protecting its look and feel, some experts recommend washing your jeans way less. Think every six weeks or 10 wears.

"People make the mistake of washing their jeans far too frequently," says Nicole Russo, private stylist and founder of NYC-based Let's Get You. "The less you wash them the better, especially denim with any elastane (stretch). When you wash your denim, you're putting it through a beating, and each cycle breaks down the fabric."

Washing Frequency Chart

Item of Clothing How Often to Wash
Anything white or silk After every wear
Bras After 3 to 4 wears
Down parkas and vests 2 times a season
Dress pants and skirts 2 times a season
Fleece jackets and sweatshirts After 6 to 7 wears
Hats, gloves & scarves 3 to 5 times a season
Hosiery After every wear
Jackets and blazers After 5 to 6 wears
Jeans After 4 to 5 wears
Leather and suede jackets Once a season
Leggings and yoga pants After 1 to 3 wears
Pajamas After 3 to 4 wears
Shapewear After 1 to 3 wears
Shorts and khakis After 2 to 3 wears
Sweaters: Cotton, silk, and cashmere After 2 wears
Sweaters: Wool and synthetic blends After 5 wears
Swimsuits After every wear
T-Shirts, tanks, and camisoles After every wear
Tops and dresses After 1 to 3 wears
Formal dresses Dry-clean after every wear
Wool coats 1 to 2 times a season
How Often You Really Need to Wash Every Item in Your Closet chart
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