I used to change my outfit many times per day before I went from fast-fashion obsessed to following a slow approach to fashion. I now wash my clothes and buy new ones only when I need to.
Change and wash your workout clothes, swimwear, and underwear after every wear. Casual and formal clothes can last up to five times wearing them. Coats, jackets, parkas, hats, gloves, and other accessories can be laundered once a season.
How many times you should wash your clothes depends on a lot of factors. The climate at your location, your lifestyle, what kind of clothes you are wearing, their quality, and durability.
You don't want to wear dirty or smelly clothes. You should avoid clothes that are overused, faded, stained, or broken as well.
At the same time, changing, washing, and buying clothes too often cost money, pollute the environment, consume water, and energy.
Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Every year, tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean. Even washing most clothes at home releases plastic microfibers into waterways that threaten marine life.
There are many things you can do to be more environmentally friendly at home. Washing your clothes less often and in cold water is one of them. Your laundry doesn't require high temperatures every time. The cold water setting on your washing machine saves lots of energy.
Here are some tips on how often you should change your clothes to protect the environment, save time, and money.
When to wash your clothes
Don't wash clothes that you don't wear. If you feel like you have too many clothes, consider donating them instead. It's reasonable to go through your clothes from time to time. Start decluttering and getting rid of pieces you don't need.
Read up my list of 10 ways to tell it's time to donate your clothes to get a sense of what kind of clothes to get rid of.
Workout clothes are usually very sweaty. In general, any piece of clothing that is tight-fitting, and worn close to skin should be washed more often. Place gym clothing, dancewear, sportswear, athletic gear, and swimwear in the laundry basket after every use.
Wash underwear, socks, undershirts, intimates, panties, bras, lingerie, bustiers, and stockings after every wear. This is pretty straight forward, non-negotiable and important for hygiene and health.
Handbags, gym bags, belts, scarves, ties, gloves, hats, and other accessories don't need washing that often. Once a month up to once every season is plenty enough to keep them in good condition.
Most heavy clothes and winter clothes such as coats, jackets, and parkas should be washed once every season. Washing them too often reduces their durability. Some of them even need to be professionally laundered.
Casual clothes such as tees, shirts, pants, shorts, blouses, jumpers, skirts, dresses, tanks, crop tops, sweaters, cardigans, and hoodies can last up to five times wearing them before they need to go in the washing machine. It depends on their materials, how much you sweat, and how many places you visit.
You don't need to wash your formal clothes very often. Office clothes and business attires can last up to a whole week before it needs to be dry cleaned. Make sure to drop off your whole outfit each time for cleaning so every piece wears at the same rate.
It's important to wash your clothes at the right moment. Washing them too often is unnecessary and very detrimental to the clothes themselves, your budget, and the planet. Wash them often enough to get rid of viruses, bacteria, fungus, and germs that may cause itching, red skin, infections, or chronic diseases.
When to buy new clothes
Most people don't wear the same clothes for too long. The rise of fast fashion over the last 20 years made us consider clothing as a disposable commodity.
Buying new clothes is now cheaper, faster, and easier than ever before. But it's not a good idea to renew your wardrobe every week. Under normal wear and tear, the average life expectancy of clothing could be more than 2 years.
Read up my article on the top 10 solutions to the fast fashion industry to learn more about the alternatives to fast fashion.
Buying new clothes is a common event for most consumers today. Some even shop for new clothing pieces every day. The overproduction and overconsumption of cheaply made clothing made fashion the second-largest polluter in the world.
It's a good idea to make space in your closet before buying new clothes. Go through your clothes whenever you can as often as possible. You will get a better picture of what clothing pieces you need and may even find garments you didn't know you owned in the back of your closet.
Follow my guide on how to decide what clothes to keep for guidance on decluttering your wardrobe responsibly.
Shop for new clothes when old items don't fit you anymore. If they are one size too big or too small, it's time to make room for better pieces that fit you perfectly.
If you don't plan on repairing some old clothes that are broken, with zippers that snag or broken buckles, you can always recycle or upcycle them and shop for new pieces instead.
If your clothes are uncomfortable, get new ones. You don't have to wear painful shoes or clothing that is too tight. Clothes are our second skin. They should make us feel comfortable and confident.
When you change your fashion style or adopt a new lifestyle, it's normal to buy new clothes. Keep only the clothes that still do it for you and buy clothes that are you. Think of a situation where you would wear it and what you would wear it with to make sure it's a purposeful purchase.
Check out my definitive list of different fashion styles that can help you pick the right ones for you.
I wouldn't keep underwear, swimwear, and workout clothes that are older than one year. This is a general rule to keep in mind. Depending on how often you wear them, your underwear assortment should be refreshed every six months.
If you've made purchasing mistakes in the past, if you bought clothes that went out of trend immediately, consider buying more classic and timeless pieces. They don't go out of style quickly, they are easy to combine, and you can wear them for a long time.
I hope these tips are helpful to you. How often do you change your clothes? Let us know in the comment section below.
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks four languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.