With a busy job and a three-year-old daughter who seems to be getting through endless piles of clean clothes, it’s a never-ending battle to get to the bottom of the laundry basket.
So when I heard about the latest green campaign, which aims to convince us all to wash our clothes less, I was willing to be convinced. Washing too often causes wear and tear that shortens the life of your wardrobe, while 40 percent of what we put in the wash is not dirty and can be worn again, according to research from Unilever.
And doing less laundry can help keep the planet clean. By skipping one wash per week, you can reduce your water consumption by more than 2,600 liters per year and eliminate microplastics from our water supply.
Still, wouldn’t we all feel a little less fresh wearing yesterday’s outfits? That’s where ‘wax mists’ come in.
India Sturgis tests seven ‘washing mists’ that eliminate bacteria – including Steamery Fabric Spray (pictured)
These new sprays work like dry shampoo. They not only disguise musty odors with perfume, but even eliminate bacteria when sprayed on lightly worn clothing.
Some also claim that they soften the fabric, reduce static, stop your clothes from wrinkling or even help you sleep.
‘Dust sprays use enzymes’ [either plant-based or chemical], vegetable salts or probiotics to prevent and kill bad bacteria, as well as perfumes that just mask the smell,” says textile technologist Mairwen Jones.
‘In both cases, the salt, enzyme or probiotic inhibits the growth of bacteria and the release of bad odors in the fabric by breaking them down at the molecular level. It’s similar to how washing powders work, but on a much smaller scale and without the benefit of rinsing.’
A mist cannot remove stains and you should not use these products on underpants that require daily washing or on delicate silks.
But can they breathe new life into “bedroom armchair” garments you’ve worn once but haven’t washed yet?
To find out, I tested seven sprays on tops, bras, and workout clothes, as well as on my daughter’s laundry pile. . .
Steamery Fabric Spray, £15 for 500ml (£30 per litre), steamery.co.uk
What is it? A spray with good bacteria that claims to neutralize odor-causing bacteria. Spray this a few times on the source of an odor – the armpit of a T-shirt or in your trainers – and wear.
Odor? This has a soft floral scent of roses and musk. It worked well on a white cotton T-shirt, allowing me to wear it another day. The shirt also felt softer, although I had to spray liberally. And while it didn’t really impact my bra, it made all the difference to my smelly polyamide blend running top.
However, the spray worked best on my daughter’s clothes. It stripped her cotton top of a tantalizing mix of yogurt and children’s musk and made it clean and fresh again. Sweet. 8.5/10
CHEAP & CHEERFUL
Febreze Unstoppables Fabric Refresher, £4 for 500ml (£8 per litre), asda.co.uk
India said Febreze Unstoppables Fabric Refresher (pictured) eliminates the smell of a sweaty T-shirt in 30 minutes
What is it? A fresh smelling spray that claims to eliminate trapped odors.
Odor? Spicy, green citrus fruits. Like a hotel washroom: clean but chemical and too strong. This was the largest and cheapest bottle and gave the best spray coverage. It worked well on my bra and cotton top, masking three quarters of the odors. And it also did well on my workout clothes. After 30 minutes the smell of a sweaty T-shirt was really gone, but strangely my daughter’s cotton T-shirt smelled worse after spraying – like a wet dog. 6.5/10
Attirecare Garment Spray Prima, £16 for 250ml (£64 per litre), selfridges.com
India said Attirecare Garment Spray Prima (pictured) worked great on her husband’s polyester sports top
What is it? Made with essential oils, this claims the natural odor absorbing ingredients extend the time between washes without damaging the cotton fibers.
Odor? Like a luxury spa. My cotton T-shirt still pinged a little after spraying, but with a nicer top note. I would have squeezed an extra day at home.
It worked great on my husband’s (very smelly) polyester sports top. And the smell of dogs on my daughter’s cotton pants was replaced by a wonderfully luxurious scent. yum. 7/10
THE BEST FOR HIM
The Lab Co Signature Fabric Mist, £9 for 150ml (£60 per litre), thelabco.com
India said The Lab Co Signature Fabric Mist (pictured) neutralized the musty smell on her bra but made no major change to her daughter’s cotton top
What is it? A non-toxic formula scented with eucalyptus, orange and lavender. The Lab Co also has a good range of specialist sprays: one for sports, one for cashmere and wool, a version for bedding and nightwear, and a denim mist.
Odor? A pleasantly mature, unisex fragrance – and not too floral. This improved the smell of a long-sleeved cotton top. While it didn’t leave a strong odor on my bra, it neutralized the musty smell.
It even did quite well on a polyester top that my husband had just run 10km in. But there was no major change to my daughter’s cotton top: it still smelled a bit like nursery carpet and meatball sauce. 7/10
PRECIOUS BUT EFFECTIVE
The Laundress Fabric Fresh Classic Spray, £13 for 250ml (£52 per litre), selfridges.com
India said The Laundress Fabric Fresh Classic Spray (pictured) was surprisingly effective on a sweaty top
What is it? An antibacterial formula scented with lily of the valley, jasmine, sweet musk, sandalwood and citrus. It is recommended for outerwear, car interiors, sports shoes and luggage.
Odor? Luxurious and nostalgic and a little spicy. My favourite. The spray refreshed a heavy cotton sweater that reeked of moisture, didn’t leave much odor but easily neutralized what was there.
My bra just smelled perfumed, albeit a little musty. However, it was surprisingly effective on a sweaty top. And my daughter’s top was also gently refreshed without an overpowering scent. 9/10
STRONG & SWEET
Dettol Spray & Wear, £2.50 for 250ml (£10 per litre), tesco.com
India said Dettol Spray & Wear (pictured) has a very strong floral scent and wasn’t much of an improvement over a pair of Lycra leggings
What is it? A pink water lily scented formula for hard-to-wash items such as suits, coats and jackets. It claims to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria.
Odor? Very strong, sweet and floral – but not natural. After spraying on a white cotton T-shirt, there was no discernible difference. There wasn’t much improvement in a pair of Lycra leggings with a few hours of yoga behind it either. I gave a more liberal second squirt of the spray an hour later, and the smell is much reduced. There was no noticeable change to my daughter’s cotton and elastane blend top. 3/10
Day2 Dry Wash Spray, £7.50 for 200ml (£37.50 per litre), amazon.co.uk
India said Day2 Dry Wash Spray (pictured) softened a top of a blend of viscose and elastane and coated it with its signature scent
What is it? It claims to remove odors and revive clothes in 15 minutes using organic compounds with antimicrobial properties.
Odor? Sweet – almost sticky. In fact, I think I would have preferred the scent of wearing it for a few days over this.
But it did improve the clothes. It softened a top from a blend of viscose and elastane and coated it with its signature scent.
It did well on my bra. And I tried this on my husband’s polyester running top, which was incredibly delicious. There was a big improvement, but it was still unbearable.
The best result was on my daughter’s white cotton T-shirt, which was nicely softened. 5/10