With a busy job and a three-year-old daughter who seems to get 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 prepared to be convinced. Washing too often causes wear and tear that shortens the lifespan of your wardrobe, while 40 per cent of what we pop in the wash isn’t dirty and could be worn again, according to research by Unilever.
And putting less in the laundry can help to keep the planet clean. Skipping one wash a week could reduce your water usage by more than 2,600 litres a year, as well as keep microplastics out of our water supply.
Still, surely we would all feel a little less than fresh wearing yesterday’s outfits? That is where ‘laundry mists’ come in.
India Sturgis puts seven ‘laundry mists’ that eliminate bacteria to the test – including Steamery Fabric Spray (pictured)
These new sprays work like dry shampoo. They don’t only disguise musty smells with perfume, but actually eliminate bacteria when spritzed on lightly worn clothes.
Some also claim to soften fabric, reduce static cling, stop your clothes wrinkling or even help you sleep.
‘Fabric sprays use enzymes [either plant-based or chemical], plant-based salts or probiotics to prevent and kill bad bacteria in addition to perfumes that just mask the odours,’ says fabric technologist Mairwen Jones.
‘In each case, the salt, enzyme or probiotic inhibits the bacteria from growing and giving off bad smells in the fabric by breaking it down on a molecular level. It’s similar to how washing powders work, but on a greatly reduced scale and without the benefit of rinsing.’
A mist can’t remove stains, and you shouldn’t use these products on knickers, which should be washed daily, or on delicate silks.
But can they give ‘bedroom chair’ garments — those you have worn once but which aren’t ready to go in the wash — a new lease of life?
To find out, I tested seven sprays on tops, bras and workout wear, as well as my daughter’s laundry pile . . .
Steamery Fabric Spray, £15 for 500ml (£30 per litre), steamery.co.uk
What is it? A spray containing good bacteria that claims to neutralise odour-causing bacteria. Spritz this a few times on the source of a smell — the armpit of a T-shirt or inside your trainers — and wear.
Smell? This has a gentle rose and musk floral scent. It worked well on a white cotton T-shirt, giving me one more day of wear. The shirt felt softer too, although I had to spray liberally. And while it had no real impact on my bra, it made all the difference with my smelly polyamide-mix running top.
However, the spray worked best on my daughter’s clothes. It rid her cotton top of a pungent mix of yoghurt and child musk and turned it into something clean and fresh again. Lovely. 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) lifted the smell on a sweaty T-shirt within 30 minutes
What is it? A fresh-smelling spray that claims to eliminate trapped odours.
Smell? Zesty, green citrus fruits. Like the laundry room of a hotel: clean but chemical and too strong. This was the largest and cheapest bottle and gave the best spray coverage. It worked OK on my bra and a cotton top, masking three-quarters of the odours. And it did well on my workout wear, too. After 30 minutes, the smell on a sweaty T-shirt had really lifted, but, bizarrely, my daughter’s cotton T-shirt smelt 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 fantastically on her husband’s polyester sports top
What is it? Made with essential oils, this claims its natural odour-absorbing ingredients will prolong time between washes without damaging cotton fibres.
Smell? Like a high-end spa. My cotton T-shirt still ponged slightly after spraying, but with a nicer top note. I’d have squeezed out one more day of wear at home.
It worked fantastically on my husband’s (very smelly) polyester sports top. And the smell of dog on my daughter’s cotton trousers was replaced by a lovely luxury scent. Yum. 7/10
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) neutralised the musty smell on her bra, but didn’t make a big change to her daughter’s cotton top
What is it? A non-toxic formula scented with eucalyptus, orange and lavender. The Lab Co also does a good range of specialised sprays: one for sports, one for cashmere and wool, a version for bedding and nightwear, and a denim mist.
Smell? A pleasantly grown up, unisex scent — and not too floral. This improved the scent of a long-sleeved cotton top. While it didn’t leave a strong fragrance on my bra, it neutralised the musty smell.
It even did a decent job on a polyester top that my husband had just run 10km in. But there was no big change to my daughter’s cotton top: it still smelt a bit of nursery carpet and meatball sauce. 7/10
COSTLY 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’s recommended for outerwear, car interiors, trainers and luggage.
Smell? Luxurious and nostalgic and a bit zesty. My favourite. The spray refreshed a heavy cotton jumper that stank of damp, not leaving much of a scent but easily neutralising what was there.
My bra just smelled perfumed, if a bit musty still. It was surprisingly effective on a sweaty top, though. And my daughter’s top was also gently refreshed without an overpowering fragrance. 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 smell and didn’t make much of an improvement to 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 per cent of bacteria.
Smell? Very strong, sweet and floral — but not natural. After spraying on a white cotton T-shirt, there was no discernable difference. There was also not much improvement in a pair of Lycra leggings with a few hours of yoga behind them. I gave a more liberal second blitz of the spray an hour later, and the odour is much reduced. There was no noticeable change to my daughter’s cotton and elastane-mix 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 viscose and elastane-mix top, and covered it with its distinctive scent
What is it? It claims to remove odours and revive clothes in 15 minutes using organic compounds with antimicrobial properties.
Smell? Sweet — almost cloying. In fact, I think I preferred the smell of a couple of days’ wear to this.
But it did improve the clothes. It softened a viscose and elastane-mix top, and covered it with its distinctive scent.
It did an alright job on my bra. And I tried this on my husband’s polyester running top, which was incredibly whiffy. There was a big improvement, but it was still unwearable.
The best result was on my daughter’s white cotton T-shirt, which was nicely softened. 5/10