First, the good news. Washing your bra too often may do it more harm than good. Don't wash it after each wear and use your activity level to determine the frequency of washing.
"Every few wears should be sufficient, but it does depend on your activity level," says Lexie Sachs, product analyst in the Textiles Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. "For instance, if you're outside on a humid day and end up sweating a lot, you'll want to wash your bra sooner. On the other hand, if you throw a bra on for a couple hours, that might not count as a 'wear.' Washing gets rid of the oils and germs that accumulate, so the more oil you're producing, the more frequently you'll need to launder your bra."
"Over-washing can damage the elasticity, which is essential for providing the proper support," warns Sachs.
Another great tip for keeping your bras in great condition comes from Kayla Inserra of ClosetSpace: never wear the same bra two days in a row to give the elastic time to reshape. "If you rotate numerous bras throughout the week you can definitely plan to wash them after several wears," she says.
Like all clothes, it's wise to check the care label before washing. Most bras suggest hand-washing to prolong the lifespan so, if you're the sort to play by the rules and want to give your delicates the best chance of survival, here's the best way to go about it.
"Bra Expert" and boutique owner Linda Becker recommends hand-washing your bras to help them last longer and give you the support you need. Use lukewarm water in your basin or sink with added washing detergent as per the instructions on the bottle. Becker suggests soaking your bras for up to one hour before rinsing them carefully, patting them dry and reshaping the cups with your hands. Treat them with care at all times — no wringing, squeezing or stretching!
On the other hand, many of us don't have the time, energy or inclination to painstakingly hand-wash our under garments. The next best thing to hand-washing is the gentle or delicates cycle on your washing machine. The gentler and slower the cycle, the more likely your bra will survive with all its bits intact.
Whether you're washing your bra by hand or in the machine, a gentle detergent is a must. Stergene Gentle Care is a popular choice for hand-washing delicates, while Woolite is suitable for washing delicates both by hand and in the machine.
Before putting your bra into the machine, hook it up and pop it into a zip-up mesh bag, suggests Cosmopolitan. This helps stop straps getting stretched and hooks getting snagged on other garments. Even if your bras are in bags, avoid washing them alongside heavy items of clothing like jeans or towels. Stick to lightweight garments and other delicates.
You might get away with machine-washing your bras but it's an absolute no-no to put them in the dryer — there's no way to minimise the heat and friction of the machine. Hang them up or lay them flat to dry. If you hang them do so by the section between the cups, because hanging them by the straps could cause unwanted stretching as the wet cups pull downwards.
Before you lay your bra out, gently reshape the cups, use a towel to soak up excess water and lay the bra on another towel to air dry.
A quick rinse is a good way to make up for skipping a full wash of your bra. It's super simple: just take your bra into the shower with you and give it a rinse with water to help remove oil from your skin. Then hang it or lay it flat to dry in the usual way.
Finally, don't ruin all your good work by tossing your bras into a wardrobe or drawer. Storing them in the right way will keep them in good shape: "Line them up in a drawer, like they'd do in the store," suggests Carolyn Forte, director of the GHI Cleaning Lab.
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