After recently spending a small fortune on brand new, beautiful bras—a luxury I had always wanted to indulge in—I came to the realization that I had absolutely no idea how to take proper care of them. I’d always been less-than-gentle with my bras, tossing them in the washer and burning them up in the dryer. My justification? Spending next-to-nothing on my underthings meant I didn’t care if they got a little mangled in the wash.
But now I’m an adult, and I’ve come to understand that to have nice things, you have to take care of them. So I chatted with Jane Fisher, co-founder and co-CEO of intimates brand Harper Wilde, about proper care for your bras. Follow this guide, and you’ll never prematurely ruin one in the wash again.
Always, always check your labels
Not all bras are created equal, it turns out. In much the same way as clothing, bras have specific care instructions on the label that have everything to do with what they’re made of. “It should say on the label if it’s machine-washable or if it should be hand washed,” Fisher says.
But it should be intuitive. If it’s got a lot of embellishments, made with fragile-seeming fabric, like silk or lace, plan to hand wash it. But if it’s a cotton sports bra, it can probably withstand the washing machine. These labels will also let you know what kind of detergent you should be using if specified.
Bottom line, though: Hand washing is best
Washing your bras by hand is actually incredibly easy and takes very little time. It also ensures that your bras are being cleaned and taken care of properly. Fill your sink up with cold water and add one to two tablespoons of detergent—depending on how many bras you’re washing. Toss in your bras, and let them soak for 10–15 minutes. Then, using your hands, swish each bra around the water, focusing on rubbing the areas that tend to collect the most sweat. Fisher says to pay special attention to the back band and the cups—especially toward the center.
But there are steps to make machine washing safer
I get it—hand-washing your bras just seems like one extra step. So if you’re going to toss them into the wash cycle, at least follow these three steps that Fisher lays out. Put them in a mesh wash bag so that they’re protected from rougher fabrics in your machine. “Make sure the back, and any other hooks on your bra, are clasped,” Fisher says. “That way, it won’t snag on anything and stretch out.” Finally, wash them on a delicate cycle. Hot water can damage bras, so cold water is the best option to protect them.
Keep your bras out of the dryer
No bra, whether it’s your dingiest sports bra or your most delicate négligé, should ever go in the drier. I repeat—keep your bras out of the dryer! “The heat from the dryer actually causes the elastic in your bra to stretch out or degrade more quickly,” Fisher says. By tossing your bra in the dryer, you’re drastically reducing the life of it. That’s tantamount to setting money on fire. And if your bra is especially fancy or delicate, like a silk or lace bra, it could actually irrevocably ruin the material.
Instead, you should let your bras air-dry—but never hang them by one strap and call it a day. “The weight from the water dripping off of them can stretch the bras out and make them lose shape,” Fisher says. Laying them flat on a towel is best. If you have to hang them make sure the middle of the bra, not one strap.
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