If you want your bras to perform at their best and last as long as possible, you need to wash your bra after wearing it once, or maximally twice. Think about it: the bra is worn directly against your body so it collects body oils and skin cells. Elastic, a key component of the bra band and straps, does not respond well to either substance. When these materials get into the elastic its ability to stretch and contract is decreased. It takes a proper wash to remove these substances so the elastic can go back to doing its job. If you wear your bras twice before washing, you need to give the bra a day off in between wearings. The elastic needs time to recover and go back to a neutral position.
So how do you wash a bra? Let’s start with what you do not do: do not put your bra in the washing machine. I know you want to because it is so easy. Do not do it! Remember there are wires encased under each bra cup. Those wires do important support work in your bra. They need to keep their shape and stay right where they are. In the washer (yes even in the delicate cycle), the water pressure and the pressure of clothing around the bra (even in the lingerie bag) could cause the wire to twist and lose its shape. Think about your other clothes too. Those bra hooks can catch on whatever else you have in the washer or the lingerie bag (even if you fasten them before you put them in the wash).
What about the dryer, you ask? I’ll be blunt: the dryer will ruin the elastic. I don’t care what temperature you use. Elastic is key to the bra’s function, and, as outlined above, elastic needs to be cared for properly.
All of this means one thing: hand washing and air-drying are key to cleaning the bra. To wash a bra, use lukewarm water and a gentle detergent. Gentle is the operative word. I like Eucalan or Soak since they are available in handy travel packets.
Let the bras (separated by color, of course) soak for approximately 30 minutes to allow the soap and water to work their cleaning magic. Rinse the soap from the bras in lukewarm water. To gently extract the excess water from a bra without squeezing it, lay the bra inside a towel and gently press down on the towel. Then lay the bra on a towel to dry. This soak-and-press technique is actually quite easy and does not require much active time at all.
If you follow these care instructions, a high quality bra that is worn twice a week will last between six and nine months. Regardless of care, there will come a time when a wash will not be able to resurrect the bra’s elastic and that is when the bra’s useful life is over.