All of Your Bra Washing Questions, Answered!

by Estelle Puleston

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Bras aren’t exactly cheap, so the last thing you want is for them to start looking old and worn within a few wears. Yet without the proper care, that’s exactly what can happen. As far as laundry goes, a bra is like a cocktail dress – it needs a bit of TLC if you want it to stay looking beautiful, you can’t just chuck it in the machine with everything else and hope for the best.

But don’t despair! Caring for your bras is easier than you might think, and it doesn’t have to take up more than half an hour of your week. Here are some of the most common bra-washing questions to help you on the way…

Should I put bras in the tumble dryer?

No, definitely not! If there’s one thing you take away from this article, let it be this because there’s really no greater enemy to your bradrobe than the tumble dryer.

The considerable heat inside a dryer warps wires and other boning, as well as damaging the elastic fibres inside the fabric. This means the band and straps will stretch out and become loose sooner.

So how should I dry my bras?

Either lay them flat on a towel or hang them from the gore (the bit between the cups). Don’t hang them from the band as this stretches it out. If you’re hanging your bras up outside, keep them out of direct sunlight which can fade some colors.

For molded cups, gently reshape and smooth out the cup whilst the bra is still damp, to help it keep its shape.

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Reshape a molded cup like that on this Curvy Kate Luxe bra whilst the bra is still damp, to help it keep its shape and avoid dents.

Can I machine wash bras?

This depends very much on the bra. Ideally, you want to hand-wash all your bras because they’ll stay in excellent condition for a lot longer. If you’re really invested in prolonging the life of your bras, take the time to hand-wash.

However, if you’re cool with the fact that machine-washing will wear your bras out that little bit faster, it’s not the end of the world, and needn’t be the end of your bras! Machine-washing won’t destroy a sturdy bra overnight, but to minimize the risk follow these 3 simple rules: fasten the band’s hooks (so they don’t snag on anything), use a mesh wash bag (so nothing else snags on your bra), and use a delicate, cool/cold setting.

A not-so-sturdy bra may not fare so well in the washing machine however. If it looks particularly delicate – if it’s sheer lace or has decorative beading, for example – then stick to hand washing. If in doubt, check the care label.

The beautiful eyelash lace trim and lacing detail on this Ewa Michalak S Magique bra can get snagged on zips, buttons and bra hooks if thrown in the machine with the rest of your laundry.

How do I hand wash a bra?

It’s best not to use regular laundry detergent when hand-washing, as it can irritate your skin and might not be suitable for your bra’s fabric anyway. Use a delicates detergent that’s designed especially for hand-washing. Take a look at your local supermarket, or try Soak or Eucalan.

Fill a basin with lukewarm water (like tumble-drying, water that’s too hot can damage the bra) and add your detergent. If your bras have any soiled areas, pop a little detergent directly onto that area and gently rub it in with your finger or a washcloth. Leave your bras to soak for 15-20 minutes, ensuring that you’re not mixing colors that are too different (you don’t want a black bra staining a white one!).

Depending on your detergent, you may or may not need to rinse the bras, so check the packaging. Once you’re done, gently squeeze the water out. Don’t wring a bra, and try not to bend or twist the wires.

How do I get sweat stains out of a bra?

If rubbing detergent in doesn’t work as I’ve described above, you can try applying either vinegar or baking soda (mixed with a little water to form a paste) directly onto the stains. Leave for half an hour to work its magic before washing your bra as usual.

How often should I wash my bras?

Opinions are very divided on this! There are those who wouldn’t dream of wearing a bra more than once without washing it, and there are also lingerie experts who recommend wearing a bra up to 7 times before washing it.

It’s all about striking a balance. The more frequently you wash a bra, the faster it’s going to wear out. However, a build-up of sweat, body oils and dead skin cells can do damage too.

Sweat is damaging to fibers because it’s acidic and attracts bacteria, so during warm weather you’ll want to wash your bras more often. If you’ve been sweating a lot – if it’s a sports bra for example – then wash it the same day you take it off.

Otherwise, I would personally recommend gentle washing after every 2-3 wears unless the bra looks obviously dirty.

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With its fine tulle and silk trims, this shimmering Avocado Nina S166K bra is one to hand wash!

How should I wash a silk bra?

Silk is a beautiful fabric but it’s also a delicate one, so definitely hand-wash. Silk can shrink if left to soak for too long, which is why you don’t want it in the washing machine for an hour. Be sure to use cold or cool water too, since excessive heat also shrinks silk.

Silk can’t be spot-cleaned, as this leaves water marks on the fabric. You’ll need to wash the entire bra even if only a small part of it is dirty. Whatever you do, don’t scrub the mark – silk fabric is easily damaged! The good news though is that if you do get a water mark on your silk bra, you can generally get it out just by washing the whole garment again.

Adding a dash of vinegar to your wash basin can help to keep silk soft and supple.

Wash like colors together. Saturated colors like on this Ewa Michalak CHP Klaudyna bra can run and you don’t want them staining other bras, or turning white ones grey!

How should I wash a lace bra?

Lace (and embroidery, which looks similar) is prone to snagging, so again this is a time for careful hand-washing. Avoid scrubbing or anything more than the gentlest of rubbing (if you really need to) so that you don’t damage the tiny little threads creating the beautiful design.

I hope this has answered all of your bra-washing questions, but if you have another one feel free to ask in the comments section below!