With a busy job and a three-year-old girl seemingly squeezing through endless piles of clean clothes, reaching the bottom of the laundry basket is a never-ending struggle.
So when I heard about the latest green campaign, which aims to persuade us all to wash our clothes less, I was ready to be convinced. Washing too often causes wear and tear that shortens the lifespan of your wardrobe, while 40% of what we wash is not dirty and could be worn again, Unilever research shows.
And putting less in laundry can help keep the planet clean. Skipping a wash per week could reduce your water use by over 2,600 liters per year, as well as keep microplastics out of our water supply.
Still, surely we would all feel a little less cool wearing yesterday’s outfits? This is where “laundry mist” comes in.
India Sturgis puts seven bacteria-killing ‘laundry mists’ to the test, including Steamery Fabric Spray (pictured)
These new sprays work like dry shampoo. They not only mask musty smells with perfume, but actually kill bacteria when sprayed on lightly worn clothes.
Some also claim to soften the fabric, reduce static cling, keep your clothes from wrinkling, or even help you sleep.
“Tissue sprays use enzymes [either plant-based or chemical], plant salts or probiotics to prevent and kill bad bacteria in addition to scents that simply mask odors, ”says fabric technologist Mairwen Jones.
“In each case, the salt, the enzyme or the probiotic prevents bacteria from growing and giving off bad odors in the tissue by breaking it down at the molecular level. This is similar to how powder detergents work, but on a greatly reduced scale and without the benefit of rinsing. ‘
A mist cannot remove stains, and you should not use these products on panties, which must be washed daily, or on delicate silks.
But can they breathe new life into ‘bedroom chair’ clothes – the ones you’ve worn once but aren’t ready to be washed?
To find out, I tested seven sprays on tops, bras, and sportswear, as well as my daughter’s laundry pile. . .
Steamery fabric spray, £ 15 for 500ml (£ 30 per liter), steamery.co.uk
What is that? A spray containing good bacteria that claims to neutralize odor-causing bacteria. Spray it several times on the source of an odor – the armpit of a t-shirt or the inside of your sneakers – and wear it.
Feel? This has a sweet floral scent of rose and musk. It worked well on a white cotton T-shirt, giving me one more day to wear. The shirt was also softer, although I had to spray liberally. And while it didn’t have a real impact on my bra, it made all the difference with my smelly polyamide blend running top.
However, the spray worked better on my daughter’s clothes. It stripped her cotton top of a tangy mixture of yogurt and kid’s musk and turned it into something clean and fresh again. Beautiful. 8.5 / 10
CHEAP & HAPPY
Febreze Unstoppables Fabric Deodorant, £ 4 per 500ml (£ 8 per liter), asda.co.uk
India said fabric freshener Febreze Unstoppables (pictured) removed the smell of a sweaty T-shirt in 30 minutes.
What is that? A fresh smelling spray that claims to remove trapped odors.
Feel? Green and spicy citrus fruits. Like a hotel laundry room: clean but chemical and too strong. It was the biggest, cheapest bottle and it offered the best spray coverage. It worked well on my bra and cotton top, masking three-quarters of the smells. And it worked well on my workout clothes too. After 30 minutes the smell on a sweaty T-shirt was really gone, but, oddly, my daughter’s cotton T-shirt smelled worse after the spray – like a wet dog. 6.5 / 10
Attirecare Garment Spray Prima, £ 16 for 250ml (£ 64 per liter), selfridges.com
India said Attirecare Garment Spray Prima (pictured) worked wonderfully on her husband’s polyester sports top
What is that? Made with essential oils, it claims its natural odor-absorbing ingredients will extend the time between washes without damaging the cotton fibers.
Feel? Like an upscale spa. My cotton t-shirt still puffed up slightly after spraying, but with a nicer top note. I would have had one more day of wear and tear at home.
It worked wonderfully on my husband’s (very smelly) polyester sports top. And the dog smell on my daughter’s cotton pants has been replaced with a nice luxury scent. Yum. 7/10
BEST FOR HIM
The Lab Co Signature Fabric Mist, £ 9 for 150ml (£ 60 per liter), thelabco.com
India said The Lab Co Signature Fabric Mist (pictured) neutralized the musty smell on her bra, but didn’t make a big change to her daughter’s cotton top
What is that? A non-toxic formula scented with eucalyptus, orange and lavender. The Lab Co also has a good range of specialty sprays: one for sports, one for cashmere and wool, a version for bedding and sleepwear, and a mist for denim.
Feel? A pleasantly grown-up unisex scent – and not too floral. This improved the smell of a cotton long sleeve top. While it didn’t leave a strong scent on my bra, it neutralized the musty smell.
He even did a decent job on a polyester top my husband had just run 10k in. But there wasn’t a big change in my daughter’s cotton top – it still smelled a bit of nursery rug and meatball sauce. 7/10
COSTLY BUT EFFICIENT
The Laundress Fabric Fresh Classic Spray, £ 13 for 250ml (£ 52 per liter), selfridges.com
India said The Laundress Fabric Fresh Classic Spray (pictured) was surprisingly effective on a sweaty top
What is that? An antibacterial formula scented with lily of the valley, jasmine, sweet musk, sandalwood and citrus. It is recommended for outerwear, car interiors, sneakers and luggage.
Feel? Luxurious and nostalgic and a bit spicy. My favorite. The spray refreshed a heavy cotton sweater that reeked of moisture, not leaving much of a smell but easily neutralizing what was there.
My bra just smelled of perfume, even though it still smelled a little musty. It was surprisingly effective on a sweaty top, however. And my daughter’s top was also gently refreshed with no overwhelming scent. 9/10
STRONG & SOFT
Dettol Spray & Wear, £ 2.50 for 250ml (£ 10 per liter), tesco.com
India said Dettol Spray & Wear (pictured) has a very strong floral scent and hasn’t improved much on a pair of lycra leggings.
What is that? A lily-scented pink formula for hard-to-wash items such as suits, coats and jackets. It claims to kill 99.9% of bacteria.
Feel? Very strong, sweet and floral – but not natural. After spraying on a white cotton T-shirt, there was no noticeable difference. There was also not much improvement in a pair of Lycra leggings with a few hours of yoga behind them. I gave a second, more liberal blitz of the spray an hour later, and the smell is very reduced. There was no noticeable change on my daughter’s cotton spandex blend top. 3/10
Day2 Dry Wash Spray, £ 7.50 per 200ml (£ 37.50 per liter), amazon.co.uk
India said Day2 dry wash spray (pictured) softened a viscose and elastane blend top and coated it with its signature scent.
What is that? It claims to eliminate odors and revive clothes in 15 minutes using organic compounds with antimicrobial properties.
Feel? Sweet – almost sickening. I actually think I preferred the smell of a few days of wear and tear to this one.
But it improved the clothes. It softens a viscose-elastane blend top and covers it with its signature scent.
It did a good job on my bra. And I tried this on my husband’s polyester running top, which was incredibly baggy. 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