How Many Times Can You Wear Clothes Before Washing?

Have you ever wondered how often you should wash your clothes? Have you ever heard conflicting advice from friends and family about when it’s time to toss a garment in the laundry?

The answer to these questions is not as simple as it may seem. In fact, the number of times it’s appropriate to wear clothing items without washing them often seems based more on folklore or a person’s upbringing than professional advice.

Recently, a TikTok user started a heated online debate when she posted a video saying she wears the same pajamas multiple times. This sparked conversations about when it’s time to throw clothes in the hamper, and how often we should be washing our clothing.

Experts say that the answer to how often we should wash our clothes depends on personal aspects such as sweat level and lifestyle, though for many people other, more abstract factors may come into play.

Our beliefs about clothing hygiene are largely “societal and cultural,” said Dr. Anthony Rossi, an assistant attending dermatologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Rewearing the same clothes — particularly on consecutive days — is “linked to avoiding decision fatigue, hence wearing the same clothes involves less decisions to make and less stress every morning,” said Manal Mohammed, senior lecturer of medical microbiology at the University of Westminster in London.

So, what are the guiding principles to help you determine when a garment can be worn again without washing and when it’s time to toss it in the hamper? Generally, experts say there are a few types that should be washed after every use: underwear, socks, tights, leggings and activewear. This advice also applies to any other clothes with stains, sweat, odor or visible dirt.

For pajamas, outerwear, jeans and other clothes, how many times you can wear them without washing is based on the same principles for undergarments or activewear. If you usually shower before bed, wear underwear and sweat little to none when wearing pajamas, you could wear them for a week without washing, experts said.

When it comes to why you shouldn’t wear socks again without washing first, “fungal infections on the feet and toes are just rampant,” said dermatologist Dr. Jeremy Fenton, medical director for Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City and a clinical instructor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.

In addition to bacteria from sweat, clothes worn in gyms or sports settings can come into contact with bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, resulting in infections common in community and hospital settings.

If you don’t know when to wash your clothes, it can have consequences on both ends of the spectrum. Washing them too seldom could lead to skin problems or infections, and washing them too often could harm your clothing.

The most important questions you should ask yourself, experts say, when considering whether to wear something again without washing are these: Does it smell? Do I have any skin conditions, such as eczema, a rash or a skin lesion? Is it visibly dirty? Is it sweaty? Did I wear underwear with this?

If you can answer these questions positively, it’s likely time to give your clothes a good wash.

Now that you know the basics, you can make more informed decisions around clothing hygiene and take better care of your wardrobe.

So, the next time you’re considering whether to wear something again without washing, keep these principles in mind and you’ll be sure to make the right decision.