A Case Against Washing Your Clothes

goblin shark outfit day 7

This article originally appeared on The Minimalist Wardrobe on December 8, 2018. The Minimalist Wardrobe is no longer publishing blog articles and has removed its prior blog content from its site, so I will be posting all my previous TMW contributions on Goblin Shark over the coming weeks.

I like to call myself a wardrobe scientist. This month’s experiment? To see how many times I can wear the same cashmere sweater before I actually need to wash it. I’m currently on wear number six with no wash in sight.

See, the thing is, I used to be the type of person who washed my clothes after every each and every wear. I’d get undressed at the end of the day and throw everything into the hamper. Because it was dirty. Wasn’t it?

In reality, probably not. Despite everything that Big Laundry Detergent wants us to believe, we are not as dirty as we think we are. As long as my clothes don’t have literal dirt on them and/or smell bad, they go right back on the hanger after a day’s wear.

If you think you might be guilty of washing your clothes way, way too often, read on for some good reasons to stop and put down the laundry detergent.

ONE: You Are Not That Dirty

I mean, maybe you are. Maybe you’re a mom and you get thrown up on 50 times a day. Maybe you work in a restaurant and you come home every night reeking of taco meat (aka me every day when I was 19 and working at a restaurant called Bebop Burrito). If that’s the case, then yeah, you’re exactly as dirty as you think you are, and I do not begrudge you your trip to the laundromat.

But if not, I’d urge you to really consider how dirty your clothes are when you take them off at the end of the day. Is your blouse just a little rumpled? Let me introduce you to my friend, Mr. Mini Steamer. Or maybe you spilled a tiny bit of lunch on your dress. Oh hello, Ms. Tide Stick. I’d also like to invite Dr. Lint Roller to the party – he’s saved my butt on more than one occasion. If your problem can be dealt with by using a simple steam or spot treatment, do it.

Even as a sweatier-than-average human, I manage to get more than one wear out of the majority of my clothing – underpants notwithstanding.

TWO: It’s Not That Great For Mother Earth

Microfibers. Heard of ‘em? Those are the tiny little fibers that your clothing sheds when you send it through the washing machine. From there, they travel through your pipes, into the drainage system, and eventually, into the ocean. For natural fibers, this isn’t that big of a deal because they biodegrade. But most modern clothing has at least a little bit of plastic in it (polyester = plastic), and the fibers that shed from those clothes are called microplastics, which are responsible for a global crisis affecting our oceans and human health.

So, if your shirt passes the sniff test, maybe save a fish and hang it back in the closet one more time.

(And if you want to avoid shedding microplastics into the ocean when you do wash your clothes, pick up a Guppy Friend or a Cora Ball to grab the fibers before they can escape your machine)

THREE: Your Clothes Will Last Longer

Remember how we were just talking about the microfibers that your clothes shed when you wash them? Those microfibers are literally your clothes coming apart. The more you wash a garment, the thinner and more fragile it will become.

To keep your clothes intact for as long as possible, try going a few more wears between washes, washing them in cold water, or even hand washing in a clean sink or bucket. All these tricks can help to reduce friction on your clothing, and thus, the number of microfibers that it sheds.

What’s more, washing your clothing less frequently will keep the color looking brighter and the shape of the garment more intact (especially if you’ve got a lot of fast-fashion pieces in your wardrobe that tend to morph and deform in the washing machine).

While I joke in this article about how you should never ever wash your clothes, the truth is that it’s a privilege to be able to have clean clothing. So many folks out there don’t have access to laundry services, but every person deserves the dignity of having something clean to wear.

Volunteering for or donating to an organization like Laundry Love, which helps homeless individuals and families do their laundry, can make a world of difference in someone’s life. If you think your own garment can go a few more wears without needing a wash, maybe use that laundromat money to help someone in need instead.

Outfit details (day 7): SKYE Shirt Dress with Tie Belt (worn here without the tie belt), Blake Goods Center Bar Belt, Everlane Block Heel Sandal in Moss Lizard

This post contains affiliate links.

4 thoughts on “A Case Against Washing Your Clothes

  1. Great article Renee! I miss seeing your face on Instagram but love receiving your posts in my mailbox! Keep um coming!

    PS- I’d still love to get your review on my car coat one of these days if you are still game:)


  2. I’m also a sweatier than average person but I find that, with the exception of tee shirts, I can get at least two wears out of all of my tops before wearing them. Jeans only get washed a few times a year or if I spill something on them. This is a fantastic post!


  3. I try to wear my clothes multiple times as well. (Though, I confess that white shirts don’t often make it past 1 or 2 wears. Every time I wear a white shirt, it seems to trigger the spilling of coffee on myself.) I wrote a post about my clothes care habits, but basically, when I do wash them, I hang dry. Better for your clothes and for the environment!


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