Can You Get Sick From Dirty Clothes? This Is How Often You Should Wash Winter Staples

There's nothing quite as satisfying as having a clean wardrobe, but washing clothes is a huge pain. If I could afford to have all of my clothes dry cleaned, I would. Instead, I wear my stuff until I feel like I absolutely have to wash it, especially during winter. But my laziness could have unfortunate consequences — microbiologists say your dirty winter clothes could make you sick. Charles Gerba, Ph.D., told the New York Post on Jan. 22 that bacteria can build up on our winter clothing, which can make us more susceptible to illness. It makes sense when you think about how many surfaces you touch on a daily basis — Medical Daily reported in 2015 that the bacteria found on dirty clothes puts you at a higher risk for infection. If you're re-wearing your gloves, scarf and coat without regularly cleaning them, things can get pretty grimy.

So how do you balance a complete unwillingness to wash clothing with your desire to stay healthy? Thankfully, the experts don't recommend dry cleaning your winter coat every day, but you should probably be washing your winter staples more frequently than you probably are right now.

There's not a definitive guide to how often you need to wash your winter clothing — most resources recommend using your best judgment — but I've gathered some estimates to help you out.

1Wash Your Winter Coat At Least Twice A Season

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Gerba tells the Post that he recommends a coat cleaning a few times a season, but most clothing websites seem to agree that you can get away with washing your winter coat twice a season, according to GQ. Wash it when it starts to get chilly outside so it's clean before your first wear, and keep an eye on it throughout winter and give it another cleaning about halfway through the season. Then if you're feeling ~extra~, you can give it another wash before you store it for the spring and summer — just to keep things nice and spiffy.

2Wash Your Gloves At Least Once A Month

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Gloves are a godsend during frigid weather, but does anyone actually wash them? Maybe I'm alone in this, but it never even occurred to me to throw them in the dirty laundry pile. According to the Rachael Ray Show, gloves should be washed three to five times during winter, which equates to once a month or more. It makes sense — you wash your hands multiple times a day, and in cold weather, your gloves are touching all of the things your hands usually would. If you wear leather gloves, make sure to get them handled by a pro or wash by hand, and follow the care instructions for other kinds of hand-warmers.

3Wash Your Scarf At Least Once A Month

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Much like gloves, a good winter scarf can make cold weather bearable. But think about how often your scarf is touching your face and hair — it's not exactly surprising that it can get germy pretty quickly. Throw it in the wash (or hand wash it, depending on care instructions) at least once a month, or three to five times a season. Gerba tells the Post that you should wash your scarf immediately if you've lent it to someone, because you don't want to breathe in their germs. True.

4Wash Your Leggings After Two Wears

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The best thing about winter is having an excuse to wear leggings all the time. It's like getting a free pass to wear your pajamas to work every day. If you're like me, you probably just leave your leggings on your bedroom floor in preparation for the next wear, but you and I both should be throwing these in the washing machine every two wears, according to Lifehack. You might be able to stretch that to three wears, but you should definitely wash them after three days.

5Wash Your Beanie At Least Once A Month

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Beanies protect your ears from the cold and are also ridiculously cute, so while I'm a frequent wearer, I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I never think about washing my favorite beanie. Like many of the things on this list, once a month seems to be the answer here. Because your beanie touches both your hair and skin, it can collect oils from your hair and dead skin cells, which isn't the most pleasant thought. If you want to be more thorough, you can wash your beanie every two weeks.

We still have two months left of winter, which means that you still have time to upgrade your washing habits. It may feel like a drag, but you could be helping out your immune system. I'm begrudgingly going to do laundry after work today and hope it pays off.