Reader Gabrielle popped this one into the suggestion box:
I know you have offered up a few tips here and there about getting the most wear out of clothing before washing. Could you do a post devoted to these tricks? I remember one with DIY armpit protectors in a coat, and I just can’t seem to find it again.
Every woman has her own level of comfort with dirt and smells and the need to launder her garments. I’m relatively sure that my definition of “dirty” might be a leeeeeetle looser than the average person’s definition of “dirty,” which means that these recommendations may sound vaguely loony to some of you. I’m not saying that they’re foolproof, or recommending that you all implement them immediately regardless of your personal standards of cleanliness or comfort, or even that they’re fabulously innovative … just that I’ve tried them, they’ve worked for me, and that I feel my wardrobe has fared better for their implementation. Pick and choose as you see fit, as always.
DIY clothing shields: The image above is from this website, which sells prefab clothing shields. There are both disposable and washable styles on the market. I’ve also used a pair of peds, folded in half and pinned to the inner layer’s armpit hole. Washable, absorbent, and effective. Also rather hilarious.
Layer: I know that layering in hot weather holds approximately the same appeal as major dental work, but hear me out. Any absorbent under-layer will help prevent the outer layer from getting all stanked up. Even a cotton tank worn under a blazer or lightweight sweater will suck up most of your smelliness. If your outer later fits closely, make sure your under layer fits even closer. Also make sure that the arm holes on the under layer are relatively high and sit in your pits.
Air everything out: Durable pieces like sweaters, blazers, and pants are good candidates for multiple wearings without washing. When the day is done, give potentially smelly areas the sniff test and if they’re passable, turn the garment inside-out and hang it for a day or more of airing. If it’s sunny out and you aren’t worried about fading, hang in the sun. Putting slightly malodorous, slightly soiled clothes into a packed, dark, warm closet will only serve to enhance the stink. Let your clothing breathe.
Spot-treat: It’s unlikely that your “dirty” pants are dirty everywhere, am I right? I mean, unless you did some mud wrestling in them, of course. So get a large mixing bowl, fill with cool water, add a dash of detergent, and spot-treat the stinky or dirty bits either by hand scrubbing or with a clean toothbrush. A machine wash will be more effective and get more of the smells out, but spot-treating is a good stopgap.
Lower your standards: Unless a garment has been worn during strenuous exercise, a very stressful day, your period, a yeast infection, a food fight, or other activities that will cause true smelliness and/or staining, it probably doesn’t need to be laundered. I think that Western society’s obsession with “cleanliness” is a bit alarmist, and that we can conserve water and extend the lives of our garments if we launder them less. Don’t wear clothes that reek and don’t force yourself to wear items you feel are truly soiled, but try to remember that neither working in an office, nor going to classes, nor going out to a movie is likely to fill your clothing with ripe human smells. I mean socks and underwear are a different story, but outer garments? Those might not need washing after every single wear.
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