Many of us try to keep our homes as orderly as possible by working cleaning regimes into our busy lives. But we’ll normally focus on the obvious places – like kitchens and bathrooms – that get dirty and grimy. So it’s easy to overlook bedding and other parts of the home where germs and bacteria are allowed to thrive. After all, who knows how often bedding needs to be changed to be considered clean? And what about bath mats or pillows or cuddly toys? It’s a minefield! Thankfully, though, experts have finally revealed how often we should wash our sheets and other items we might neglect.
It’s probably fair to say that many of us will have never considered cleaning our purses or wallets. Yet we’re transferring germs from our hands onto the items each time we reach for them. And that’s without considering the dirty notes and coins we fill them with. After all, these are often laden with thousands of microbes, according to Time magazine.
The website Good to Know suggests that we clean our wallets once a week. But there’s no need to run expensive purses through the washing machine and risk ruining them. Instead, a gentle hand wash will suffice for cotton pieces. Leather can be cleaned with alcohol-free wipes.
19. Shower curtains
In a practical sense, shower curtains are there to stop us from getting water all over our bathrooms as we get clean. Though have you ever stopped to think about how much grime they can accumulate? After all, they live in damp, humid conditions and provide the perfect breeding ground for germs to flourish.
The website Expert Home Tips suggests washing your shower curtain monthly to keep bacteria and mold at bay. Most of them are equipped with care labels, which will reveal the best way to clean them. Follow the instructions outlined and ensure that you wash the curtain on the highest advisable setting to eliminate germs and keep your bathroom pristine.
We use bath towels to dry our freshly cleaned bodies. Yet they can be risky to our health. That’s because rubbing our skin with fluffy fabric can have an exfoliating effect, meaning we shed dead skin every time we use a towel. And because towels are often left damp, they provide the ideal environment for germs to thrive.
Ralitsa Prodavova – who is a cleaning expert – told Metro that bath towels should be washed after three or four uses. Hand towels should also be changed every two days; anything less than this could cause skin irritation and acne outbreaks. They should both be washed at high temperatures to kill germs.
A 2015 study from the mattress company Ergoflex found that men wear their pajamas for two weeks on average before throwing them in the wash. Women are even less vigilant – going 17 days between washes. And you might think that reusing sleepwear is a fairly harmless thing to do – but it could actually be bad for you.
Skin cells that we shed overnight can become stuck in our pajamas. In turn, these fragments can contain microorganisms. Some – like E. coli and staphylococcus bacteria – can cause health problems. Good to Know recommends washing your jammies after two wears – and definitely not wearing them for longer than a week.
Jeans are one of the few items in your house that you may well be cleaning too often. To keep your denim looking their best, you should only clean them every six months, according to Hiut Denim Company founder David Hieatt. That way, they will mold to your body and movements – creating a bespoke look and the best possible fit.
The no-wash approach to jeans has been advocated by experts in the industry – including Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh. He advises spot cleaning denim with a toothbrush or a sponge and a small amount of detergent. You can also stick your jeans in the freezer or just hang the trousers out on the line to freshen them up.
According to the BBC, we spend around a third of our lives sleeping. So it’s important to keep our beds comfortable and clean. And the website House Beautiful recommends that we give our mattresses a thorough clean every six months. If you’re wondering why that is the case, the website adds that the average adult expels 285 milliliters of fluid every night and 454 grams of dead skin per year.
Regularly cleaning your mattress will help remove dead skin, pests and dust. To do so, strip your bed and vacuum your mattress on both sides to remove hairs and dirt. After that, sprinkle baking soda across it and vacuum again after a while. Then allow the bed to breathe for a few more hours before making it once more.
Many of us will be guilty of wearing our bras more often than advised. According to the Good Housekeeping Institute, this item of underwear should be washed after every three or four wears. Any more than that can affect the elastic in the garment – therefore lowering the level of support it gives.
It’s also important to wash bras carefully. To maintain their shape, activate a delicate cycle and ditch the detergent or use a mild alternative. You can even place the garment in a mesh bag to prevent it from getting tangled in the machine. And to dry the bra, lie it flat on a towel and blot gently – taking care not to misshape the cups as you go.
13. Tea towels
This might come as a surprise to you, but your tea towels should be washed every day. Failure to do so could even give you food poisoning, according to one study. Researchers from the University of Mauritius found that 36.7 percent of kitchen towels that were used for numerous jobs sported coliform bacteria. That’s the family E.coli belongs to.
The study’s lead author was Dr. Susheela Biranjia-Hurdoyal, and she warned in a 2018 press statement, “Humid towels and multipurpose usage of kitchen towels should be discouraged. Bigger families with children and elderly members should be especially vigilant to hygiene in the kitchen.”
12. Reusable shopping bags
You’ve probably never even considered tossing your reusable shopping bags into the washing machine. But you might think about doing so after discovering what could be living on them. According to a Science is Us report, 99 percent of reusable bags contain coliform, E.coli and even fecal matter.
The germs that our reusable shopping bags harbor are, of course, unpleasant by themselves. But their presence is even more worrying when we consider that we’re using them to carry food – some of which might be unwrapped. Consequently, it’s a good idea to wash these items every few uses to keep them clean.
11. Bath mats
Many of us clean our bathroom floor regularly, and for good reason. But how much attention do you pay to your bath mat? Well, you might want to consider washing them more often, as they can become an overlooked haven for germs and bacteria.
You should wash your bath mat weekly to keep it in tip-top condition. And if you have one, throw your pedestal mat in the wash, too. These seemingly harmless bathroom furnishings can get particularly gross, given that they attract feces particles and urine droplets.
We touch our phones close to 3,000 times each day on average, according to research by Dscout. Elsewhere, a team of American scientists collected 7,000 kinds of bacteria from 51 phone samples. A study published in the journal Germs also found that our phones are ten times grimier than a toilet seat.
Even if you clean your hands properly, it’s all for nothing if you then start scrolling on your germ-laden phone. So experts suggest that we clean our devices every single day. And doing so doesn’t have to take long; simply rubbing it over with an antibacterial wipe should do the trick.
9. Duvet covers
It’s not surprising that our sheets can get pretty grimy. Duvet covers may be harboring saliva, sweat, urine droplets, fecal matter and other bodily excretions. So it’s important to clean our bedding regularly to prevent bacteria from building up.
The website Good to Know recommends washing duvet covers weekly. Running them through a hot cycle in the machine will kill any nasties. If you can, it’s also best to dry sheets in sunlight. That’s because UV light kills microorganisms. And to finish the process, iron bedding on a cotton setting to destroy any remaining germs.
According to dentist Dr. Amer Saeed, we should replace our toothbrushes around every 30 days. Waiting until the bristles start to show signs of wear and tear will render the brush ineffective against tackling plaque. It could also cause damage to the gums.
But it’s not just bristle damage that can harm our dental hygiene. Good to Know notes that failing to maintain our toothbrushes can lead to an accumulation of bacteria. This could potentially cause an infection. So, to keep your brush clean, rinse it with warm water after each use and pour some mouthwash over it to disinfect.
7. Couch cushions and covers
Your couch is one of the dirtiest items in your home, according to the company Comfort Works. Incredibly, it adds that the piece of furniture harbors 12 times more germs than your toilet. And this grim figure could be simply down to the fact that we tend to neglect our couches when it comes to cleaning.
Some couches have covers that you can simply remove and wash in your machine, while others have to be treated more gently. And in most cases, you simply have to check the label to find out what kind of care your furniture needs. Ideally, a couch should be vacuumed once a week in addition to a more thorough monthly clean.
6. Washing machine
Given that the sole purpose of a washing machine is to keep clothes clean, you’ve probably never stopped to think that the appliance itself needs regular TLC. The Cleaning Ninja author Courtenay Hartford advises wiping your machine over once a month. It’s particularly advisable to give regular cleans if you mainly use cool cycles.
To keep your washing machine in good condition and eliminate limescale, you can simply throw a dishwasher tablet into the drum and run the appliance on a cycle. Alternatively, clean the components of your machine using hot water, vinegar and an old toothbrush for a more environmentally friendly solution.
Hands up if you’ve ever picked up a pair of worn tights for a second outing. If so, you should probably think twice before you do it again. Because tights are non-breathable, they provide the perfect conditions for bacteria to multiply, Good to Know notes. And that can potentially cause yeast and urinary tract infections.
Dr. Radhika Rible – who is based at the UCLA Medical Center in California – talked to the Everyday Health website about the risks caused by tights. She warned that they can cause feet to sweat more and could cause fungal infections such as athlete’s foot. So it’s advisable to wash your tights after every wear to prevent this from happening.
We use our pillows every night, and yet they’re often overlooked when it comes to cleaning. But this could be a big mistake. British doctor Arthur Tucker analyzed hundreds of pillows used by patients in hospitals run by the London NHS Trust and Barts. It found that dead skin, bugs, mites and their feces made up a third of the pillows’ weight. The average one contained 16 varieties of fungi, too.
Good to Know claims that you should wash your pillows every three months to keep them clean. Fiber, feather and down varieties can be simply tossed into the washing machine – just ensure you read the care instructions first. Where possible, use the highest temperature cycle advised to stop bacteria in its tracks.
3. Cuddly toys
Our kids may love them, but their cuddly toys can be a breeding ground for germs. Research by the disinfectant brand Dettol found harmful bacteria on 80 percent of the toys tested. This could potentially cause food poisoning. Traces of fecal matter were found on one in four as well.
Good to Know advises people to wash their kids’ cuddly toys once a week. Most teddies can be popped in the washing machine to clean, but it’s best to check the labels first. And an overnight stint in the freezer will kill off any undesirable bugs or mites on the more delicate toys. The hardest part is likely to be prying them out of your children’s arms.
We use our dishcloth to wipe down counters in the home, but the rags themselves are likely laden with bacteria. That’s because they come into contact with a range of germs from raw poultry, meat and eggs. Good to Know quoted a study that found that 89 percent of them contained E.coli, which can cause food poisoning and is particularly dangerous to elderly people and children.
Dishcloths are so troublesome that the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency implores people to use disposable items wherever possible and switch to a new one each week. But cloths can be cleaned and reused by washing them in hot soapy water to get rid of food and grease, then leaving them to soak in some diluted bleach for around an hour.
Many of us wash our bedding on a fairly regular basis, though we often neglect to clean our actual duvet. You may think that your duvet acts as a barrier against dust mites and sweat, but both can penetrate through to the fibers beneath. So it’s important to clean your duvet every three months, according to Expert Home Tips.
How you go about washing your duvet will be determined by many factors. It’s a good idea to check the care labels first because they can often be washed at home – provided your washing machine is big enough. But some varieties may be suitable for dry cleaning only.
As mentioned, one person who should know a thing or two about washing denim is Charles V. Bergh. Bergh is the longstanding chief executive officer and president of Levi Strauss & Co. When it comes to his own jeans, however, the boss of the iconic denim brand sounds as though he’s rather negligent. You see, Bergh has made the astonishing revelation that he has not put his Levi’s in the wash for a decade. But there’s actually an excellent reason for this, as the CEO has since gone on to explain.
Bergh started working for Levi Strauss & Co in September 2011; before that, however, he spent 28 years employed by Procter & Gamble. And while at the multinational, the exec – who goes by the name of Chip – worked his way up through the company. Ultimately, then, he became president of the group’s male grooming products department worldwide.
In addition, Bergh was in charge of Procter & Gamble’s work across Australasia, Southeast Asia and India. He played an important part, too, in developing Gillette, which the company acquired for $57 billion in 2005. And during his career, Bergh has both lived all over the world and worked with brands such as Old Spice, Folgers Coffee and Swiffer.
These days, Bergh is not just the CEO and president of Levi Strauss & Co, either; he also has a position on the clothing firm’s board of directors. But technically, the exec is relatively new to working with the denim house when you consider how long it has actually been around for.
Indeed, the jeans firm was originally started back in 1853, and its creator was a German immigrant named – you guessed it – Levi Strauss. Strauss originally hailed from Bavaria but founded the business in San Francisco after traveling to California. And it was in 1873 that the entrepreneur created the first ever pair of blue jeans. The pants, in turn, soon became known as the Levi’s 501 Original.
And from there, Strauss’ company only continued to grow. At first, Levi’s jeans were worn almost exclusively by laborers – particularly lumberjacks, ranchers and workers on the railroads. But from the 1950s and all the way into the 1980s, it became increasingly common to see blue jeans on many different kinds of people.
In fact, jeans arguably reached icon status in the 1960s and 1970s. And Levi’s was at the forefront of this trend – not least because the company had already existed for over a century before the denim garments had become a wardrobe staple. The firm’s Levi’s 501 jeans were still going strong, too.
And Levi’s 501 jeans are still considered the brand’s signature article of clothing. They also continue to be made with a button fastening instead of a zipper, since zipper closures had not yet been invented when they were first designed. Furthermore, the denim pants feature a distinctive mark that makes them easily identifiable.
Yes, as many know, each pair of Levi’s 501s has a leather patch on the back. The material is also emblazoned with an image of two people on horseback with a pair of jeans in between them. And it seems, too, that the individuals are trying to pull the pants apart – albeit in vain. This is a nod to the company’s original tagline when the denim was first designed: “It’s no use, they can’t be ripped.”
Naturally, then, Bergh himself has a pair of Levi’s 501s jeans that he acquired over ten years ago – so before he had even started working for the company. And, surprisingly, the CEO has since confessed that he doesn’t put the denim in the wash. Not only that, but he has also urged others to follow his example.
Yes, in May 2014 Bergh revealed that he is not a fan of using a washing machine to clean his jeans. On that occasion, he was a speaker at a Brainstorm Green conference held by Fortune in California’s Laguna Niguel. And the stunning revelation came during a panel discussion in which Bergh was participating.
At the conference, Bergh was wearing denim that he’d owned for a while, and he used the pants to make his intriguing point. “These are one of my favorite jeans. These jeans are maybe a year old,” he said. “And these are yet to see a washing machine.”
Yet Bergh quickly admitted that he was aware of how strange his revelation may sound. “I know that sounds totally disgusting,” the CEO told the audience, who responded with a laugh. “I know it does. But believe me, it can be done.” And he had a good reason for his actions, too.
Firstly, though, let’s explore the more recent history of jeans. That surge in popularity during the 1950s meant that there was ultimately a large demand for the garments to be made quickly and affordably. And while jeans have remained a highly sought-after piece of clothing, changes in style and the rise of fast fashion have affected their production.
For example, over the years, jeans that are already ripped or faded have become popular. More recently, however, raw or dry denim has had a renaissance. Raw denim is not treated with chemicals, washed or changed in any other way during the jeans-making process, although the fabric can be dyed.
And in turn, raw denim produces jeans that tend to be quite stiff at first, meaning a customer should wear them in over the course of several months. This process therefore gives raw denim jeans a natural stretch and fade rather than any artificial appearance created in the manufacturing process.
What’s more, raw denim jeans supposedly lasts longer than similar pants that have been treated during manufacture. Because the raw-denim versions are better-quality garments, though, that means that they typically come at a higher price. Nevertheless, the innovation has proven popular with denim fans, who also debate whether it is wise or not to wash their own pairs of jeans.
But Bergh has made his stance on the matter clear. You see, following his admission at the Fortune conference, he emphasized his point in an article for LinkedIn. And the piece – entitled “The Dirty Jeans Manifesto” – further explains why the Levi’s boss is firmly against putting denim in the washing machine.
“The news created a hot debate and immediately went viral, receiving media coverage from outlets around the world,” Bergh admitted. “Now, everywhere I go, the first thing people say to me is, ‘Oh, you’re the guy who never washes his jeans!’” But the Levi’s boss knows that there has been precedent on the matter.
Bergh continued, “How to take care of your very best denim has been a subject of debate for decades – particularly among denim aficionados.” And it seems that his feelings on the issue have not changed, either, as he once again brought up the matter five years after that initial remark at the Fortune conference.
Yes, in March 2019 Bergh confessed that he has a pair of jeans that have now not been placed in the wash for a whole decade. And, interestingly, the CEO shared this news with the world as Levi Strauss & Co. launched an initial public offering – or IPO – for the second time. This means that the public are now able to purchase stock in the denim house.
Prior to its 2019 IPO, Levi Strauss & Co. was a private company for several decades. Once the firm went public, however, its market cap hit nearly $8 billion – a number that was a lot higher than had been predicted. Levi’s shares even went up in value by 33 percent on the inaugural day of trading before falling slightly within the following 24 hours.
But the fortunes of Levi Strauss & Co. were arguably overshadowed by talk of Bergh not washing his jeans. Yes, in an interview with CNN’s Markets Now, the Levi’s president reiterated that he has no intention of putting the jeans he has owned for ten years into the wash.
But why does Bergh take this unusual standpoint? Well, it appears that it’s down in part to the amount of water used when someone regularly washes their clothing. Bergh wrote in his LinkedIn piece, “We learned that an average pair of jeans consumes roughly 3,500 liters of water. And that is after only two years of use, washing the jeans once a week. Nearly half of the total water consumption – or 1,600 liters – is the consumer throwing [them] in the washing machine.”
Bergh added, “That’s equivalent to 6,700 glasses of drinking water!” Instead, the CEO encouraged denim wearers to abstain from washing their jeans so often. “My point at the conference – which by the way was all about sustainability – was to challenge the mindset that we need to throw everything into the washing machine after one or two wearings,” he explained.
And that’s not all Bergh had to say. “I made this provocative statement because I believe strongly in what our brands stand for: quality, durability and lasting products made sustainably,” he continued. “I also said it because I believe [that] we don’t need to wash jeans as often as most people think we do.”
Putting jeans in a washing machine can, in fact, actually wear them down. Bergh advised consumers, then, that if they choose not to wash their garments, there’s a better chance that the raw denim will last longer. So with that in mind, how does the Levi’s boss actually manage to keep his jeans fresh?
Well, Bergh went on to reveal that he will spot clean his jeans if necessary, just so long as “they aren’t a total mess.” He added, “And when my jeans really need a wash, I do it the old-fashioned way. I hand-wash them and hang-dry them. Ask my wife – I really do!” So, yes, Bergh doesn’t entirely forgo sprucing up his denim.
And five years after Bergh had written his article, it seems that things had not changed. Indeed, in March 2019 Levi’s shared a statement with Fox Business confirming that Bergh now has jeans he has not put in the wash for a decade. “He will spot treat them or, worst case, hand-wash if needed,” a spokesperson said, “but never [put them] in the washing machine.”
According to Bergh, we could significantly reduce the amount of water we use doing laundry through following his lead. “We knew that 46 percent of water consumed happens after the consumer gets the jeans home and starts washing them,” the CEO wrote in The Dirty Jeans Manifesto.
And Levi Strauss & Co. has come up with a way to combat this problem, too. In 2009 it decided to add a tag to its products for the first time, with the label advising customers on how to look after their garments to both maximize longevity and help the environment.
“[The tag] encourages consumers to be mindful when caring for their Levi’s jeans by washing them less often, using cold water and line drying them,” Bergh explained in The Dirty Jeans Manifesto. He pointed out, too, that denim fans have already been abstaining from placing their jeans in the washing machine for years.
And Bergh encouraged others to take up the mantle and wash their jeans less frequently. “Imagine the global impact we could make if everyone who wears jeans significantly reduced the number of times [they] go into the washing machine?” he wrote. “Not only will the planet be better off, but so will your denim!”
Plus, Bergh revealed, he had divulged the fact that he doesn’t put his denim in the wash in order to get people talking. “While most CEOs wouldn’t show up to an interview in jeans ‒ let alone unwashed jeans ‒ now you know why I did,” he wrote. The businessman added that the revelation was designed “to provoke everyone to think hard about their laundry habits – especially with their jeans.”
And, interestingly, Levi Strauss & Co. is attempting to lower water waste in other ways. That’s right: the iconic denim company isn’t just relying on educating its customers about the subject. In 2011, you see, the firm also launched a product line called Levi’s WaterLess – one that massively cuts down water use during the manufacturing process.
Indeed, as much as 96 percent of water used in the making of jeans can be reduced thanks to Levi’s WaterLess process. And from 2011 to 2014, the company saved more than 203 million gallons of H20 this way. Bergh explained in The Dirty Jeans Manifesto that this quantity is “more than all of the drinking water the City of New York consumes in a month.”
Plus, Levi’s has teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund and brands including IKEA in support of the Better Cotton Initiative. This program supports ecological farming of cotton and helps to decrease the amount of water needed to grow the plant. As Bergh explained, the company is therefore focusing on its “carbon footprint” – and helping consumers to reduce theirs.
Evidently, then, Bergh is passionate about not letting his jeans go in the washing machine. But that isn’t the only hot denim-related debate the Levi’s boss has tangled with. In March 2019, you see, he also weighed in on the notion of putting your jeans in the freezer.
Some aficionados have claimed that freezing your jeans is an alternative to washing them. In fact, in 2011 The New York Times even reported that founder Strauss had encouraged customers to place their jeans in the freezer. In essence, this process could destroy the bacteria that causes the denim to become malodorous.
But Bergh debunked the theory once and for all during an interview with Alison Kosik on CNN’s Markets Now, insisting that it is nothing but a myth. “That’s an old wives’ tale,” he declared while promoting the benefits of abstaining from washing your jeans. “It does not work.”