Whether it’s your favourite lacy plunge or the most flattering bikini you’ve ever owned, you’ll want your delicates to keep their good looks and supportive shapes for as long as possible. After all, you’ve invested your precious time (in tracking down the perfect fit) as well as your hard-earned cash (they’re not cheap), in buying them.
And yet most of us just toss our prettiest lingerie and swimwear pieces into the washing machine, press start and hope for the best.
Well it’s time we all turned over a new leaf. But do you really need to wash your bra every time you wear it? What temperature should you wash your knickers? And how should you store your swimwear? (Hint: it’s not wet in a carrier bag.)
Find out the answers to all these questions and more in Pour Moi’s big guide to caring for your smalls. It’s full of expert tips and advice from our garment technologist, Lois Siciliano.
How often do you need to wash your bra?
If you’re guilty of wearing your bra until it could practically walk out of the house by itself, you’ll be pleased to hear you’re in the majority. Some 35% of UK women admit to wearing a bra at least five times before washing it, according to a personal hygiene survey.
And you may well be right not to over-do it, as over washing bras is a real no-no. According to Lois, “Over-washing can damage the elasticity, which is essential for providing the proper support. And that’s true even if you wash your bra by hand like you’re supposed to. Over-enthusiastic wringing can distort the wires, abrase the wire casing and even make the wire poke through, potentially hurting your boobs.”
So how often should you wash your bra? According to Lois, that all depends on what you’ve done while you’re wearing it. “When it comes to normal use, every two to three wears is fine. Obviously that’s not the case if it’s a sports bra you’re wearing to an intense gym class or if it’s a hot summer’s day. If you’re particularly sweaty, you should wash the bra each wear.”
Do you really need to hand wash bras?
If you refuse to buy clothes that need hand-washing, you may baulk at the thought of getting your fingers wet just to wash a bra.
But if a certain balconette or sweetheart is precious to you, you’ll want it to last as long as possible. Hand-washing is the only fail-safe option and is the best way to wash bras.
As Lois says, “Here at Pour Moi, we really do recommend that you wash all your lingerie and swimwear by hand, to keep the original fit and support for much longer. But it’s particularly vital to hand-wash any garments that contain a wire, because not only will you reduce the life span of the bra if you don’t, you could possibly ruin the washing machine if the wire comes out.”
Still not convinced? Here are some more top reasons to roll up your sleeves and get soapy...
- Too much washing at high-temperatures or on a non-delicate cycle can stretch the elastic fibres over time, shortening the lifetime of your bra.
- Hooks can get caught at the back of the drum, causing them to bend or break.
- Straps can get caught around other clothes, causing them to over-stretch.
How to hand wash bras
We tend to think of hand-washing as an arduous task that seriously taxes the forearms. But hand-washing your bra is different - and can be even quicker than using a machine. No, really!
Just fill a sink with cool water. Drop in some hand-wash liquid lingerie detergent or any other mild detergent. Pop in your dirty bras (ideally with the clasps fastened so they can’t snag anywhere they shouldn’t) and give them a little swirl around in the water. Soak for 10 minutes, then gently rub them all over, concentrating on the underarms and back band.
Rinse in cool, clean water, then give a gentle squeeze to remove some of the water (but no twisting or wringing as this can damage the elastic).
Lay the bra on a clean, dry towel and roll up to soak up even more excess moisture. Then reshape the bra ready for drying (more on that later).
How to wash bras in a washing machine
We’ve told you all that but you still don’t want to hand-wash your bra? You rebel. “Machine washing is not ideal and we do not recommend it,” says Lois. “However. If you really have to, at least make sure you’re using the most delicate wash available at the lowest possible temperature and preferably with no spin.”
To avoid any snagging, Lois suggests you fasten the clasps and place your bra in a mesh lingerie bag (or a pillowcase at a push) .You can put more than one item in the bra wash bag, but don’t overfill it or they won’t get properly clean. Put the delicates wash bag in the washing machine, along with a couple of towels or some other items to balance the load.
This is not a time to use any fabric conditioner, because it can soften the elastic and cause it to stretch. That’s why you shouldn’t use fabric conditioner when you’re washing your swimwear or lycra leggings, too.
How to dry a bra
The number one rule of bra-drying according to Lois? “Never, ever tumble dry. The heat can have a catastrophic effect on delicate garments, misshaping the bra, stretching the elastic and even melting the wire.”
So what should we do instead? “Always dry it on the line (or hang it up on a coat hanger) from the bridge in the centre front between the cups,” says Lois. “Don’t hang by the straps as the wet bra hanging down will stretch them.”
How to remove creases from your bra padding
Dimples are cute, but not when they’re in your bra padding. When it comes to wrinkles in the cup, you need a bit of heat. “If creases occur on your T-shirt bra, you can blast it with a bit of steam from your iron,” says Lois. “Hold the iron about three inches away and be careful not to burn your fingers or touch the fabric with the iron.”
How to store your bra
Don’t just stuff them in your lingerie drawer and hope for the best. “Normal underwired bras can be folded through the centre front bridge (the bit between the cups) so that the wires stay flat to each other, with the wings fastened and folded behind the cups” says Lois.
“The exception to this is moulded bras, which need to be stored flat and unfolded to prevent any creases in the padding.”
How to care for your delicate knickers
Pristine white lace, beautiful colours, silky ribbons. We all want a drawer full of date-night worthy knickers. So why do so many of ours end up consigned to the once-a-month pile?
For extra special items, it’s always worth hand-washing following the instructions for bras above. Washing machines can damage the elastic and snag any extra embellishments like cute bows or diamantes. Treat any stains with a specialist remover first, then let them soak for longer.
How to care for your every-day knickers
Every-day knickers pose a bit of a dilemma. Often, the label says to wash them at 40°C, but hygiene experts tell us that anything under 60°C won’t kill bacteria. So what’s a girl to do?
Your only option here is to pop in a capful of laundry sanitiser, and although Dettol is probably most famous, many supermarkets now carry their own brand. (Sanitiser is also great for when you’re washing bed linen and towels, keeping everything squeaky clean and bacteria-free.)
Panties tend to wear out faster than bras because we wash them more often. With this in mind, it’s always worth buying two or three pairs of knickers to go with every ‘fancy’ bra, if you’re a fan of matching sets.
When it comes to storing knickers, first give your lingerie drawer a good edit. Throw away anything that doesn’t ‘spark joy’ - we’re looking at you, scratchy lace impulse buy. Then use inexpensive drawer dividers to give everything a place.
How to wash swimwear
Shopping for swimwear can be so traumatic that when you actually find the bikini or one piece of your dreams, you’ll want it to keep it looking good for as long as you can.
Washing swimsuits and bikinis is similar to washing bras. Wash by hand if you can (especially if they’re underwired) but the golden rule is to keep them away from fabric softener - it can break down the elastane in the fabric.
“Ideally, swimwear should be rinsed out thoroughly in warm water immediately after use,” says Lois. “Then wash by hand using a hand wash detergent as soon as you can. Never let swimwear stay wet after use (especially in a plastic bag or such like) as chemicals like chlorine can start to break down the elastane or even cause discolouration on the fabric.”
Dry in the shade to prevent fading. Laying it on a clean towel to dry will mean less stretching.
Time to give your underwear drawer a damn good edit? Shop for lingerie with us and you’ll get it looking healthy again.