Now that the weather is changing, you’re probably reevaluating your wardrobe—deciding which pieces still work, and which are getting kicked to the back of your closet till next year.
But it’s also a good time to take inventory of the items you need to let go of and throw away—because they’re worn in, stretched out, or so close to being destroyed, they actually pose a threat to your health. To help you decide which basics should be trashed and replaced, check out our expert guide below.
The typical pair of undies can last up to a couple of years. But they can also fall apart faster than that—wear and tear from constantly being tossed in the washer and dryer could degrade the elastic or make them less stretchy. If they’re not supportive or just don’t fit right anymore, they’re probably not comfortable…and it’s time to junk them.
If the fabric shrank or your body changed shape and they’re now too tight, that’s another reason to throw them out.
Your day-to-day bras
There’s a reason why bras are categorized as delicates. “Even when you’re treating your bras like gold, most start to lose their shape, support, or elasticity at around six months to a year depending on the frequency of wash and wear,” explains Reebok’s senior Innovation apparel designer Danielle Witek. “Water, detergent and heat will start to destroy the structure of a typical bra.”
The general rule is that a bra can last about a year, but that also depends on how many you have in your rotation. So give them a close look: Notice any frayed edges, exposed underwires, or if the straps or band have lost their elasticity. Even if the bra itself seems to be in good shape, toss it if body or breast size changes have made it more or less supportive. Wearing the wrong size bra can result in skin irritation and back and neck pain.
How long it takes for your athletic shoes to break down depends on how you use them. “If you’re running in them, your shoes need to be replaced approximately every six months,” says Miguel Cunha, DPM, podiatrist and founder of Gotham Foot Care in New York City. If you wear them mainly as comfy walking shoes and not for athletics, Dr. Cunha says every 10 months is about right. Ultimately, they’re designed to last about 400-500 miles, he adds.
Your sports bras
The average sports bra can last anywhere from 6 to 12 months depending on how often you wear it. When it can no longer support you and/or feels uncomfortable during a workout, retire it. “Over time, elastics and spandex materials begin to break down pretty quickly with continuous wash and wear,” Witek says.
It’s not just normal wear and tear that can degrade the fabric of your sports bra but any changes in body or breast size. “Be sure you’re checking in with the fit of your sports bras every few months to make sure they’re snug under the bust, throughout the straps and across the centre of the breast,” she advises.
To help them last longer, Witek suggests hand-washing. “Take a day to wash them all by hand with a gentle detergent and hang dry,” she says. The lack of heat and harsh chemicals will keep the garment intact for a longer period of time. If that seems to labour-intensive, at least ditch the dryer and let them air-dry instead.
“Once the socks have a hole from wear and tear, then it’s time to replace it,” says Cunha. That might sound like a no brainer, but it’s easy to forget about a hole by the toe or on the heel…until the lack of support ends up giving you a blister, callous, or other foot skin injury. Even if your socks aren’t battered, consider a refresh after a year. Socks, especially athletic socks, can lose their cushioning and shape by about that time, and considering how much sweat socks absorb when you’re active, they may not be looking or smelling all that great anyway.