How Long Before You Wash?
- 1 out of 3 respondents believed their laundry habits have gotten grosser during the pandemic.
- 1 out of 5 respondents did not wash their underwear after every wear.
- 36% of respondents said they have gone commando before.
Looking into laundry habits
Since the onset of COVID-19 last year people have been thinking about personal hygiene more than ever before. This isn't limited to washing hands but carries over to laundry habits as well.
Even though there is renewed focus on personal hygiene, all the time spent at home seems to have negatively affected laundry habits. We surveyed a group of over 1,050 U.S.-based participants about their laundry habits to determine whether these habits have become grosser since the pandemic started.
This survey polled respondents about their various laundry habits in order to determine how they had changed over the past year. Did they differ between generations and gender? What behavior was deemed as gross and have people become grosser in terms of laundry since the pandemic? Keep on reading to find out how laundry habits have changed, and see how gross your laundry habits are.
One wear or two? How often do people wash their clothes
To get an overview of people's laundry habits, we started by asking them about the items they washed after every wear.
When we asked respondents which clothes they washed after every wear, most of the answers were what we expected. However, there were still some surprising responses. Despite underwear being washed the most often after each wear, one out of five respondents wore their underwear more than once before throwing it in the wash. When looking at men, the stats changed to about one in four that did not wash their underwear after every use.
These numbers also differed according to generation: 85% of Baby boomers washed their underwear after every wear, compared to only 79% of Millennials.
This discrepancy carried over to washing socks as well. 75% of Gen Xers washed their socks after every wear, compared to 69% of Baby boomers and 63% of Millennials. Athletic wear was another clothing category one would think to wash after one wear, but the number of people who actually did so was significantly less: 55% of Gen Xers washed athletic wear after every use, compared to 47% of Millennials and 39% of Baby boomers. However, since athletic wear has become a staple in fashion dubbed "athleisure" and is no longer exclusively worn for exercise, this could explain why it was not being washed after every wear.
Another surprising item that was not washed after every wear were face masks. Only 31% of respondents washed their masks each time, despite the CDC recommending that masks be washed "at least daily".
When does laundry become gross?
Next, we asked our respondents how many times an item could be worn before it was considered gross.
Men and women seemed to have different ideas about how many times something could be worn before it became gross. On average, men would wear something for longer before washing it when compared to women. This differed only when it came to tank tops, athletic wear, swimsuits and yoga pants.
Of the people who didn't wash items after every use, the overall number of times a clothing item was worn ranged between 3.0 and 7.3 wears. As expected, underwear was generally washed most often overall: Across both sexes, our respondents washed their underwear after 3.1 wears. Interestingly, women were more likely to wash their shirts after slightly fewer wears than underwear (3.0 times). Socks and shirts overall followed closely behind and were both washed after 3.3 wears, despite recommendations that shirts, socks and underwear all be washed after every wear.
On average, jeans were worn 6.3 times before being washed – but not everyone kept track of how often they washed their jeans. One in 10 respondents could not remember the last time they washed their jeans. Towels were also used about 6.5 times before being thrown in the wash. Other items such as pajamas, sweaters, and yoga pants were only washed after 5 or more uses.
Nearly 45% of female respondents believed that bras should be washed after 3 wears or less, or it would be gross. However, the responses indicated that women wore a bra 6.2 times on average before washing it. With many women struggling to find well-fitting and comfortable bras, it is not surprising that some people end up wearing their bra a bit longer before washing it, especially if it is their favorite one.
What are the most common laundry habits?
We also looked at how laundry habits vary between men, women, and across generations.
Our survey revealed that men were less likely to do their own laundry all of the time. Fifty-six percent of women said they never have someone else wash their laundry, compared to 39% of men. Millennials were also more likely to have someone else do their laundry; Just 43% said they never have someone else wash their clothes for them, compared to 62% of Baby boomers.
Among respondents who had someone else wash their laundry, it was usually done by their romantic partner or spouse (67%). The next most common laundry helper was a parent, specifically for those in the Gen X and Millennial age groups. Surprisingly, only 9% of respondents had a dry cleaner wash their clothes. Similarly, only 10% of people had a maid or housekeeper do their laundry.
As a rule of thumb, the lint filter of your dryer needs to be wiped clean before and after each use to prevent accidental fires. Additionally, the dryer vent should be cleared at least once every year. Despite these recommendations, only 56% of respondents said they cleaned the dryer filter after every use and only 26% cleared the dryer air vent yearly. However, 2 out of 3 women cleaned the dryer vent after every use, compared to less than half of all men.
When looking at laundry detergents, Tide was the most popular brand at 56%. Next was Gain (38%), followed by Purex (23%), Arm & Hammer (22%), and finally, Cheer at 13%.
What is gross and what is okay?
Lastly, we asked our respondents to rate the grossness of different situations, and their experiences with going commando (no underwear).
While going commando may have health benefits for men and women, it is considered a "gross" habit by some. Overall, 36% of respondents had gone commando before. Millennials were the most likely to have done it (39%), followed by Gen Xers (34%), with Baby boomers being the least likely to have gone commando before (23%). On average, respondents went commando 2.5 days per month, with women going commando 2.2 days per month and men 2.9 days.
When looking at hypothetical laundry scenarios, 52% of respondents felt that it was not gross to go sockless if all their socks were dirty and they didn't have time to do laundry. In terms of going commando, 57% of respondents thought it was gross, even if their laundry machine was broken. When looking at masks, 52% did not think the five-second rule applied, and that it would be gross to put a mask back on after dropping it on the ground. When we took things out of the hypothetical and into real life, one in three respondents stated that their laundry habits had become grosser since the pandemic started.
Grosser laundry habits
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This study uses data from a survey of 1,057 people located in the U.S. Survey respondents were gathered through the Amazon Mechanical Turk survey platform where they were presented with a series of questions, including attention-check and disqualification questions. 51% of respondents identified as male, while 49% identified as female. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 81 with an average age of 37. 58% of respondents were Millennials, 26% Gen Xers, 14% were Baby boomers, and 6% were Gen Zers. Participants incorrectly answering any attention-check question had their answers disqualified. This study has a 3% margin of error on a 95% confidence interval.
Please note that survey responses are self-reported and are subject to issues, such as exaggeration, recency bias, and telescoping.
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