Laundry is one of those chores you tend to either love or loathe. While the smell of fresh laundry is as comforting as freshly-baked bread and just-cut grass, the idea of spending hours washing and ironing tends to lack appeal. And yes, appliances that save time are big business in today’s time-crunched world, but there’s one question they can’t answer: “How often should I wash my clothes?” The commonly-Googled question reveals that there’s a lot of uncertainty around when to wash your favorite clothing items, so we’ve compiled a handy guide so you know the answer.
You’d be forgiven for thinking your dish cloths and sponges are squeaky clean considering they’re regularly doused in antibacterial spray and soapy suds, but the opposite is actually true. They can become a breeding ground for bacteria like E. coli given the cloths often stay damp and scrunched up, creating an inhabitable environment for germs. Always wash them thoroughly after every use, being sure to rinse off any old food, and change to a new cloth once a week to stay safe. Pop them, and your bath mat, in with your towels and give them a wash weekly — they’ll be as good as new. Tip: It’s a good idea to ensure the cloths are dry before you throw them in the laundry basket, otherwise they’ll make your clothes smell.
Once a week or every three weeks — everyone seems to have a different opinion on how frequently you should wash your sheets. However, most hygiene experts agree that sheets and other bed linens should be laundered every week, on a hot cycle (or better still a steam cycle if you have one), to get rid of bacteria. Considering they’re in contact with your skin for a solid eight hours a night (if you’re lucky), this wash cycle seems sensible, if only to remove traces of sweat, saliva, dead skin cells, and any skincare products. If possible, line-dry your sheets. It’s better for the environment, and the UV light will also help ward off any bacteria. When it comes to other bedding, it’s advisable to wash duvets at least twice a year and wash your pillows every other month. Most are machine washable, but double check the care labels first in case they’re dry clean only.
If they’re left out to dry properly, bath towels don’t need to be washed more than once a week. Hand towels, on the other hand (no pun intended), are used more frequently and struggle to air out and stay dry, meaning they should ideally be traded in for a new one every two to three days. When it comes to washing them, go easy on the detergent by using a minimal amount, and skip the fabric softener entirely. This will help keep the fibers soft and fluffy — as will opting for a warm cycle over hot.
It’s the age-old style question: Should you ever wash your jeans? Denim aficionados would say no — or at least not often — and, from a health perspective, microbiologists agree that you won’t exactly get sick by keeping your favorite pair of jeans away from a washing machine. However, it’s advisable to adhere to this general rule of thumb: Turn jeans inside out and wash on a cold wash/rinse every five wears so they don’t fade but remain clean and fitted.
It’s a given that anything you wear to break a sweat in should be added to your next load (or even washed on its own if heavily soiled). That said, if your workout of choice is a low-impact class like yoga or a mid-pace walk around the block, then you can probably stretch your leggings and gym kit to two wears. Athleisure-wear aside, remember to also wash or wipe out your sports bag every four weeks, too.
As for how to keep your washing machine clean? It’s recommended that you use a mixture of vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, and water as “detergent” once a month. Run the machine on an empty, hot-water cycle and this will keep the machine fresh. Many newer machines now feature a drum clean cycle which they’ll prompt you to use when it’s time for a freshen up.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Homes to Love.