How to do less laundry

I grew up watching (and reading!) Little House on the Prairie. I loved that time period and thought how awesome it would’ve been to live in that era.

Of course, now that I am a grown, married mother, I now know how much work poor Caroline Ingalls and her girls REALLY would have had to do. While I long for the simplicity of that way of living, I do not miss my modern appliances that make my job a WHOLE lot easier.

Take laundry day for example. To do laundry in the mid-1800s, you would’ve had to have boiled water, scrubbed by hand, wrung out and hung to dry all your family’s clothes and bedding. Thank God for Kenmore and GE and Maytag! However…

Easier laundry=MORE laundry

A problem came along with the modernization of the laundry process as well. Since it became so much easier to wash clothes, people began only wearing an outfit one time before washing it. If I am not mistaken, Caroline Ingalls had the same dress on all the time! Except for Sunday’s of course!

And as manufacturing clothing, as opposed to homemade, has become the norm, we have PLENTY of clothes (I am speaking of those in the US and most modern countries). Since we HAVE more clothes and we usually only wear an item once before washing it, the amount of laundry that a household goes through is unbelievable.

What I propose is that you consider setting a standard where, for the most part, clothes are worn more than once before going into the dirty clothes.

*Obviously I am not talking about underwear and socks, or really dirty work clothes or toddler’s clothes.

ALSO READ: Figuring out a laundry routine that works for you

Below are a few areas where you can get away with washing LESS:

1. Blue jeans are rarely dirty with one wear. Unless they are worn by a 5 year old playing outside in the dirt. Or husbands who are mechanics. But otherwise, denim and corduroys and even canvas pants can be work several times before washing.

And if you want to preserve the darker wash on your jeans? Wash even LESS often. I splurged 2 years ago on a pair of Not Your Daughter’s Jeans, after seeing on Oprah, which I LOVE, as they have Lift and Tuck techhnology. I don’t don’t about you, but I can use all the lifting and tucking I can get! (without plastic surgery, lol!). Since I paid $100 bucks for a pair of jeans,  I want to make them last as long as possible. I wash probably once a month and wash inside out. I dry for about 10 minutes and then hang to dry the rest of the way.

2. When you or your children wear layered outfits, it is possible that both layers are not necessarily dirty and would need washing. Depending on the age of the child (do they perspire yet or still play in the dirt?) the inner layer or the outer layer may be worn again without washing.

With cooler weather come hoodies and sweaters, and they typically won’t need washing after one wear either. Teach your children as they grow, what needs to go in the hamper (that is a whole other post!) and what can go back in the drawer.

3. Many, many homes use a towel once and throw it in the dirty clothes (or more likely on the floor, if it is your kids). If you are drying off a clean body, how can a towel be soiled after one use? Put hooks on the back of bathroom door, or in the kids’ rooms to hang their towels after bathing. That way they can dry and won’t be stinky.

clothing hooks

When I had 4 kids and young teens sharing a bathroom, we bought them each a bath sheet in a different color. They were responsible for keeping it hung up, and for getting it in the dirty clothes once a week. This was our process for YEARS at our house and worked wonderfully. I didn’t have to own, nor wash, 4,682 towels each week!

One big key to making this work is to air out anything you might want to wear or use again. I have a hook in my closet for hanging my jeans or sweaters that I can wear again. You could also do the same for your older children and teens. Then again, they typically use the floor!

4. Believe it or not, here is a good reason for not making your bed! It is good to air your sheets each morning, for a little while at least. You can then make your bed if you feel so inclined. By airing your sheets each day, you can also prolong the washing of the linens. How long will depend on you, your family, and your tolerance for a little dirt. 😉


What things have you done to help with the abundance of laundry in your home?

This book has been a great help to many of my readers. Click picture for details:

28 Days to Hope-For Your-Home

12 comments to How to do less laundry

  • Everything you say is true. I try to get at least 2 days wear out of tops and 3 days out of jeans or slacks. Husband is pretty good about doing the same. I taught my kids to do their own laundry when they were about 10–it was amazing how their attitudes changed about what was dirty and what could be worn again when they were in charge of their own laundry!

  • How true! I’ve been trying to talk my husband into this idea, but to no avail. Maybe if he sees that it’s not just me, he’ll change his mind ~ one can only hope.

  • Excellent points. We have noticed that our European friends wear their clothes longer and do much less laundry. What they DO do is spot-clean their clothes promptly if they drip something on themselves or whatever.

    Another difference between them and most Americans is that they shower/bathe every two or three days instead of every day. They “have a wash” — sponge bathe — on the non-shower days.

    Food for thought on both counts.

  • I don’t mind doing laundry, I feel very domestic when I do it (since I can’t cook!) But my husband and I do everything you mentioned and I enjoy the benefits!!

  • I think one of the keys is to make sure you care for the items in between washes. Towels, for example, get mildewed if you leave them in a heap. The key is to hang them up properly to dry between uses and not get icky. Jeans, I try to hang them back up so that they don’t get wrinkled (or laid on by the cat) between washes. We also use our mudroom to save “dirty” jeans on the weekends. The boys leave their muddy, dirty jeans in the mudroom and change into sweatpants in the house for nap time or meals. Then, when they go back out to play, they go back into their muddy jeans (which are at least dry by now) for playing and chores. I just throw all the “weekend” clothes in one load right from the mudroom on Sunday evening. This keeps them from going through an entire load of denim every weekend.

  • Laura

    We have ALWAYS used towels more than once. Typically for a week, as you said. And hey, I’ve been doing something RIGHT by not making our bed first thing in the morning, imagine that! I always spread it up later in the day. Thumbs up for me. 😉 And as for jeans & hoodies, I’ve never been one to wash after one wear, unless they’re really gross.

  • Meredith

    I was guilty of using my bath towels one time and them tossing them in the laundry hamper. CRAZY! Now I’m reformed–and my husband and I each use our one individual towel for about 5-7 days before washing. We splurged on big, thick towels, hang them up as soon as we are done drying ourselves off, and it works great. I also only keep 4 towels in the linen closet (It’s just me and the hubs, no kiddos yet), so that is the max number each week in the laundry. I do have more towels hidden away in case of company.

    Washcloths, however, only get used one time!

  • I’m totally down with this idea of wearing clothes a few more times before washing them. It’s taken YEARS, but my kiddos have FINALLY learned that pj’s worn one night are NOT dirty! I’m happy when they wear ’em for 2 nights and ecstatic when 3 happens, lol.

    The only thing I’ll disagree about is sheets/bedding. That really should be washed weekly. I change our pillow cases 2x/week, actually. If you think about the drooling on pillows, the skin cells that are shed, etc, you probably wouldn’t want to use sheets for much longer than 10 days. But that’s just me 🙂

    • Rachel Flachman

      Not to be contrary, but I’m perfectly fine w/washing my sheets once a month. I know that sounds gross to some, but I don’t get it. My dead skin cells are in the sheets. No big deal. I don’t really even care if they are someone else’s dead skin cells. Americans are just too worried about getting an icky germ on their body. Germs don’t scare me…and I’m rarely sick.

      • Cassie

        I kind of agree with Rachel. Dead skin cells on sheets are no big deal – my dead skin cells are all over me already and it’s not like they are toxic or anything!

  • My motto is, if it doesn’t look dirty or smell dirty, it doesn’t need to be washed! My kids never listened and threw everything that they were finished with into their hamper. Probably because it was easier than hanging it up or whatever. So I solved that problem too–they do their own laundry! That way, what goes into their hamper, they STILL have to deal with. If they want to do a mountain of laundry twice a week and wash their well-loved clothes to death, so be it. And because they usually need things washed before they have a whole load of whites and a whole load of darks, it all goes in there together.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    One way to eliminate the hamper full of moldering towels and fermenting sweaty gym clothes is to get rid of the hamper.

    I removed them and suddenly towels were getting hung to dry. And the fermenting gym clothes were in the owner’s room, away from my nose.