We may just throw in a load of washing when the basket is full enough, but have you ever wondered about how frequently to launder your dish towels, pillow covers, sheets or shower curtains? Canstar unpacks how often ten everyday items should be laundered.
It’s glaringly obvious which items need to be frequently washed – think underwear, socks and gym gear – but some items in our homes can get forgotten. How long has that sponge been sitting in your sink? Or your bath mat sat sopping on the floor? We break down what needs a wash more than you think, and what doesn’t need a launder quite as often.
Sheets come into direct contact with our bodies on the daily. Sweat, dead skin flakes and oils can build up on our sheets in a matter of days. The general rule here is to wash them about once per week, and your pillow cases, too.
Generally, tablecloths should be washed after use. This is true whether it’s an antique lace one from your grandmother, or an everyday polyester tablecloth you’ve had for years. The main reason they need regular cleaning is food stains. Even if you can’t see any directly, it’s likely there are a couple of patches of food or dried liquids hiding in there. Best to wash a tablecloth after one use, so it’s fresh next time you lay it out.
Day to day, dish towels see quite a bit of action. There are usually a couple in rotation in the kitchen, but you might not be changing them as often as you should. Put dish towels in the wash every few days, as they’re used by lots of people. In addition to drying washing-up, they are also often surreptitiously used to mop up spills, dry hands or wipe away food crumbs. Best to farewell the icky bits they’ve picked up with a wash!
Dish cloths and sponges
There are plenty of bacteria living in your kitchen sink. And they can build up on sponges and dish cloths faster than we think. As soon as they start smelling strange, or feeling slimy, you know you haven’t been cleaning them enough. Wash your dish cloths every few days, and always ring them out to dry, rather than leaving them sopping in the sink.
And sponges? You should really replace your kitchen sponge anywhere from once a month to every two weeks, depending on how much you use it. But you can clean your sponge by putting it in the dishwasher and using the “heated dry” setting; by soaking it in vinegar; or even putting it in the microwave briefly.
Bath towels can definitely be used two or three times before they need to be washed, just make sure to hang them up to dry after use.
Ideally, shower curtains should be washed once a month, as mould and mildew can build up. At the very least, once every three months. You can soak a plastic one in a bath filled with warm soapy water, but you can also toss it in the washer with a half cup of white vinegar and a few dirty towels. Just wash them on the delicate cycle. The towels will add friction to help clean the curtain thoroughly.
Chuck your bath mat in the wash once a week. Between washing it, hang it to dry after every shower or bath. Typically thicker and more absorbent than a towel, your bath mat will remain damp for hours if it’s left on the floor. Hanging it to dry will also reduce the risk of mildew.
Obviously, we use protective covers for our pillows and cushions, but what about the inners? Even though they’re covered, pillows can host plenty of microscopic dust mites. So every three to four months, give your pillows a wash. You could have them dry-cleaned if that’s easier, or they’re particularly big or delicate.
Curtains need to be laundered only once or twice a year. That said, if someone in your home suffers from allergies, you might want to wash them more frequently, to remove accumulated dust. It’s likely they’ll need to be either dry cleaned or hand-washed and hung up to dry, so check the label’s instructions.
We don’t often consider washing our mattress, but it’s a good idea to give them a bit of a spring clean every six months or so. Just vacuum the top of the mattress using an upholstery attachment, remove stains using a damp cloth, and protect your mattress by buying a quality mattress pad. That’s all there is to it, really!
Ah, the age old debate. How often do we need to wash our jeans? Some people say every three wears, some people say far longer. Realistically, you can go without washing your jeans for weeks at a time if there’s nothing visibly “dirty” about them. Levi’s recommends washing every tenth wear. Wash jeans inside out, and hang or line-dry them to preserve their fit and prevent fading.
How much power does a load of washing using?
As a rough estimate, a typical NZ home with two adults and two children consumes between 15kWh and 28kWh of electricity per day, according to LG Energy. So how much power does your laundry chores burn through? An average hour-long, standard warm wash in a 2000W machine uses approx $0.50 worth of power. For more on electricity prices in your region check out our story How Much Are You Paying For Power? Average Electricity Costs per kWh in NZ.
Using a cold wash option is preferable, while loading the machine fully each time will save on the extra cost of putting on another load. Washing on a warm cycle can use up to ten times as much energy as a cold wash, which soon adds up. And check the spin speed, machines with a spin speed of 1000rpm or higher will remove a good amount of water, cutting down on drying time. Check for auto-sensing or load size selection, too, so you’re not using more water and energy than you need.
Clothes dryers use a lot of electricity – an average load costs around a dollar to dry. By using your dryer sensibly, and choosing to dry clothes outside on the clothesline, you could save $100 or more a year, as calculated by Energy Wise.
If you’re concerned about your power use, consider whether you’re on the best deal for your household, as you could be getting a better rate. Canstar compares electricity providers so you can compare your options easily:
Canstar Blue’s latest review of NZ power companies compares them on customer satisfaction. The table below is an abridged version of our full results, available here.
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How to get the most out of your wash
- Of course, read the label before you throw anything haphazardly into the washing machine. Textile items come in a variety of fabrics, and require slightly different washing techniques. An item’s label will generally give you washing instructions.
- Don’t overload your machine: give your fabrics the freedom to spin around the drum, and evenly distribute detergent. Avoid filling your dryer to the brim, so that everything can be dried evenly.
- Select the right water temperature: delicate fabrics, like wool or lace, work best in cold water. It saves power, too. Hot water, however, is the best option when you’re trying to remove stains, stench or germs.
- Separate your items wisely: separating lights and darks is a given, but there are several other ways to divide clothing to ensure cleaner results. For example, separate dirty or muddy items from lightly soiled clothing, and abrasive fabrics (like denim) from more delicate ones.
If your washing machine is old, or not cleaning as thoroughly as it should, perhaps it’s time to buy a new one! With many different brands on the market, choosing the right one can be tricky. But Canstar Blue’s latest washing machine Customer Satisfaction ratings can help guide you to the best manufacturer. For more on our Washing Machine Award and star ratings, just click on the big button below.