Washing Household Items: Too Little or Not Often Enough?

We often interpret the word “laundry” as an endless cycle of washing, drying, folding and sorting, which includes putting each item or stack away. From the routine effort of lifting, climbing stairs and walking, bending or reaching, the result should reveal toned arms, legs, and abs. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? One solution is to abandon the habit of tossing every worn item into the hamper after a day’s wear. I know I’m guilty. The rule is tights, blouses, shirts, and, of course, underwear, should be washed after one use; however, pants and jeans, dresses and skirts, bras and camisoles, and pajamas can be tossed in the hamper after the third wear. (Don’t forget to turn all jeans inside-out, wash in cold water, and hang to dry.) Already the weekly load feels less cumbersome. There are greater tasks that are often neglected and saved for a more convenient time. If you wonder how often linens and bedding should be washed, here are the suggested rules.

Every Day

The musty smell emanating from kitchen and bath towels, hand towels and washcloths are noticeable, especially in the morning. Consider how many times a day you return to the same towel to dry your hands. The thought is centered on cleanliness and not necessarily on the tens of millions of dead skin cells that are transferred from hand to towel after every use. Our mindset believes our hands are clean; therefore, the towel is a means to remove water. The thicker the towel, the more likely it will trap moisture and harbor odors. Let us also factor in the humidity index after every shower, which provides the optimal environment for bacteria to grow. While towels are hung to dry, it may not be enough. The solution is to round up all the kitchen and bath towels and replace with fresh towels for the new day.

Laundry Tip:   The residue of fabric softener can trap odors. Vinegar is a natural laundry softener, which promotes softness and the prevention of mold without the lingering worry of sour odors or a pungent [vinegar] smell. Adding baking soda can brighten fabrics and replace expensive detergents made from unknown harmful chemicals.  

Every Week

Bed sheets: In response to a June 2016 “YouGov” poll, one out of every ten individuals washes their sheets once a month. Showering nightly alters the statistic of what could be imbedded in your sheets; however, the most desirable solution in destroying bacteria and microorganisms, body oils and high numbers of shed skin cells is to wash in hot water and dry once a week. According to the London School of Hygiene, it is believed long intervals between washes will result in a build up, and the washing machine will have difficulty removing germs such as cold viruses or fungi, which could lead to athlete’s foot. And, don’t forget to wash your pillowcases, too. (Wait at least three months to launder pillows, which is likely to contain dust mites and 16 species of fungi.)    

Laundry tip: Perhaps one reason many delay washing “heavy duty” items is the amount of drying time. One solution is to use five or six wool “dryer balls.” Not only does it soften laundry naturally, but it can increase air circulation to shorten drying time and save energy! The dryer balls last for years and are inexpensive!

Bath mats: This may appear as a trivial topic and a futile battle within your household; yet, how often is your bath mat hung to dry between uses? A busy bathroom may expose the mat to a considerable amount of water with no opportunity for air to circulate. To eliminate the potential for mold and bacteria growth, you may want to start hanging up the mat, or add it to your weekly laundry effort.

Runners, throw rugs, and mats: Even if you have a no-shoes policy in your home, dirt will still be evident in your mats and rugs. Vacuuming and shaking them outdoors is part of the effort. These constantly used areas should be included in your weekly load of laundry.

Once a Month

Considering the theme of washing centers around two “hot spots,” the kitchen and the bathroom, it sounds reasonable that robes, mattress pads, and especially shower curtains should be washed monthly.

The task of laundry will never be completed; yet, the feeling of health and cleanliness keeps us moving through the cycles.