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How often you should actually be washing your essential wardrobe pieces

If you feel like you’re up to your head in laundry and constantly sorting, pairing and folding, you may be making more work for yourself than necessary. We got the scoop on exactly how often you should be washing eight articles of clothing you probably live in.

Many of us would rather do anything — clean toilets, even — than spend two hours washing, drying and then folding clothing. It just takes so long. If you have a washer/dryer at home, you’re pretty much resigning yourself to hours stuck inside (because there’s nothing worse than the smell of washed clothes that have been sitting in the machine too long) and if you have to ship off your items to a laundromat, well, that’s a whole other level of torture.

But, the reality is, lots of us are washing some of our attire far too often, which isn’t good for certain fabrics and just winds up prematurely fading bright colors.

We got experts to weigh in on how often we really should be washing these ten clothing items.

1. Jeans

You're probably washing your clothes too much: Jeans

Denim is one clothing item that can actually look better the less you wash it. Fashion and food blogger Luci Petlack of Luci’s Morsels says the fibers that hold jeans together break down naturally with wear, which is why your favorite old pair of jeans seems to be perfectly molded to your body. Too much time spent in the washing machine fades, frays and destroys the shape of your denim pants and shorts. Petlack suggests washing jeans only when you see a visible stain or no more than every 10 wears. And never, ever put them in the dryer — air drying denim is always best.

More: 3 Ways to conserve in the laundry room

2. Bras

You're probably washing your clothes too much: Bras

Kayla Inserra of ClosetSpace reminds women that we should never wear the same bra two days in a row because the elastic needs time to reshape before the next wear. “If you rotate numerous bras throughout the week you can definitely plan to wash them after several wears,” Inserra said. Remember: Never toss your delicate bra in a washing machine. Stick to hand-washing them with a delicate fabric wash.

3. Sweaters

You're probably washing your clothes too much: Sweater

Depending on the type of sweater, you can wash cotton, silk and cashmere after two to three wears or more durable fabrics like wool and acrylic after five wears. To clean sweaters, Fashion Guru Lawrence Zarian, author of Lawrence Zarian’s 10 Commandments for a Perfect Wardrobe, suggests using a special wool shampoo and either washing them in lukewarm water or putting them in a mesh lingerie bag and using the gentle cycle of your washing machine. Zarian warns to never wring out sweaters and to instead roll them in a towel to absorb excess water and then lay them flat in a well-ventilated room before gently reshaping them so that they dry evenly.

4. Suit pants and jackets

You're probably washing your clothes too much: Suits

You aren’t really wearing your work suits out to many dinners where you’re spilling steak sauce all over them, right? In that case, rest assured that they don’t need to be cleaned very often. In fact, because all suits require dry cleaning, which uses harsh chemicals, Antonio Centeno, the founder of Real Men Real Style (yep, we’re borrowing a tip from the boys) suggests only cleaning your suit if a stain has penetrated. If you spill a little coffee on it but can soak that sucker right up, go for it. Even if you often wear the same suit, Centeno says you can go a month or two months before bringing it to the dry cleaner.

5. Leggings

You're probably washing your clothes too much: Leggings

We all have a pair of go-to leggings that we turn to on those mornings we couldn’t be bothered to get dressed up. But the American Cleaning Institute doesn’t want you to walk around with baggy knees (not a good look) and advises that you wash them after every single wear.

More: Making your own cleaning products is easier than you think

6. Pajamas

You're probably washing your clothes too much: Pajamas

Wash your pajamas after three or four wears. Remember: We often sweat during the night, which is obviously not something you want lingering on your nightgown. Experts say you can go longer between washes if you shower before bed.

7. Tights

You're probably washing your clothes too much: Tights

Like leggings, you must hand wash tights with a gentle fabric detergent after every single wear. Not only does a good wash help reshape them, but it prevents odors — which can easily become trapped in its light fabric — from lingering.

8. Jackets

You're probably washing your clothes too much: Jackets

Good news: Tough, weather-resistant outerwear like coats and jackets needn’t be washed more than once a season, according to Zarian. Obviously, exceptions will be made if you find yourself rolling around in mud, in which case, you should always check the label, which will likely require you bring your jacket to the dry cleaners.

9. Expensive yoga/athletic pants

You're probably washing your clothes too much: Yoga

If you sweat in your yoga or athletic pants (which is the whole point, right?) you’re of course going to want to wash them after each workout. But the key to making your pants last for years and years is how you wash them, according to Well + Good. A few quick tips: don’t wash your pants with towels (hello, lint), use fabric softener, or fill up your cup with detergent — a little goes a long way and a lot can ruin the fabric. Check the label of your garment before determining how to wash it, but if you’re just in a rush or cut off your label long ago, Lululemon suggests washing them in cold water and tumble drying on a low setting.

10. Swimsuit cover-ups

You're probably washing your clothes too much: Swimsuit coverups

Just because you don’t swim in your swimsuit cover-up doesn’t mean it isn’t affected by the same elements as your bathing suit — which means it encounters chlorine, salt water, and sunscreen. Since most cover-ups are made with delicate material, it’s crucial you treat them as kindly as you do your swimsuit. Hand wash them in cold water anytime you feel they’ve come into contact with chemicals or oils and skip the dryer. Be careful not to wring out your cover-up — simply lay it flat to dry in a ventilated area.

Images: Karen Cox/SheKnows

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