How often should you wash these everyday items?

With many of us extra cautious about germs these days, tackling your wash may have benefits beyond the heavenly smell of fresh-from-the-dryer clothes. Laundry may help prevent the spread and cycle of illness that can often run rampant in homes with the cold and flu virus, plus COVID-19.

We all know how it starts. One person comes home with the sniffles, and it isn’t long before the rest of the household is sick with an awful cold, too. It’s hard to think about laundry in the misery of coughing and sneezing, but if you can manage to throw in a load of clothing, it’s a win towards keeping illness at bay.

Germs can collect in towels and bed sheets or other items of clothing, holding potential for causing infection or other health issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adds that bacteria like MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) may spread on sheets, towels and clothing — and can even enter your wash cycle, especially from someone who has been sick.

If someone is ill, sheets, duvets and pillowcases should be washed immediately, as germs can spread or even enter the washing machine.

In addition, the CDC says to wash and dry in the warmest temperatures recommended on the clothing label. The agency points out that hot water washing is not necessary to remove MRSA from laundry, but to properly follow the clothing and detergent instructions.

With the COVID-19 virus, the CDC recommends to avoid shaking dirty laundry to avoid any possibility of dispersing the virus through the air. A few other tips:

  • Wear disposable gloves when handling laundry from someone who is sick
  • Clean and disinfect clothes hampers, with soap and water (or in the laundry, if possible)
  • Wash hands with soap and water after handling the dirty laundry

For all other routine laundry, some items can go a lot longer without a wash then you might expect, while others should be washed more often.

The American Cleaning Institute (ACI) offers tips to help determine how often is best to wash common items, to help keep those germs at bay.

  • Clothes depends on the type — certain things like underwear, socks, tank tops or T-shirts should be washed after one use, while outer clothing can be worn a few times before washing (unless they are visibly dirty). Jeans can be worn about three times before needing a wash.
  • Bath towels should be washed after three to five uses, according to ACI. Here’s the key, hang up your towel when you are done bathing. Towels need to be allowed to dry before they are used again. Bacteria like E-coli can grow on bath towels and dish towels that are wet.
  • Pajamas can stretch a little longer, too. They should be washed after three or four wears. If you shower before bed, you may even be able to put off the wash a little longer.
  • Bed sheets might not be need to be washed as often as you thought, unless you are sick. ACI recommends you wash your sheets every two weeks, but more often if you sweat a lot at night.
Considering the average American family washes about 300 loads of laundry a year, this may help give you extra motivation to get folding. Keeping our essentials clean has a far greater purpose. It can help prevent you from getting sick and stop the spread of disease to others in your household.