How to Wash Your Bras Without Destroying Them

Our guide will help you fix your bad bra-washing habits.
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"Basic" may have adapted a negative connotation in recent years, but there's no shame in seeking advice on theoretically simple sartorial conundrums. In our latest column, "Back to Basics," we're here to guide you through life's most common (and important) fashion and beauty concerns.

Figuring out how to properly wash your clothing may be one of the least sexy sides of fashion, even if we're talking lingerie — it just doesn't have the same thrill as clicking "add to cart" or posing for a dressing-room selfie. But washing your bras the right way can actually make them last longer, keep you from saying goodbye to your favorites prematurely and save your pocketbook from getting emptied out too often. It's also beneficial from an environmental angle, as proper washing keeps bras from wearing out to the point that you have throw them away, where they'll eventually end up in a landfill.

So, how do you make sure you're cleaning your bras in a manner that will maximize their lifespan? Read on for a simple guide.

Machine-Washing

If you've never had anyone teach you how to properly wash lingerie, there's a good chance you've just been throwing your bras into the washing machine with the rest of your clothes. Your first step to taking proper care of your bras: Stop doing that. If you're going to machine-wash, start by hooking your bras closed and then placing them in a lingerie wash bag, which is basically a mesh bag that you zip or tie shut (start here, if you're looking to buy one for the first time). This serves the dual purpose of both protecting your bra straps from getting stretched out when they wrap around other items in the laundry and preventing the hook closures from snagging loose-knit items like sweaters and pulling out loops of thread or yarn.

Once your bras are zipped into the lingerie wash bag, make sure to use the "delicates" setting on the washer, if available. If not, any cold water cycle will work just fine. Either way, err on the side of milder detergent. Once the load has run, remove the bras and air dry them. Do not put them in the dryer, as the heat can damage the elastic and cause it to lose its bounce over time. The best way to dry your bras is by placing them on a flat surface or hanging them by something other than the straps (draping them over a clothesline or hanger with one cup on either side works well). 

Hand-Washing

When you're pressed for time, machine-washing will do. But hand-washing is much gentler on your lingerie, making it preferable whenever you have margin for it. To hand-wash your bras, you'll need a large receptacle — be that a sink basin, bucket or plastic tub — that you can use to completely submerge your bras in water. Fill the basin with warm (not hot) water and a tablespoon or so of mild detergent, then drop your bras in. Swish the bras around for a bit to make sure the water and detergent get worked into the bras, and leave them to sit in the water for 10 to 15 minutes.

When you come back, dump or drain the water and fill the basin again with clean water. Work the bras with your hands to remove the detergent, remembering not to squeeze or twist too hard; the whole point of hand-washing is that it should be less physically harsh than a washing machine. Once the detergent is all gone, remove the bras from the water and gingerly remove as much excess liquid as you can without twisting or squeezing the bras. Proceed to air dry as described above.

A few bonus tips if you're looking to go the extra mile? While mild detergent is fine, consider replacing it with a specially formulated lingerie wash for an even gentler rinse if you want to be extra careful. You can also rinse your bras in just water every once in awhile to reduce how frequently you need to give them a thorough wash. Lastly, if you live in a particularly humid environment, consider pointing a fan at your bras so they dry quickly before the trapped moisture can make them go dank and funky-smelling. 

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