10 Ways to Do Less Laundry

by Parenting Squad on 18 April 2011 8 comments

Let's be realistic. Doing less laundry means wearing clothing more than once. It does not mean buying a new wardrobe and donating the dirty clothes to Goodwill. Sparing clothes from the wash for as long as possible means clothing will last longer, and you will have more time to devote to your favorite hobby. Here are ways to keep your laundry out of the washing machine for as long as humanly possible. (See also: 16 Ways to Make Your Clothes Last Longer)

1. Spot Check

Carry around a good spot detergent (like the Tide pen, which happens to work magically) and troubleshoot as you go. If you don't have a fancy Tide pen, you can always use regular detergent or even dish soap. Make sure to rub liberally and rinse out as well. Use warm water, as cold can set the stain.

2. Smell Check

If it doesn't smell funky, hang it back up and re-wear it. If it smells and you still want to wear it, do the rest of us a favor and Febreeze it. Thank you.

3. Freeze Jeans

The theory behind this is that the frozen temperature kills any bacteria that causes smells. You can spot treat for any specific stains beforehand. (See also: CLean Jeans Without Going to the Dry Cleaner)

4. Hang Clothes

Sometimes you can end up washing clean clothes because no one can remember if they were worn and thrown on the floor, or just thrown on the floor. Keep clean clothes off the floor.

5. Designate Everyday Wear

Have a house outfit. Wear the same thing around the house for your chores. Change when you go out in public. Make it something comfortable, but you may also want to make sure it's relatively acceptable, in case you need to sign for a package or have an unexpected visitor.

6. Wear an Apron

This will save your shirt. Have an apron for cooking and cleaning that only gets washed, or wiped down, every week or two. Think of all the spaghetti sauce stains and bleach spills that can be avoided with one simple apron. Hang it in the kitchen, and use it daily.

7. Handwash Clothes

Things like bras and panties are great hand-washed in a small basin in your bath tub or sink. You can be fancy and use something like Woolite, or dish soap. I've washed a lot of unmentionables in Dawn. Just don't mention it. (See also: Tips for Air-Drying Clothes)

8. Don't Wash Towels

There's no reason to wash a towel that was only used to dry off your clean body. Think about it. Towels can be hung and dried and washed less than once a week. Just make sure they are hung so that they don't mold.

9. Shower Before Bed

If you shower before bed, instead of in the morning, your sheets will last longer.

10. Have Outside Clothes

Have a gardening outfit, or other dirty-job outfit, that stays by the door and gets washed minimally.

Stretching your laundry means stretching the life of your clothes. Stretching your clothes means stretching your dollar — and we could all use a little more flexibility in our finances these days.

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Guest's picture
Candice

Great article! I have three kids and I feel like I do way too much laundry. We've been trying to get the kids to rewear clothing (we adults already do) and use towels multiple times. I've never thought to simply wash out a stain rather than washing the whole piece of clothing!

One thing I noticed though - cold water does not set stains. Hot water will, though, with protein-based stains like blood, sweat, dirt, and feces. Hot water literally cooks the proteins, so getting the stain out after that is like trying to scrub last week's lasagna pan. With oil based stains, warm or hot water works well, but cold water will not set it. :)

Guest's picture

Good stuff. I think you should also have 'Dirty Job Clothes' for when you're doing things in the garden or such that go beyond your normal yucky jobs.

The only one I really question is the showering before bed. I never feel clean all throughout the day unless I shower in the morning, plus I think the clothes would then wear faster if you're less clean overall, which would negate the effects of your sheets lasting longer.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have this conversation with friends all the time. I'm a night shower-er (I was raised that way), and I can't fall asleep un-showered because I feel too dirty. Most of my friends feel dirty throughout the day if they don't shower. It's all in our heads, really. But to argue in favor of night showering: how dirty do most people get while sleeping 5-8 hours in between the time you shower and get up? I figure most of us acquire our dirt while going about our daily business, and thus we wash off our grime at the end of the day.

Guest's picture

In addition to Febreeze, my sister (who used to be a pack-a-day smoker, and has since quit, go her!) introduced me to Zero Odor (Bed Bath & Beyond reviews: http://bit.ly/fscSv7).

I was dubious at first, but my sister had a small bottle of it with her and demonstrated it for me. She had me smell her hoodie, which smelled like an ashtray, as many smokers' clothes do. She then sprayed it a few times with Zero Odor and not only did it no longer smell like cigarette smoke, it didn't smell like anything at all.

I now carry a small bottle in my purse, along with my Tide pen, to keep my clothes looking and smelling great, no matter when I encounter through the day.

Guest's picture

I think Real Simple had an article about rewearing clothes. Unless you take them off right away after work, I've never had much luck wearing anything twice. Maybe a pair of pants.. . definitely jeans, a jacket, a cardigan. Not much else.

Guest's picture
Ed

I cut down on laundry earlier this year by making the conscious decision that I would no longer own any white clothes. My white tube socks went to gray. My undies....different colors. No more white dress shirts either. Not only do I save money on bleach and an extra washing machine load of whites, but I'm helping the environment by putting less chlorine out there. I know it's not for everyone, but it works for me!

Guest's picture
Guest

That's funny - I recently decided the opposite! I've resolved that all of our linens and undergarments need to be white so that they can be bleached (either with actual bleach or by sun drying). We have a lot of animals and two kids that wet the bed. I feel like I'm cleaning up pee all day long, and straight washing doesn't feel disinfected enough. It's probably not the most economical - but neither is having to re-wash a batch of clothes because they still smell like urine :(

Guest's picture
TK

I have a clothes tree in my hallway that I use to hang pants and skirts that I've worn once. I find that the underarms in my dress shirts and sweaters won't last as long if I wear them twice than if I wear them once and wash them. However, I sometimes layer a t-shirt under them and then can wear them again without worry about smell or damage to the garment.