We already know that bed sheets should be washed at least once a week. And we recently learned that we should be lathering our hair even much more often than that (every other day, according to this celeb hairstylist). But how often should you wash your bra?
A highly non-scientific poll of friends and colleagues revealed that there’s a lot of variation in our laundry habits. Some ladies we spoke to wash their bras after every wear while others go a full month before sudsing up. That’s why we reached out to the pros for some guidance on this highly pressing issue.
So, how often should you wash your bra?
“The ‘rule’ is that a bra should be washed after every wear, since it’s directly in contact with the body,” says laundry expert Mary Marlowe Leverette. “Body oils, perspiration, and bacteria are transferred to the fabric and if left in the fibers will begin to break down the fabric—especially elastic fibers.” OK, noted. But here’s the thing: Leverette knows that in reality, most of us don’t have the time or energy to put in a load of laundry every day. “If you wear a bra for only an hour or so and if you’re not perspiring or don't have oily skin, you can wear the bra a couple of times before washing,” she tells us.
Jessica Ek from the American Cleaning Institute echoes those guidelines. “Wash after two or three wears but don’t wear the same bra for two or more days in a row,” she tells us. “Give them a rest in between, so they don’t get stretched out.”
Got it. And what’s the best way to clean your bras?
There are two schools of bra care—the hand-wash crowd and the toss-in-the-washer group. But happily, there’s room for both, says Leverette. “If you have a very delicate bra, it is best to hand-wash. However, sturdier bras can safely go through the washing machine.”
A delicate bra is usually sheer, lacy or one with lots of ornamentation (think: That Agent Provocateur number that you only wear on special occasions). For these types of garments, wash them by hand with a gentle detergent (like Tide Free & Gentle). Here’s how: Fill the sink with tepid water and a bit of detergent. Soak the bra for a few minutes, and then gently work the suds through the material. Rinse with cool water. As for drying it? “A good way to get excess water out is to roll the bra up in a towel before air-drying,” advises Leverette. “Reshape the bra cups, and allow the bra to air dry.”
Other bras that should be washed by hand include those with underwire shaping (the wires can break if twisted too much) and those with gel padding.
For sturdier, everyday bras, bralettes and sports bras, don’t think twice before tossing them in the washing machine. Just make sure to hook the bra together first to avoid snagging it on other clothing or use a mesh lingerie bag. Wash on a delicate cycle with a gentle detergent in cool water (as hot water can break down fabrics and elastic).
One more thing: Whether you go the hand-washing or machine washing route, never put your bras in the dryer. Heat breaks down the spandex and elastic so make sure to always air-dry bras on a drying rack instead.
What about stains or odors?
After a particularly intense sweat sesh, allow your sports bras to soak in a solution of one gallon of water and one cup of baking soda for several hours before washing, to help with the smell, advises Leverette. As for perspiration stains, pretreat them with mild soap and water and gentle rubbing, and then let soak for a few minutes before tossing in the machine. And that’s it—follow these guidelines to keep your bras so fresh and so clean.