Are we washing our clothes too often?

Stock picture of a woman loading the washing machine. (Getty Images)
Are we washing our clothes too much? (Getty Images)

You’re certainly not alone if you keep putting off tackling the washing, with laundry ranking typically low on most people’s lists of favourite household chores.

But, while many of us would admit to dodging the washing way more than we should, research from Bosch put a new spin (sorry!) on our changing attitude to laundry and how regularly we should be doing it.

The survey, of 2,000 Brits, set out to air the UK’s dirty laundry and find out just how often the public are putting a load on.

And it threw up some pretty surprising stats about how often we empty the washing basket and why some of us could actually be washing our clothes too much.

Washing: what you need to know in 9 points, from how regularly we should be doing it, to the best ways to save money.

How often are we washing our clothes? With climate change topping our environmental agendas and many of us trying to live more sustainably, particularly when it comes to our wardrobes, it seems this is having a knock-on effect on how often we’re washing our clothes. Throw in a cost of living crisis making people more conscious of their washing expense and it's not surprising that our clothes cleaning is taking a bit of a hit.

But, while some are pulling back on their washing duties, others are sticking on a load as regularly as usual, while some are not doubt hoping to take advantage of a scheme offering to pay customers to use their washing machines at night.

Read more: Scrubbing your oven with a dishwasher tablet tops best cleaning hacks list

Stock picture of clothes hanging out of washing machine. (Getty Images)
Should we re-wear our clothes before sticking them in the washing machine? (Getty Images)

The cost of living crisis is changing our washing habits. New research from has revealed a quarter (25%) of the public are consciously waiting until they have a full load before washing their clothes, while 17% are lowering the temperature they wash clothes on.

Meanwhile it seems soaring bills are impacting how often we rewear our clothes before washing them with one in seven (15%) wearing their clothes longer than they’d normally do to limit the number of washes they need.

The Bosch survey results revealed that on average, t-shirts are considered dirty after two wears whilst trousers, jumpers and jeans are considered dirty after wear four.

Attitudes to re-wearing clothes before washing are changing. While it seems we’re not opposed to other people re-wearing their clothes multiple days in a row, with 58% of respondents in the Bosch research admitting they have no problem with it, a quarter admit they feel dirty doing it themselves.

Turns out men are more likely than women to feel self-conscious, dirty or embarrassed about wearing a top without washing it.

Read more: Woman shares time-saving life hack she uses when hanging out washing

But we're not always keen on re-wearing. When it comes to the reasons people aren’t always keen on re-wearing their clothes, almost a quarter of people revealed they feel pressure from society to look presentable and 16% believe a second wear could leave a bad impression.

These pressures are causing us to wash clothes more frequently than is strictly necessary, resulting in potentially avoidable environmental impact.

Are we washing our clothes too much? As well as the impact on the environment, washing our clothes too frequently can actually be damaging for the fibres.

Machine washing can be harsh on clothes with the constant soaking, detergent, and spinning wearing them out. In fact, according to research done by domestic appliances brand LG, the average person will ruin £3,969 of clothing in a lifetime, simply by putting them in the wash.

Unless they smell or are visibly dirty, clothes don’t need to be washed after every wear.

Read more: How to stop arguing about the heating and keep your home warm this winter

Turns out our attitude to re-wearing our clothes before washing has changed. (Getty Images)
Turns out our attitude to re-wearing our clothes before washing has changed. (Getty Images)

So, how often should we be washing them? Experts in all things laundry, the Clothes Doctor shared exactly how often you should be washing your clothes and it's likely way less than you might think.

In an instructional post on Instagram they revealed there shouldn't be a one size fits all approach to every item of clothing.

Turns out you can leave your jeans for as long as a month before they go on a spin cycle, while any silk, cotton, linen or synthetic material can be thrown in the wash every three to four wears, though cottons should be washed at 30 degrees.

Wool and cashmere should be kept for over a month before they meet any detergent and leather or suede should be cleaned once a year, max.

Watch: Cost of living: Household grocery bills 'rise by almost £40' in a month

It's a different story when it comes to our smalls. While they may not always been keen on rewearing clothes before washing, men admit to wearing underwear two times before throwing them in the wash.

Whilst this level of hygiene may be questioned by some, women aren’t totally in the clear either wearing their bras an average of eight times, despite men thinking they’re washed after two!

But surely there needs to be a wash after every wear when it comes to knickers, no? Not according to cleaning expert Aggie MacKenzie who believes there is a way to eek them out for longer.

"By using panty liners it means that you can keep your pants fresher for much longer, so then you can change your knickers every other day," she tells the Sun.

She has a similar rule for bras, and it all depends on how much you perspire."As a general rule, washing your bras every three wears will keep them fresh," she advises.

Read more: 'Sixty times more bacteria than a loo seat': The bathroom bits you need to deep-clean

Reducing your washing is just one way to protect your laundry. Lowering the temperature you wash them in and the length of wash cycle can help too.

Researchers at the University of Leeds found that clothes which are washed at 25C on a 30-minute cycle shed fewer microfibres into waste water and keep their colour for longer, significantly extend the life of garments.

“Using shorter, cooler washes is a simple way everyone can make their clothes last longer and keep them out of landfill," explains lead author, Lucy Cotton, from the University’s School of Design.

Fashion experts are backing the wash-less attitude. While there’s no perfect answer for how often clothes should be washed, we could all try to reduce the number of ‘almost fresh’ items that creep into the wash bin, which will have a knock-on effect on our washing impact.

Just ask Stella McCartney, who has previously revealed she avoids washing her clothes whenever possible.

The designer said she has one basic rule in life: “If you don’t absolutely have to clean anything, don’t clean it.”

“I wouldn’t change my bra every day and I don’t just chuck stuff into a washing machine because it’s been worn,” she told The Observer. “I am incredibly hygienic myself, but I’m not a fan of dry cleaning or any cleaning, really.