Are You Overwashing Your Clothes? This Chart Tells You How Often to Wash Them

"There is a conflict between the desire to reduce one's washing to save the environment and the fear of being perceived as a disgusting person with unclean clothes."

Bianca Piazza - Author

Jun. 17 2024, Published 10:16 a.m. ET

Man wearing mask washes jeans at laundromat
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How often should we be washing our clothes? Back in 2014, Levi Strauss & Co.'s then-CEO, Chip Bergh, turned heads when he said jeans don’t require machine washing.

Years later, Bergh cleared up his comments. In a 2023 interview, Bergh noted that the denim industry uses loads of water (the UN estimates that it takes about 3,781 liters of water to produce a single pair of jeans) before pointing a finger at the U.S. consumer, who throws their jeans in the washing machine "practically every time" they wear them.

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Bergh personally prefers to spot-clean his jeans. “If I’ve been out sweating or something and they get really gross, I’ll wash them in the shower,” he shared.

But this begs the broader question: How often do we actually needs to wash our jeans, as well as the rest of our clothes? It only makes sense that underwear be washed more often than puffer jackets, but generally speaking, you're likely overwashing certain items in your wardrobe.

Photo of young blonde girl with items of clothing on her head sits in pile of laundry on hardwood floor
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A study shows battle between our desire to be eco-friendly and our desire to avoid being perceived as disgusting.

Sadly, people may have a greater fear of being a lil' bit stinky than of wasting the planet's precious resources. As reported by, a study from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, shows that even the most eco-conscious people wash their clothes too often.

"There is a conflict between the desire to reduce one's washing to save the environment and the fear of being perceived as a disgusting person with unclean clothes," study author Erik Klint explained. "The study shows that the higher our sensitivity to disgust, the more we wash, regardless of whether we value our environmental identity highly."

Furthermore, Klint relayed that disgust is an "evolutionarily rooted driving force," while eco-friendly behavior is "a moral standpoint."

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Aside from energy and water usage (the average washing machine uses about 31 gallons per load), wrote that 16 to 35 percent of global microplastics emissions come from washing synthetic fibers, which includes polyester, acrylic, and nylon. And if we discussed the scented chemical cocktails that are mainstream laundry detergents, we'd be here all day.

For people to change their washing behaviors, human psychology and the "yuck factor" must be accounted for.

Photo of woman standing in front of a washer and dryer and beside a mountain of dirty laundry
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How often you should machine-wash your clothes — save this chart:

Unless some unfortunate dirty incident has plagued your day, you typically do not need to machine-wash most of your clothes after every wear. Of course, not all garments are created equal. The below chart tells you how often to wash various types of garments, according to experts.

Type of garmentHow often to machine-wash
Denim jeansEvery 10 wears.
SocksAfter each wear.
UnderwearAfter each wear.
BrasEvery two to four wears.
PajamasEvery three to four wears.
Cotton T-shirtsAfter each wear.
Leggings/sports bras/athletic wearAfter each wear, if you're exercising in them. If you're just lounging, you can wear them a few times before washing.
Dress pants/slacksEvery two to three wears.
Wool sweatersEvery five wears.
CoatsOnce or twice a season.
Dresses/skirtsEvery one to three wears.
Bathing suitsEvery three to five wears, as long as you let them dry completely in between wears.
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