Okay, so we are all aware that we should wash our bras and other sensitive items carefully. Nevertheless, doing a whole separate load of laundry just for bras is not likely to happen when doing the laundry at all is a headache. I am aware that I rarely have the strength or the time to hand wash and hang-dry my bras. Can it really be that bad?
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While putting your bras in the washer or dryer won’t cause them to self-destruct, you’re not doing yourself or your boobs any favors if you skimp on the laundry. It’s difficult to find comfy bras that fit well.
In addition to being pricey, experts advise replacing them every six to nine months. (For the record, I also wear my bras for far longer than that.) You can extend the life of your bras by handling them gently when you wash them.
I talked with Suzanne Barton, executive vice president of design and global merchandising for PVH, one of the biggest apparel companies in the U.S., and bra expert Frederika Zappe, fitter with lingerie brands Freya, Elomi, and others, to get the lowdown on proper bra washing technique and learn about some common mistakes we make with our intimates on wash day.
- You wash your bras far too frequently.
You don’t really need to wash your bra every time you wear it, unlike underwear. It should be cleaned if you’ve been perspiring a lot or if it smells, but if it’s dry and not too dirty, you’re welcome to wear it again (and again). It’s actually up to you when to wash your bra; you don’t have to do it after each use, says Zappe to SELF. Just consider how recently you washed it, how frequently you’ve worn it, and how long you’ve worn it before deciding when it’s time. Consider the weather (has it been particularly hot?) and your recent activities as well.
According to Zappe, washing your bra too frequently causes the fabric and elastic to age more quickly.
2) Your soap is too potent.
Keep in mind that most “normal” detergents could be too abrasive for your bras and can eventually degrade the fabric, advises Zappe. “We advise using a gentle lingerie wash made especially to safeguard your delicates. Of course, avoid using bleach! To extend the life of your bras, Barton also advises using a delicate lingerie-friendly soap because they require a cleaner that will assist safeguard their delicate textiles while it cleans.
3) You don’t have a lingerie bag on you.
Barton encourages hand washing bras, but if you must (and there is no judgment here), she suggests using a mesh lingerie bag. The bag will prevent bra hooks from catching on any other garments you’re washing with them and will prevent bras from stretching out. (First, fasten your bras to prevent them from catching on one another or the bag.)
The straps won’t tangle or stretch out because of the barrier it forms between your bras and other things in the load, according to Zappe. “We still advise washing on low heat, delicate cycle, even if you’re using a lingerie bag.”
4) You don’t maintain your sports bras the same way you do your everyday bras.
While it may be tempting to wash your sports bras in the same load as your favorite pair of leggings, it’s vital to keep in mind that they require a little extra care. According to Zappe, underwired styles should be cared for similarly to a standard bra with underwire: wash them in a lingerie bag, and try to avoid drying them.
5) Your bras aren’t being thoroughly dried.
If possible, dry by air. Machine drying bras can degrade the fabric over time and harm the band’s suppleness, according to Zappe. Also, the underwires may develop bumps as a result of the dryer’s wires slamming against the drum, which is highly painful because it prevents the underwires from lying flush against your body. Barton advises hanging bras by the center gore—the section in the middle of the cups—instead of the straps while air drying them. Stretching out wet bras by their straps can be done.
Although air drying is the most gentle method, Barton suggests drying bras on an extremely low heat setting to minimize damage if you don’t have the time (or patience) to wait for them to air dry.