What Do You Do With Half-Dirty Clothes?

posted by Andrea | 06/20/2012

Recently, I’ve received quite a few questions about what I do with half-dirty clothes — you know, the shirt you wear for part of the day and although it isn’t really “dirty”, it’s also not clean enough to put back in the closet.

I chuckle to myself whenever I read these emails and questions because this has been a topic Dave and I have debated ever since we were married 🙂

My theory has always been, if it’s dirty, it goes in the wash. If it’s not dirty, I’ll simply wear it again the next day or put it back in my closet. If I don’t feel good about putting it back in the closet {or wearing it again} then I know it’s probably dirty enough for the hamper.

Dave, on the other hand, has an elaborate system that involves several piles and an entire shelf in our closet devoted to stacks of “half dirty clothes”. Every time I do the laundry, I ask him if any of his half-dirty clothes need to be washed. He almost always responds, “not yet”.

However, sometimes his half-dirty piles and stacks get out of control — at which point I dump everything into the wash even though he insists the items don’t need to be washed. I’m not a huge fan of his half-dirty piles, but I suppose it reduces the amount of laundry I have to do each week!

So today, I’d love to know…

What do you do with your half-dirty clothes?

Are you like me and simply toss them in the wash?

Are you like Dave and stockpile them in one convenient location for a later date?

Do you hang them in the front of your closet or face the hanger the opposite direction?

Do you drape them over the laundry hamper instead of puting the items all the way inside?

Or maybe you think this is a crazy question that you’ve never thought about before!

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  1. How We Deal with Half-Dirty Clothes | Site Title


    […] actually first broached this topic on my blog over 6 years ago with a reader question… at that time, my response was that I just tossed everything in the wash because I didn’t […]

  2. Linda


    Hello. This article and follow-up comments were interesting! I have a system different from any I read here, so I thought I’d share. PJs that can be reworn are simply folded and put back into the drawer. Worn tops are put back onto their hangers inside out and rehung in my closet. When deciding whether to wear an inside-out top again, I do a little “sniff-n-look” (underarms for smells, fronts for spots), and decide if it’s appropriate to wear for that day’s event. If it’s a short one (church or an evening meeting), lots of things can be worn again. If it’s an all-day event where I might get hot and sweaty, I might prefer to wear a “fully clean” top.

    Thought I’d share my system in case it helps someone.


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much for sharing your tips Linda — I LOVE the inside-out idea and might have to implement it for myself!


  3. Ellenor's Mama


    This only seems to impact me on Sundays, but I generally leave my Sunday church clothes laying … well anywhere ….. to be reworn on Monday.


  4. Julia


    I use white hangers for my clean clothes and tan hangers for the ‘1/2 dirty’ ones and just hang them back in my closet. Each of my kids has their own ‘clothes hooks’ at their level for their pajamas and clothes that can be reworn again. I usually just wash anything left hanging on their hooks on my weekly laundry day.


  5. Kathleen


    I sometimes wear an outfit for the hour or two it takes for me to go to church or teach Sunday school. Because I can pretty much save it for the next day at work, I’ll change immediately and hang it back up. If I feel the need to freshen it up, maybe I’ll put it out on the clothesline for awhile or in the dryer on no heat/fluff with a halved dryer sheet.


  6. Bridgett


    I have an over the door hanger, well . .2 of them with 5 notches for hanger that keeps clothes from touching and one long hook. I use one on the back of our bedroom door for 5 shirts for my husband for the week, the other is on the back of the closet door, where we hang clothes worn, but not work enough to go in the wash. They are really handy hangers and only about $3 a pop!


  7. Angel


    Really? Since I am a widow, and live alone…kids are all grown and on their own, dealing with the dirty clothes on the floor, hahaha! So, I rehang in a seperate closet if 1/2 dirty. (interesting term). I am also a chronic asthmatic, so my husbands clothes never did hang in my closet, you know, one never knows where he has been (climbing around on his buddy’s 54 Chevy). I would never think of sharing my closet with another human being. Well, that’s my take on the whole subject…keep your clothes clean and neat and tidy.


  8. Shana


    I have a peg on the wall that I hang my half dirty clothes until I need to put them in the hamper. Since my daughter and hubby do their own laundry, I don’t know (or care!) what they do with theirs!!


  9. Sommer


    I have a preference for fresh, clean clothes, but I usually wear them again if I didn’t do anything strenuous enough to sweat and especially if they’ve been worn for a short time. I put a shirt/dress/skirt on a hanger separate from the other clothes and wear them the next day or a few days after. Jeans or pants are always worn at least 2 days before washing if they aren’t dirty. It saves water and detergent and helps my clothes to last longer, and helps control the amount of laundry. With the kids’ clothes, they almost exclusively go in the washer because they get genuinely dirty, unless a shirt was worn for 10 minutes then taken off to change into play clothes or because they changed their mind about what they wanted to wear 🙂 My husband’s clothes are always washed after first wear except for pants, which he lays on the floor (irritating) to be worn the next day then tosses in the hamper (sometimes). Ha!


  10. Laura


    I just wear the same clothes again until they actually do get dirty, which doesn’t take long since I have 2 kids 3 and under! I’ll just drape them across the top of the hamper or over a ledge in my bathroom to remind myself that those are the clothes I’m wearing tomorrow.

    As for my husband, I usually end up putting his clothes away since he leaves them in a heap by his dresser all. the. time. Then I use the smell/sight test to determine if it goes in the hamper or not. If it’s clean enough, it goes back in the drawer or closet. If it really was dirty, that’s his problem. 🙂


    Dana Reply:

    So glad I’m not the only one with those routines.


  11. Sonja


    If I don’t have a full load of laundry I wash my husbands half dirty clothes. He hangs his in the laundry room on hooks so it is really easy just to grab them and throw them in! I feel wasteful if I don’t have a full load! If mine are not “fresh” enough to go back in the closet they are not “fresh” enough to wear in my opinion. I don’t do piles! I HATE piles! Piles = clutter to me. HOWEVER, I do have an over the door hook that I use in my bedroom for my “after work” clothes that I change into when I get home every evening.


  12. Debbie


    We have baskets in our closet specifically to hold “half-dirty” clothes. I usually wear my clothes 2 or 3 days depending on what they are before I toss them into the hamper. I also have a basket in my kids’ closet to hold their “inside” shorts and their PJs so their clothes aren’t tossed all over the floor.


  13. Michelle


    I usuallyput it on a hanger and let it “air out” over shower rod for a day or two then back to the closet.


  14. Amanda


    I’m the same as you! I think it’s either clean or dirty-there’s no gray area. I do have a couple hooks in the closet for things like pjs, which I rewear several times. Everything else is either in the wash or back in the closet.


  15. KimH


    I’ll wear jeans 2-3 times depending on how they look. Once they lose their crispness, they’re ready for the washer.
    Some blouses I’ll hang up & wear again and some I wont. Nothing wrong with a 5 minute wash and then you dont have to worry about it.
    I have some maxi dresses I wear around the house that I wear a lot.. and dont wash every time I wear them.. Doesnt bother me in the least.


  16. Jenny


    I hang the half-dirty clothes up inside-out in front of all of my clothes. If I don’t wear them again comes my next laundry day I then will wash them with my dirty clothes. And yeah… we each have a laundry day in our house. Hubby does his own clothes so are the older kids. We organize our laundry days by age. The youngest takes Monday and hubby, the oldest, takes Friday. We usually do our rags on weekend or after the person’s turn of the day. My kids wash their bed sheets on the same day they do their laundry and I wash ours on Friday before Hubby comes home from work. Our kids learned how to do laundry at age 5 and how to make (help make) their beds at age 3. They love it. Once they got a hang of doing the laundry and making the bed, these chores became effortless and it is good character training at the same time.


  17. Nimita


    We have a dedicated open-closet space to hang half-used clothes. This way, They get effectively aired out and are within plain sight for the next use…


  18. Doreen


    In our house, clothes are either dirty or not. Generally, the only clothes that get washed after each use are the ones I wear to the gym.. As a rule, we Americans tend to wash our clothes too often, as well as use the dry cleaners too much. It’s bad for the environment, and bad for our clothes.

    The more pressing (no pun intended) question here is…why are all you young ladies washing your husband’s clothes?! Take it from someone older (and in this instance, wiser), that’s not a good idea, unless you love doing laundry. And if you have children, they can start no later than 10 to learn how to do their own as well.


    Karen Reply:

    I agree about most clothing being washed too often. I am not young and I usually do all the laundry because I am a WAHM, so I am the one who is here to separate laundry by color, etc. I also line dry it all, so am able to get it sheltered if it starts to rain. We don’t own enough clothing to have each person do a full load of, say, whites and light colors without running out of clothing. But everyone here knows how to do it and has taken turns doing it. When DS had still folded (!!!) clothing mixed with dirty in the hamper he got volunteered to do ALL the laundry for a week.


    Gimpy Reply:


    Sage advice here.


  19. kathleen viviano


    We are fairly boring here when it comes to determining if clothes are dirty enough to be washed. We tend to wear outfits day in and day out until they are, indeed, dirty and require washing. In those rare instance when this repeat wearing of clothes does not work for an occassion, say you want to go to the doctor in clean clean clothes, the “half dirty” clothes sit in a pile until you can get home and get dressed in them again with the special outfit, which is not dirty at all, getting put away in a drawer or in the closet to be worn on another special day. I tend to get three to four days out of an outfit before I have determined that it is dirty enough for the wash. There are occassions where I get myself dirty quicker like when i’m in the garden and the garden ends up on my shirt and pants — but — if i plan to muck around in the garden the next day, those dirty clothes usually just get left aside for me to put back on to finish the dirty job and only when it is finished do the garden clothes get washed.


    vlelliot Reply:

    Wow, I’m shocked how long some wear clothes. In summer we all change everyday. In winter time we wear things 2 days unless obviously soiled.. In summer I can’t imagine putting on yesterdays clothes after having showering.. I would rather have piles of laundry The only things that are worn over are church clothes unless we go somewhere right after and spend the day in them. And I won’t put a garment back in the closet that smells of cologne.


  20. Katherine


    We are still figuring this one out. We just moved into a new place, and I have plans to give us each a 3M command hook for our half-dirty clothes. We previously each had a pile on a bench at the end of our bed, but I hated that rumpled clothes covered my pretty bench, so I don’t want that to become the normal at the new house.