Feb 25 2008

A super-easy laundry tip that you probably already do


It used to be that my husband dutifully put his laundry in the hamper when he was done with it.

I was happy when he wouldn’t leave piles of clothes on the floor, but unfortunately, "when he was done with it" often meant after one wearing. Most items weren’t dirty at all!

At $1.25/load for a wash, plus the time it takes me to do, and factoring in earlier wear and fading on clothes–it becomes quickly apparent to me that washing most items after one wear was is not the frugal thing to do.

Now, we have a better system in place. I’m getting by with washing 2-3 loads per week, and I’m not washing clothes that aren’t dirty (I hope).

  • All socks, underoos, and undershirts get one day of wear. It’s not reasonable to try to stretch those further.
  • Shirts for everyday wear get the "sniff test" and "stain check." If it passes those tests, it goes back on the closet with a little trick: The hangar now is hung backwards so that we know the shirt will be on its second wear the next time around.
  • As long as sweaters pass the sniff & stain tests, they are folded and worn again.
  • Sweatshirts can be  worn quite a bit before a wash. I love the softness of a new sweatshirt, and I hate to see it get pilled prematurely.
  • Jeans can be worn many many times without washing them. Do you know that for some untreated denim jeans, you’re not even supposed to wash them for the first few months? So, we wear them until they look like they need a wash, usually after 3-5 wears.
  • Bath towels do not need to be washed after every use. They’re drying off clean bodies and then hung to dry–I don’t see the part where they get dirty. Changing the towels once per week seems more than sufficient to me.

By wearing clothes more often between washings, we’re saving ourselves work. But, we’re also preserving the life of those garments.

What are some laundry tricks you use?

Posted under Uncategorized | 24 Comments »

24 Responses to “A super-easy laundry tip that you probably already do”

  1. So what’s the secret to keeping the shirts clean?

    My shirts and stains tend to go together like peas in a pod. If I could figure out how to keep the collar’s of my dress shirts clean, I could cut way down on my laundry loads.

  2. My, don’t I feel smart? I’ve been doing most of this all my adult life.

  3. @ A–I just e-mailed you a few ideas, since I’m not sure if you’d check the comments here for a response.

    @ Will think 4 wine–cool!

  4. I started doing most of these as my family grew.

    When I met my husband he thought that it was unsanitary to use a towel more than once or wear clothes more than once. He probably still does but he undertands that using something a second (or third) time won’t kill him. Especially if washing 2 loads of clothes a day was wearing me out. He’s a smart man that chose to wear out his clothes rather than his wife.

  5. My three tips are:
    – wash jeans (only when necessary) inside out to preserve the color

    – wear t-shirts or long underwear under sweaters, so they don’t need to be washed/dry-cleaned as often

    – I do the same tip as you for shirts, except that for non-hanging ones, I fold it inside out to remind myself that it’s been worn before.

  6. These are great suggestions! I always have to wash my shirts after every use, though. (Sweaters and sweatshirts can be worn multiple times.) I’ve found that if I don’t wash my shirts enough then they ultimately have permanent smell, which results in me having to buy new clothes. I guess it just depends on the person!

  7. I need to get on the backwards hanger thing. I’m not very good about organizing my clothes. But I also manage to rewear sufficiently and have enough closet space and pairs of undies that I only do two loads every two weeks. Not bad.

    One rule I have for work clothes, since my out-of-the-house work is normally not more than 6 hours at a time, is that they should be treated well and can be worn again. Unless it was a day like today where I got really sweaty at work. Then it’s a no-no.

  8. Love the hanger idea! It’s much better than my husband’s leave them folded on the floor or piled on the dresser idea. As for me, I used to always re-wear clothes, but then I had children. Now it’s a rare occasion if I can get through the day without getting something on my shirt, though often I can get away with wearing pants twice before washing.

  9. hi Kacie! i live in the Philippines and there’s only one important thing in doing laundry here and that is to… SEPARATE the socks, undies, jeans, white, and colored stuffs! for detergents? buy which you use frequently. no washing machine. just your hands. wahehe. I love this blog! well done Kacie! i’d love to make more friends here. hey. you should visit my website http://www.mckhoii.com

    it will never be complete without you and your comment. pls sign in the Guestbook and on my latest post! Thanks!

  10. I love the idea of hanging the hangers backwards and ~M’s idea of folding the shirts inside out (I’d just fold them backwards, too). My hint is to hang them out overnight to air out before stuffing them back in the closet or drawer the next morning.

    In my household, this only works for me. I have dry skin which means I don’t have to launder as often, I can wipe my eyeglasses clean with my bare hands, and I will probably get quite wrinkly as I age. The man of the house has oily skin and a strong body odor, so anything worn all day is done for. Although even he has a separate pile for wearing stuff to get sweaty in that has already been worn for other purposes once. And if he wears something only a couple of hours he may save it to re-wear it.

  11. These are great ideas. I’ve known plenty of people who only wear things once, so they always did laundry way more often. Washing is really hard on your clothes and they wear out and fade quicker the more you wash them. And it’s more work, so why do it?

  12. I agree with Alison. I try to do the same thing as Kacie and give things a few wears before I wash it. With the baby, I get spit up on, etc & my shirts take a beating. I can usually still make the jeans last a few days.

  13. Imagine what this would be like with little men around! My tweens kill me with this–my husband is constantly putting my boys to work on “smelling” their clothes!

    They would wear a shirt for less than 1 hour and toss it down the chute!

    So good luck in changing this up!

  14. We wash all dark items like jeans inside out to keep them from fading and fraying.

    Also, if your husband wears button up shirts, button the buttons all the way up and turn it inside out before washing. I find this keeps the buttons from getting loose and saves me the time and energy of mending loose and lost buttons.

    Another good idea is what I started doing with the kids and now do for my husband: Play clothes that are meant to get dirty. When everyone is home in the afternoon, I have them put on play clothes for crafts, outdoor stuff and for my husband’s garage time. That way the nice clothes stay cleaner and last longer.

    Take Care


  15. You have underoos?!? Where can I find those (umm, for the kids of course)?

    We abide by the sniff test. Undies and socks get one wear though. It helps to air out clothes too.

    And the whites have to be washed separate from the colors!

    I’ve heard that vinegar is great fro taking out sweat stains. I’m going to try that soon. One thing I’ve done though is switch underarm deodorant. I no longer use an antiperspirant, instead I use a natural deodorant. Maybe that’s too much info but I’ve found that I’ve eliminated most of my underarm stains on undershirts.

    Great tips. Thanks!

  16. Good tips! Thanks for sharing them.

    Lol, I don’t technically have Underoos. I just wanted to call them that. haha

  17. Fabulous tips! I do these except now wash towels after about 3 dryings after reading a detailed article (can’t remember where I saw it now) about how often you should re-use towels.

  18. I second the comment about using the deoderant crystal. I was skeptical, but it actually has worked for me and creates no yellow stains (or white smudges, for that matter).

    Based on something I read on a blog somewhere, I now cut my dryer sheets in half. Supposedly you can make a reusable dryer sheet by soaking a washcloth in fabric softener, but I’ve never tried that.

  19. I also wear clothes more than once and the towels get used more than once (unless someone puts it on the floor and it gets musty) I have hooks in my bathroom and clothes get put on them to be worn again. I work in an office and I make jokes about “I do not work in a coal mine” I do not exactly get dirty. The best thing about jeans is that pet hair does not stick to them. Jeans get worn about 3-4 times, pjs, sweaters about the same. It conserves water, soap and energy.


  20. OK…I am way behind. I NEVER thought to hang them backwards in order to know they were worn the 2nd time. I was always trying to remember. This is GREAT! Thanks for the suggestion, and it will be implemented immediately.

  21. No email came through today. You should have the right address though.

    After doing a bit of research, the only offered solution was to wash my neck. I already do that, so it still leaves me at square one.

  22. We do most of this.. well, as far as stretching the wear. I’d be swimming in laundry if I tried to wash after one wear/use with 4 kids and us adults – egads! So reuse is essential with some of your rules applied (like towels getting hung up to dry, not thrown on the floor).

    Here are a couple laundry tips I put to use.. I typically use fabric dryer sheets, but cut them in half.. it usually works just fine.

    I was given a few bottles of liquid softener – but I rarely remembered to run back downstairs to put the softener in, or to use the little ball – so I put some on a wash cloth and toss it in with the clothes to dry.. get lots of use out of this!

  23. This is yet another time that I’m extremely jealous of people who don’t sweat. I can usually get away with some pants and sweaters worn more than once, but overall I wash most things right after I wear them out of respect for society.

    However when it comes to workout clothes, I let those go for I don’t even know how long, since they’re supposed to be sweaty! I also stretch the towels. I don’t even use dryer sheets because I don’t really understand what the point is, and I always try to wash full loads in cold water.

    I love the playclothes idea – I basically do this for myself as an adult too.

    I’m curious what frugal ways people use to get rid of stains, especially sweat? The only one that has really worked for me is using hydrogen peroxide and salt to get blood out of whites.

  24. We do most of things you listed, especially using the towels a couple of times. When I was young and would spend the night with friends, they would have hampers in the bathroom just full of towels. I was told to put my towel in there (even though I was spending two nights). This just didn’t make sense to me. I get out of the shower clean, use a towel and it is still basically clean for a couple of uses. The apartment we live in now doesn’t vent well so the towels don’t dry out well and do start to have a stale smeall usually after the 3rd use.

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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