Is Washing Clothes Twice Bad? (Back To Back Cycles)

We’ve all been in this situation before: you hurriedly toss some clothing in the washing machine as you race to finish the tasks on your to-do list. By the time you’ve completed your tasks, made dinner, put the dishes away, and tucked yourself in for the night, the laundry is just a distant memory. 

However, as soon as you open your eyes the following day, you remember the load of clothes you left in the washing machine. Ugh! You know, as soon as you pull out your wet clothes, you will be hit with that musty smell and have to rewash the entire load. 

Besides wasting time and energy, what happens to the fabric when there is an immediate second wash?

If washing clothes on back to back cycles only happens on the odd occasion you can relax and know there probably won’t be any long term damage to your clothing.  However, regularly over washing clothes can cause excessive wear and tear by causing fabric to thin, colors to fade and stitching to become weakened.

If you are a chronic re-washer, don’t fear, we will go over the good, the bad, and everything in between that you need to consider when sending those clothes through a repeat cycle.

Is washing clothes twice bad for the fabric?

To understand how the washing machine might damage clothing, we first must take a closer look at how it gets them clean in the first place. 

After your washer fills with water and combines with the detergent, the solution will begin to flow around the garments. The detergent has specific molecules that, when exposed to oil and dirt, will attract it. It efficiently pulls the grime and grease off your clothing and onto the molecules of the washing liquid.

The washing machine’s drum will spin in one direction and then the other. This movement agitates the clothing, which causes garments to brush against each other and expel any dirt embedded in them. 

While water, detergent, and agitation are all necessary to get rid of dirt and germs on your clothing. The friction that occurs in washing machines is what removes stains, but it is also what causes a garment’s shape and color to distort. It can prematurely wear out fabrics, loosen stitching and buttons and damage any specialty trims or details. 

So yes, back-to-back washing of clothes can eventually lead to damage and wear. But the good news is that washing clothing is a relatively gentle process. An occasional rewash or two should not negatively affect the condition or lifespan of your clothes.

Image by Алексей Филатов on Canva Pro

When do you need to wash your clothes twice?

Almost everyone has done it at least once. You remove your clean clothes from the washing machine, and a sour smell fills the air. It’s unpleasant, but it’s also very frustrating. Each load takes time, uses energy, and costs money. When you wash a load of clothes, and they come out stinky, or they aren’t clean, it’s an annoyance.

Many people just rewash their clothes with more detergent or hotter water. Re-washing might help in the short term, but it’s not a long-term solution and doesn’t solve the real problem of why the clothing needs to be washed a second time in the first place. Also, it wastes soap, water, and power.

The first step is figuring out why the smell is there or why the stains didn’t come out. Let’s look at the reasons why clothes might need a back-to-back washing cycle.

Musty smell

If you leave your clothes in the washer overnight, you probably won’t be surprised to find that they smell like mildew. Bacteria, mold, and mildew can grow and spread quickly in a dark, wet place like a washing machine. These can build up in your clothes over time, giving them a smell that won’t go away. Sometimes, all you need is a kitchen timer to make sure you don’t forget to move your clothes into the dryer.

Still dirty

The washing machine is designed to clean clothes and eliminate bacteria and odor. However, if you pull out an item of clothing fresh from the washing machine and still see stains, a second wash may not help you.

Some stains are known to be hard to get out, and regular detergent won’t work on them. The most common tough stains are:

  • Oil and grease
  • Tomato sauce
  • Red wine
  • Blood
  • Grass stains
  • Mustard
  • Ink
  • Chocolate

Running stained clothing through the washing machine can cause the stain to become more embedded and more challenging to remove. If stained clothing is the reason you rewash your clothes, think twice! Another cycle may just make it worse in the long run.

Image by pixelshot on Canva Pro

How to prevent the need to rewash your clothes

Now that you know why you need to run those back-to-back cycles, let’s see some solutions to help your clothes come out clean and smelling fresh the first time.

Detergent quantity

Did you know that using too much detergent can not only be damaging to your clothes but can contribute to mildew and odor? Our newest washing machines are often built to be water and energy-efficient, which is excellent news. With the quantity of water discharged, extra soap will not be rinsed away correctly. This build-up can trap bacteria and odors and lead to that musty smell.

Extra rinse

If you have detergent build-up, adding an extra rinse cycle will allow all the excess detergent to be washed away. If you know, you cannot immediately transfer your wet clothes to the dryer, set your washing machine to rinse your clothes twice. This will ensure bacteria are washed away and prevent them from smelling. 

An extra rinse cycle requires more water and energy, so an alternative would be to add white vinegar to the wash cycle. Vinegar will help break down any embedded residue from the detergent and safely disinfect clothes. 

Don’t leave them sitting in the washer

For optimal freshness, remove your clothes as soon as possible after the wash cycle ends. However, suppose life gets in the way, and you must let your wet laundry sit in the washer. In that case, experts from the Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science suggest not letting them sit for more than eight hours to prevent mildew.

If you make sure to add in that extra rinse cycle, you can safely wash a load before bed and not think about it until morning. 

Pre-treat stains

If you have tough stains, don’t count on your washing machine to get them out for you. Try a pre-treat stain detergent rubbed or sprayed directly on the stain. Some washing machines have a soak or a pre-wash option to help loosen set-in stains before washing. 

Take home message

Rewashing clothes in back-to-back cycles is probably harmless if done on occasion. However, washing clothes is bad when done habitually. Over time, detergents and friction from the washing machine can damage fabrics and fade colors. 

If you are someone that often leaves your wet laundry lingering in the washing machine, there are some easy fixes to prevent a rewash. Try an extra rinse to eliminate any lingering detergent residue or bacteria. Remember, clean clothes should be able to go for about eight hours before they start to smell sour so set a timer if you tend to forget! 

If you find yourself needing more than one wash cycle to get out all the dirt, grim and stains, then consider pre-treating or pre-soaking stained and dirty clothes.  Adding a cupful of vinegar to the wash will help break down bacteria and any leftover residue from soaps and detergents.

Washing machines exist to make our lives easier, so make the most of it and make sure you are using them correctly so you can have fresh and clean clothes in one cycle!