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How to keep clothes smelling fresh for longer

By Rachel England Monday 08 July 2013

Everyone wants to feel clean and fresh, so along with a daily shower, most of us are pretty militant about washing our clothes – it’s our second skin, after all. Whiffs of old sweat and mustiness are definite no-nos.

So the washing machine is one of the most important and frequently-used appliances in the house, but it’s also a massive energy vampire, and constant washing puts clothes under strain, meaning they don’t last as long. Not good news for the environment or your wardrobe.

But fear not! It’s still possible to enjoy clean, fresh clothes for longer between washes. Check out our guide to keeping clothes smelling sweeter for longer.

How to keep clothes smelling fresh for longer

How often should you wash your clothes?

For starters, it's helpful to know how frequently you should be washing your clothes – you might already be a little over-zealous. This list is based on regular wear, and doesn't take into account stains or extra sweatiness from hot days.

Bras: Wash after three to four wears (they don’t come into direct contact with underarms).

Jeans: Wash after 4 to 5 wears (they’re pretty durable – wash them inside out to keep them looking their best).

Trousers: Wash after 4 or 5 wears (you’re probably wearing them in an air-conditioned office, so they’re good for a few outings).

Jackets and blazers: Wash after 5 or 6 wears (they’re usually worn over shirts or blouses so they’ll stay fresh for longer – but make sure to hang them up to ‘air out’ after each wear).

Pyjamas: Wash after 3 or 4 wears (we shed thousands of skin cells a minute – eww – so as a rule of thumb, swap your PJs twice as often as you chance the sheets).

Skirts: Wash after 4 or 5 wears (you’re probably not doing anything very strenuous in a skirt, so you’ll get good mileage out of it!).

T-shirts and vests: Wash after every wear (they hug your body and come into direct contact with your sweaty areas, so treat them like underwear).

Swimwear: Wash after every wear (again, treat it like underwear, and remember that salt and chlorine will eat away at the fabric if not washed out).

Tips for keeping clothes fresh between wears

Layer up: Wear a t-shirt or vest underneath a blouse or blazer. This will soak up sweat and skin cells and keep your outer garment clean and fresh. T-shirts can easily be washed on a cold cycle, and don’t require a long or complicated wash setting.

Air it out: What do you do with your worn clothes if they don’t go into the laundry hamper? Drape them over a chair? Turf them on the floor? Make the effort to give them an airing and then hang them up neatly. When you’re in a rush you’ll be glad you did – they’ll pass the sniff test!

Spot-treat stains: So you’re wearing a pair of freshly-washed jeans when disaster strikes – a stain! Instead of bundling them into the wash, try spot-treating them instead. After all, a single spaghetti stain hasn’t made the jeans dirty everywhere, has it? Get a large mixing bowl, fill with cool water, add a dash of detergent, and spot-treat the dirty bits by hand scrubbing or with a clean toothbrush.

Sort out your storage: Clothes you don't wear very often – dresses or suits, for example – can get a bit musty sitting in the closet for weeks on end, no matter how clean they were to start with. Keep them smelling fresh by popping fabric softener sheets into the pockets, or placing wrapped soaps/bags of potpourri in drawers and wardrobes. An open packet of baking soda also works well for removing moisture and odours. And make sure each garment has room to ‘breathe’ – clothes packed together with no air or ventilation will get musty much quicker!

And when you do wash your clothes...

How to keep clothes smelling fresh for longer

  • Don’t put damp items (especially towels) in the laundry basket; they’ll just get extra smelly and make everything else pong too! Keep wet stuff separate and either hang up to dry, or wash as soon as possible, to prevent mouldiness

  • Check pockets! Paper clips, hair grips and coins can make the wash water smell musty, which will spread through your clothes

  • Don’t overload the machine. Trying to wash too many clothes at once means each item won’t get as thorough a clean as it could, and so won’t smell as fresh once washed

  • Never leave clean laundry in the machine – that’s a guaranteed ticket to smellsville

  • Make sure clothes are thoroughly dry before storing them away, otherwise they’ll fester. Remember items such as jeans and jumpers will take longer to dry

  • Keep your washing machine in tiptop condition. Make sure the drawers are clean, and invest in hard-water removal tablets if it’s a problem in your area. A clean machine means clean – and fresh – clothes!

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