Your cleanest dirty shirt, a guide to staying fresh.

Posted:Fri Dec 5, 2014
Posted By:John Rothrock

Have you ever wondered how many times you should wear your clothes before cleaning them? Wouldn’t it be nice if clothing manufacturers included this information on the care label? Look around, we are instructed all the time by different industries of how to care for our investments to extend their useful life. We are told to change our oil every 3,000 miles, paint the house every 5 years and even how often to charge your iPhone battery. But no one ever tells you how to properly care for your wardrobe.

Coming from a dry cleaner and a businessman, you probably think I am going to tell you to clean your clothes after every time they are worn. My advice might surprise you. Everyone is different and there are many factors that should be considered including weather conditions, physical activity level, and whether the item gets stained.

The most common methods used to determine when to clean your garments are great rules of thumb, but are not fool-proof. Most of us use some combination of these different methods when deciding if an item should be cleaned. To best protect your wardrobe, use this information daily as you undress because it will help you choose on whether to rehang your outfit or toss it into the hamper.

  • Sniff Test: If it stinks, clean it. If it doesn’t, you can wear it again.
    • Pros: Fresh smelling garments can be worn again.
    • Cons: Unseen stains can become permanent or weaken the fabric, shortening the life of the garment.
  • Wrinkle Method: If you can hang, steam, or iron the wrinkles out, you can wear the garment again.
    • Pros: Clean looking garments can be worn again once the wrinkles are removed.
    • Cons: The heat from ironing can oxidize soil or stains making them difficult if not impossible to remove.
  • Time Worn Method: This one is a simple formula of how long the garment is worn. If it’s only been a few hours, wear it again.
    • Pros: Garments worn for short periods of time (4 hours or less) can be worn again.
    • Cons: When worn at special events such as weddings, items are subject to cosmetics, beverages, perfume, hair spray and perspiration. Even if only worn for a short time, items may need to be cleaned as a result.
    • Cons: Unseen stains can become permanent or weaken the fabric, shortening the life of the garment.
  • Rotation Method: After wearing, clothes may be placed at the back of the closet and rotated forward as other garments are worn.
    • Pros: This method allows clothes to air out and keeps consumers from wearing the same garments too close together.
    • Cons: Depending on the amount of clothes you have, it may be several weeks or even a month before the item is worn again. As a result, soil and stains left untreated for that amount of time can become permanent or weaken the fabric, thus shortening the life of the garment.

The Drycleaning & Laundry Institute developed the following guidelines based in part on a survey of consumers. They asked people, “how often they wore specific garments before having them professionally cleaned.” It is important to note that this is simply a guide, garments may need to be cleaned more frequently depending on heat and activity level during the garment’s use and how much the wearer perspires or if the item gets stained. Obviously, since we live in Oklahoma, items worn during the summer months will need to be cleaned more frequently than the chart suggests.


Garment Care Guidelines
OuterwearMonthly during the season & then before storage
TuxedoEvery other wearing
EveningwearAfter every wearing
DressEvery third wearing
SkirtEvery third wearing
BlouseEvery other wearing
Cotton Laundered ShirtAfter every wearing
Polo ShirtAfter every wearing
Khakis or Casual PantsEvery other wearing
Dress PantsEvery third wearing
Wool SuitEvery third wearing
Lightweight SuitEvery third wearing
Sport Coat or BlazerEvery third wearing
Wool SweaterEvery third wearing
Silk SweaterEvery other wearing

I offer these additional recommendations for cleaning clothes. Matching sets such as 2 piece suits should be cleaned together or at the least every other cleaning to avoid color and finish differences. Dry clean only garments should be cleaned just as often as your laundered garments. Finally, if you sweat in the garment, it should be cleaned right away.

If you apply the same rationale to your clothing as you do your car, cell phone or other possessions, it just makes sense. Taking proper care of your clothing will prolong the life of your investment, ensure you always look your best, and save you money.

John Rothrock

About the Author

John Rothrock

John Rothrock is the President and CEO of Yale Cleaners, a local family business focused on providing high quality, same day dry cleaning with exceptional customer service. He earned a degree in Business Administration in 2005 from The University of Oklahoma. John is a graduate of the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute and is a Certified Professional Drycleaner (CPD), Certified Professional Wetcleaner (CPW), and a Certified Environmental Drycleaner (CED). Having all three of these certifications makes him a Certified Garment Care Professional (CGCP), a distinction held by few people in the dry cleaning industry.

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