One of the most common questions I am asked is “How often should I wash my bra?” and every time I answer, I am greeted with a shocked response.
So here it is: 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. If you need to wear your bras twice before washing, you should give the bra a day off in between wearings. The elastic needs time to recover and to go back to a neutral position.
It is pretty easy to understand why this is the case. 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 of keeping the bra snug against the body.
This begs the follow up question, “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. But on behalf of your bra, I beg you not to do it!
Bras are a delicate and carefully engineered garment. As part of its supportive structure, many bras have wires encased under each bra cup. Those wires do important support work in your bra. They need to keep their shape and stay put. In the washer (yes even in the delicate cycle), the water pressure and the pressure of clothing around the bra (even in a 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 (yes, 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 the way to clean the bra. To wash a bra, use lukewarm water and a gentle detergent. Gentle is the operative word. I like Soak wash since it is widely available in even comes in handy travel packets.
To clean your bras, separate by color then soak for 20 to 30 minutes to allow the soap and water to work their cleaning magic.
Then 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 flat on a towel to dry. This soak-and-press technique is actually quite easy and does not require much active time at all. My strategy is to clean bras weekly, letting them soak while I take an extra-long and luxurious weekend shower.
The overall life of your bra, that is how long it will provide meaningful support and shaping, depends on the quality of the bra (materials and construction), cup size, frequency of wear and how the bra is cared for. The care of your bra is one of the factors that is completely within your control and we all want our beautiful handmade bras to last as long as possible!