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Mail Bag: Laundry Day

· Am I green or gross? ·

July 16, 2017 11 Comments

Dear Kasmira,

My question is that how you wash the clothing you wear differently everyday. My mother wanted to have all the things clean everyday. So she washed almost all the clothes, I mean shirts, dress, and, for my brother’s case, dark denim jeans. I am feeling guilty when I do not wash shirts and pants after one time wearing. My mother even did not allow once worn clothes back to closet before they freshly washed.

I wash things for my six year old daughter everyday. It is understandable for younger kids [who] mess their clothes several times a day, and I know some of the stains go off just after they get in to the fabrics

When you change everyday, how do you wash them?

Me? I am a little bit of my mother-kind of person so it was not a big deal for me to wash the clothes washable in washing machine, and hand wash is OK with me. What about the dry clean only materials? My big concern is about the dry clean only summer clothing. How do you cope with that? Or am I too particular?

Grace from South Korea

I’ve actually been asked this question a few times, and I’ve answered it via comments. I have always been a bit hesitant to publish my answer as an actual blog entry because *gasp* I think I have some things I’ve never, ever washed.

I think you’ll agree that modern society is a bit obsessed with cleanliness. We’re terrified of germs, grease, and odor. I certainly don’t advocate a return to the days of monthly baths and pomanders, but we could probably chill out a little on the use of detergents.

When I was a child, I tossed my clothes into the dirty hamper every night and they probably needed the washing. Kids are messy. They spill food, play in the dirt, and have assorted accidents. But when was the last time you came home from the office with grass-stained knees and ketchup down your front?

Not only is daily laundering usually unnecessary, but it’s hard on your clothes. Detergents and heat stress fibers and fade dye. Dry-cleaning chemicals are notoriously harsh (and toxic). After multiple washings, even following care directions on the label, I’ve found that most items fade, pill, shrink or lose shape.

Finally, the process of cleaning clothes consumes a huge amount of resources. Traditional washing machines use gallons of water (the average is 55!) If you use warm or hot water, your water heater gets in on the action. I once (foolishly) watched the electric meter spin round and round while the dryer was running. One must also consider the contents, packaging, and transportation of laundry detergent and additives.

Call me green or call me gross, these are my guidelines on cleaning clothes:

Wash after every wearing: socks, tights, underwear, workout clothes, and anything stinky, sweaty, or soiled.

Wash after every few wearings: jeans, shorts, tees, tanks, and casual dresses. Many of these items are made from fibers that stretch from wearing, so I find that a wash and then finish in a hot dryer are necessary to restore them to their original shape.

Sniff test the rest: suit separates, dress pants, skirts, non-casual dresses, sweaters, blazers, blouses, and vests (i.e. most of the things one wears to an office). Since we’re all so hygiene obsessed, we’re usually clean when we put our clothes on and they don’t get soiled over the course of the day. Unless you had a stressful, pitted-out kind of day at work, the deodorant you applied in the morning prevented any body odor from stinking up your clothing. Give your duds a quick sniff when you change out of them. If they don’t smell bad, hang them in a location with good air circulation for a day or two before returning to the closet. I drape my things over a carved wooden screen.

And I never ever leave them in a big pile where my cats can sleep on them.

Items worn as second layers, away from the body, can usually go the longest without cleaning. Eventually, even the cleanest body soils garments worn next to the skin, but it doesn’t usually happen in one wearing. In my wardrobe, things that are truly dirty are washed at home or sent to the cleaners.

Limiting the cleaning of clothes to the soiled and the stinky is budget and earth friendly. Your items will look newer, longer. If you’re sure to give your items an airing between wearings, you will not smell bad. (I smell quite nice, actually.)

What’s your laundry philosophy?

This post is was originally published 9/3/2009 at

July 15, 2017
July 17, 2017

Kasmira Kit


  1. J F

    July 19, 2017

    Good post! You have a great philosophy. If clothes don’t smell or look like they need a wash, then really they don’t (who cares, and heck who can tell?). Had a real LOL at the cat comment, same here. I’m currently in the winter of New Zealand and clothes dryers and central heating are not common, so with damp and short days clothes don’t dry overnight (whether outside or inside), and laundry is (at best) done mostly on the weekends. Working outside in fields (agricultural research) it’s common to see co-workers show up to work in soiled jeans from the day before – since it’s impossible to wash and dry in a single evening you either show up dirty (and ready to get dirty again) or roll through a ginormous stockpile of clothes that will be a mother to wash when the sun finally shines on your laundry line (on a weekend).

    • Kasmira Kit

      July 19, 2017

      Wow! No dryers? That would be a big consideration when deciding what to wash!

  2. Susan

    July 19, 2017

    When I do laundry, I tumble-dry clothes on no heat (to remove wrinkles) and then hang them to dry. And I iron practically nothing. Both of these actions save a lot of energy.

    • Kasmira Kit

      July 19, 2017

      So green! Do you have a large area to hang clothes to dry?

      • Susan

        July 19, 2017

        I will guiltily confess to using a spare bedroom as a closet. It’s also a sewing nook and a few other things. There’s plenty of room to hang things to dry. I’m very fortunate.

  3. Lorena

    July 19, 2017

    I wear jeans and dresses several times. As much as they can take it. For tee shirts and shirts I always check the collars and necklines as I color my hair with henna, usually some red rubs off.
    For the items that are to be reworn, I place them in a separate closet, that does not have the all clean clothes. Where I live its humid and if I put them back in the closet and forget about them, the odds are they will have some type of fungus growing on it. It’s happened before. This way I make sure I don’t take that long to re wear the garment.

    • Kasmira Kit

      July 19, 2017

      I love the idea of the “airing closet.” I am grateful that I haven’t had to worry about fungus, other than the sour smell of washing that I forget to remove from the washer for a week.

  4. Dale Saufley

    July 20, 2017

    I am a failure in all things domestic EXCEPT laundry. I hand and gentle wash clothes that need it. I only fluf-dry on low or medium things that would otherwise be wrinkly or need a little caress, I hang everything except sheets and towels (I live in a condo so no laundry line) and being a good seamstress means I have things I wore in college (35 years ago) that still look great. My profession is fitness teacher of tai chi and yoga so I am in workout clothes daily, but my going-out and casual clothes are almost all old (but with the correct accessories, everything old is new again). I love the sniff-test and can stain remove with the best dry cleaning establishment. Everything Kismira says is golden and she looks great saying it.

    • Kasmira Kit

      July 21, 2017

      I need to follow your example on the drying.

  5. Toni Wilcox

    July 22, 2017

    We downsized into a downtown loft several years ago and have learned to get the most out of our very small washer/dryer combo. Clothes really do last longer if they are washed less frequently, and if you use the gentlest handing suggested. If it says “use gentle cycle or hand wash,” go with hand washing. One good aspect of our horribly dry winter air in Minnesota is that items that have to hang or lay flat to dry (on a folding rack I put in the shower) easily dry in just a couple of hours. My dry cleaner runs a 20% off deal every April so I have all my winter coats (too many) cleaned for the season then so they are ready to go in the fall. Pro tip-if you thrift a down jacket, coat or vest and the label says Dry Clean, take a chance on washing in a front loading machine. Then dry on low heat with a couple new tennis balls. It’s amazing how the tennis balls pound the puffy back into a lifeless garment.

    • Kasmira Kit

      July 22, 2017

      I love the down tip!

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