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Take KARE of Your Money: Here's why you're washing your clothes more than you should

You can wear jeans 9 or 10 times between washings. Sweaters? Once a season is all you need to keep them clean, says one expert.

MINNEAPOLIS — If you feel guilty about wearing the same clothes all week, maybe your pajamas, don't worry. You're probably washing your clothes more than you need to.

That's according to Patric Richardson, the “Laundry Evangelist” who has made it his mission to change the way Americans do laundry.

"Americans, we love to wash things. I think it’s because it’s easy. We all have washers and dryers at our finger tips and we just love to wash things,” Richardson says.

Maybe it's the smell? The way it feels?

There's just something about freshly cleaned clothes that people like.

Or maybe it's just a habit.

Well, if it is a habit, Richardson says it’s a habit that’s costing the average family hundreds of dollars a year.

He writes about this in his new book Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore.

"The more your clothes tumble in the laundry, the more abrasive that is. Lint is just your clothes dying. They're breaking down in front of you,” Richardson explains.

He says most high quality garments are good for about 50 washings.

So, if you have a favorite pair of $50 jeans, it costs you a dollar every time you wash them.

If you wear those jeans once a week, and you wash them every time you wear them, those jeans will most likely wear out in less than a year.

However, if you follow Richardson’s advice, and you wear those jeans 9 or 10 times before you wash them, those same jeans could last you more than a decade.

That may seem strange to some people, not washing your jeans for weeks, or months at a time, but think about it this way...

"If you think of guys who wear suits, a lot of them only dry clean once or twice a season. I mean, why are the suit pants cleaner? They're not. They're being worn in the exact same way,” Richardson says.

Unless they're visibly dirty, Richardson says you can get away with just hanging up your clothes and airing them out.

However, he recommends giving your clothes at least a day or two before wearing them again.

That waiting period will give the fibers of your clothes time to bounce back and adjust.

“It’s sort of like what they say about your shoes. They get so packed down with all of the weight you put on them and all of the walking you do with them. Giving your clothes some time will help them breathe and sort of come back to life,” Richardson explains.

So, for jeans, it’s 9 or 10 times between washings, but what about other types of clothing?

"Let's assume you wear a skirt to work, you'd wash it twice a season,” Richardson says.

How about shirts?

"You should really wear your shirts two or three times before you wash them and if you get something on them, just spot treat them and just hang them back in your closet."


"Never more than once a season."

Richardson says that's because you normally wear something under your sweater and usually a coat over it, so it rarely gets dirty.

If it's wrinkled, just hang it up and let the wrinkles fall out.

But when it comes to socks and underwear…

"Every time you wear it. They need to go in the washer, or at least it needs to be rinsed or something, because it is always touching your skin,” Richardson says.

If you follow his advice you can save yourself a lot of money.

Let's look at the numbers.

EnergyStar says the average American family does about 300 loads of laundry a year.

Each load of laundry costs about two dollars between the water, electricity, detergent and the wear and tear on your washing machine and dryer.

Prices vary depending on what kind of machine you have, and how much you pay for energy, but online sources say two dollars per load is about average.

That's $600 a year, doing about six loads of laundry a week.

If you cut that in half, and do three loads a week, you'll save about $300 a year.

Plus, you'll save even more by extending the life of your clothes.

"We shouldn't wash something every time we wear it. It's really hard on the garment and we're just not that dirty,” Richardson says.

Now, if your clothes are visibly dirty, Richardson says you should wash them right away.

He says the dirt and grime on the surface can get into the fibers of your clothes and that will wear them out faster than washing them.

Another helpful tip, if your clothes get smoky, say from cigarettes or a campfire, Richardson recommends spraying them with vodka.

That will kill the smell and you can wear your clothes again without washing them.

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