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Home Improvement: 32% of Americans Lack Basic Household Skills

Be honest — when was the last time you did a load of laundry without Googling what temperature to wash whites on? 

Tasks like sewing, tailoring your clothes, or even reading laundry tag symbols were once common knowledge, but how many Americans currently know how to do them? We wanted to find out, so we asked 1,000 people which household tasks they can do by themselves. 

Read on to learn:

  1. How many Americans lack basic household skills, such as ironing a shirt, sewing a button, or reading laundry tag symbols
  2. Why men are almost twice as likely as women to lack basic home skills
  3. How Americans would rather spend money on laundry services than learn basic life skills

Domestic Disaster: 1 in 3 Americans Can’t Do Basic Household Tasks 

To get a better idea of how Americans fair when it comes to typical household tasks, we asked 1,000 people which of these types of chores they can do by themselves. According to our data, a surprising number of people lack basic household skills. Suffice it to say that many Americans just need to take an entry-level home ec course. 

So why do Americans struggle with these banal tasks? Part of the problem may be our society’s growing dependency on technology to walk us through everyday problems that, once upon a time, weren’t considered very difficult. Handyman for hire, anyone? To get an idea of just how often Americans rely on Google to solve everyday problems, we looked into search data. 

The high search volume for tasks like ironing a shirt or sewing a button shows just how often Americans run into these issues. As for something as trivial as reading laundry tags, the search volume was relatively low, which may imply that many Americans don’t even bother to read laundry tags when doing their laundry

Battle of the Sexes: Men Fall Short of Women in Literally Every Category 

Once we had a better idea of what types of domestic skills Americans lacked, we dug deeper into the data to see how men compared to women. According to our results, women were superior to men in literally every type of household task listed. 

Only 43 percent of male respondents claimed they could iron a shirt, as opposed to 57 percent of female respondents. Even seemingly simple tasks, like removing stains from your pants or boxer briefs, proved pretty difficult for men. 

Americans Would Rather Spend Money Than Learn Basic Life Skills 

Since Americans seem to struggle with these tasks, we were curious to find out how exactly chores like doing laundry are getting done. According to recent research, the average U.S. household spends an average of $1,866 a year on apparel and apparel services like laundry and dry cleaning. In other words, Americans spend more money on laundry services, which could be a result of them not learning basic household tasks. 

How you spend your money and time is up to you, but it wouldn’t hurt to learn some simple self care, would it? Ultimately, it could save you time and money. To help you with your wardrobe woes, we’ve provided some basic how-to’s for ironing your shirt and sewing on a button below.  

How to Iron a Shirt in 7 Simple Steps 

Ironing doesn’t have to be a hassle — follow these quick steps and you’ll be pressed and polished in no time. 

  1. Start with the laundered shirt you want to iron. Fill your iron with distilled or bottled water to avoid minerals clogging your iron over time. 
  2. Check the manufacturer's settings and shirt’s laundry tag to determine the desired temperature, and heat your iron.
  3. Unbutton the shirt and spread it over the ironing board. Iron the back of the shirt, sliding the iron top to bottom with moderate pressure. 
  4. Lay the sleeves longways on the board and iron them, starting at the armpit and ironing toward the cuff
  5. Pull the shoulder area of your shirt over the narrow end of the ironing board and iron. 
  6. Unfold the collar flat onto the ironing board. Iron from the middle outward
  7. Finish by ironing the shirt front, shifting on the board to iron one side at a time.

 Download Infographic

How to Sew a Button on a Shirt in 7 Easy Steps

Pop a button? Skip the tailor and sew it back yourself following these simple steps. All you’ll need is a needle, thread, and a sewing pin.

  1. Cut 12 to 18 inches of thread from a spool and thread and knot your needle.  
  2. Place the button on your shirt, making sure it aligns with your shirt’s buttonhole.
  3. Starting at the back of the shirt, insert the needle through the fabric and through the first buttonhole, pulling the thread completely through. 
  4. Place a sewing pin on top of the button to hold in place.
  5. Pull the needle through the next buttonhole.
  6. Repeat this process until all holes have been threaded and the pin is secure on top of the button. 
  7. After 8 stitches, add a double knot behind the button, cut the excess thread and remove the pin.

 Download Infographic

On that note, keeping a fresh wardrobe is equally important. Check out our fall line of clothes to see how you can sharpen your image for the coming holidays, and make sure you’ve got a good mix of button downs for every occasion as well.   


This study consisted of one survey question conducted using Google Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,000 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. The survey ran between October 11th–October 13th, 2019.