Sign up to our free daily email for the latest royal and entertainment news, interesting opinion, expert advice on styling and beauty trends, and no-nonsense guides to the health and wellness questions you want answered.
Thank you for signing up to Woman & Home. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.
Finding the perfect bra is no mean feat, so once you do find your go-to fit, knowing how to wash bras is an essential skill - because it turns out many of us have been doing it wrong.
If you want to hold onto that brand-new bra feeling, caring for it properly is key, including how you wash it. Otherwise, the elasticity will distort, the color will fade and the underwire can start to bend and push through the casing. In short, it won't provide comfort or support - which is the primary purpose of the best bras.
Similar to learning how to measure your bra size, washing your bras properly is an easy life skill that pays dividends in the long term. We turned to the experts to ask how you should properly wash your bras, and answer the time-old question of whether or not they can really go in the washing machine.
How to hand wash bras
Firstly, hand washing your bra is the recommended approach. In most cases, it actually takes less time and preparation than machine washing and it guarantees they'll keep their shape. This is particularly important for the best strapless bras and models with wire, but this advice still stands for your best non-wired bras or best sports bras.
"We recommend that you hand wash your lingerie,” Bravissimo technical manager Paula Skarratt explains. “It’s easy, we promise!”
All you need is your bra, detergent, and 5-10 minutes to spare. Any mild liquid detergent will do, providing your pieces don't contain silk or wool fibers. If they do, buy a specialist product for these materials.
1. Soak your bra in cool water
“Start by soaking your bra in cool water and detergent for up to 10 minutes,” advises Paula. You could do this in a big washing-up bowl or even in your bath.
"Some women like to take theirbrasin the shower with them to hand wash (a good water-saving tip too!" she adds. Simply bring a little detergent in with you and complete the below process, then shower as you would regularly.
2. Gently wash it by hand with a cloth
"Next, gently rub your bra all over with a soft cloth, paying special attention to the under band and around the wires, before rinsing in clean, cool water." A clean microfiber cloth or cheesecloth will work, but you can also use your hands if needs be. Just massage the materials gently.
Proper rinsing is really important, as the band and straps of your bra sit directly, and firmly, on your skin. Any leftover detergent is likely to cause redness or itching, especially if you have sensitive or easily irked skin. Rinse until the water runs clear and foam-free, then go again for another 30 seconds to be on the safe side.
Still daunted by the prospect of hand washing your bras? To save time and effort, wait until you have a few bras in need of a wash and do them all at once. If your bra sizing changes at different points of your cycle, you may find this a little more difficult, however.
3. Air dry
"When it comes to drying your lingerie, we recommend avoiding any source of direct heat, like the tumble drier or radiator, as this can damage the shape and elasticity of your bra, so once you’ve washed your bra, leave it to air dry so you can enjoy wearing it for longer," says Paula.
“If you have padding in your bra, make sure to smooth out any creases there, too. This will stop the padding from drying with any funny lumps or bumps and ruining the lovely smooth lines."
But where should we dry them?
“You can dry your bras on any drying rack or a towel rail if it isn't heated – or even over the edge of the bathtub,” adds Paula. There is no specialist equipment needed here - a normal clothes horse or washing line will do the trick.
How to wash bras in the washing machine
Underwiring and washing machines tend not to mix, as wires have a crafty habit of breaking free on a spin cycle. This is at best annoying, and at worse could cause serious problems with your machine.
"Bras will last longer if you hand wash them but for most women, there is little time in their busy lives to do this," acknowledges global product design director at Triumph, Sian Thomas. Luckily, most machines have hand wash or delicate settings that you can utilize but you should take some extra precautions to preserve the shape of your bras.
Here are Sian and Paula's top tips for washing everyday bras. However, if you're washing your finest French lingerie brands, stick to the hand washing method.
1. Check the label
Before you put your underwear in the washing machine, always check the label. Some non-wired and everyday bras can go on a cool wash, but delicate fabrics should be hand washed.
"Some non-wired lingerie can go in the machine on a cool wash,” says Paula. “But it’s always best to check the label first."
"For any special delicate pieces or luxury fabrics like silk, handwashing will keep them looking special for longer," adds Sian.
2. Prepare your bras for washing
For extra protection and to stop the clasps from catching on your other clothes, remember to close the clasps and consider investing in specialist laundry bags. These normally come in the form of small, mesh bags with zips. Just remember that these bags won’t protect them from damage caused by heat and spinning, so they still need to go in a delicate wash.
Here are some mesh laundry bags we like:
- Brabantia 3-Pack Mesh Zip Up Laundry Bagsfrom Amazon for $10 / £8.50
- Amazon Eono essentials mesh laundry bags from Amazon for £9.99 (UK only)
- Amazon Pinzon honeycomb mesh laundry bags from Amazon for $9.99 (US only)
3. Wash on a low heat with detergent
"Wash your everyday lingerie in a washing machine on a low temperature, 30 - 40C," advises Sian. You might need to wash some pieces on a lower, cold setting if the label advises you to.
“Try to avoid using fabric softener if possible, too, as it can leave a coating on the bra and break down the elasticity of the fabrics. This is a particular problem with sports bras, where this coating can reduce its sweat-wicking properties, meaning it can no longer draw moisture away from the body," says Paula.
Sian agrees, advising, "don't use softener if your bra has any bonded (glued not sewn) edges or details. The softener can erode the glue over time."
4. Avoid tumble drying at all costs
If you are machine washing your bras, ensure you put them on a wash-only cycle and avoid tumble drying them at all costs. Once again, letting them dry naturally is important. Depending on the environment, this will take anything from one hour to a day.
How to store bras
Regardless of how you choose to wash your bras, you should store them with the cups folded into each other. This will not only save precious space in your lingerie drawer but help your bras maintain their shape, too.
"It’s worthwhile organizing yourbra-drobe and lining yourbrasup in your drawer neatly with space between them as this will help thebraskeep their shape in between wearing them and washing them," advises Paula. "This will also reduce any snagging on the hooks and will stop moldedbraslosing their shape or wires bending."
If you have a wide selection of bras for every occasion, consider organizing your closet at the same time and them together for ease. For example, your best sleep bras could go on one shelf and best bralettes on another.
How often should you wash your bras?
A bit like your best jeans, bras don’t need to be washed every time you wear them. In fact, washing unnecessarily can waste money in the long run, as it will speed up the color fade and weaken the elastic.
"Although there are no hard and fast rules, a general guideline is that you should wash your everyday bras once a week," advises Sian. "For any bras you wear on occasions where you are heavily perspiring, you should wash after every wear - sports bras particularly."
Paula also agrees there are "no hard and fast rules," agreeing that you should wash them every one to two weeks. "Not over washing them and having a few bras on rotation too is the best way to ensure they last for as long as possible," she adds.
Not all bras and types of bras are created equal, so it’s important to check the care label before washing to avoid any shrinkage or color-run mishaps.
Anyway, fill up your sink with cool water and a small amount of detergent and fully submerge your bras. Let them soak for a few minutes before rinsing with fresh, cool water. For everyday bras, give them a wash after every two to three wearings to remove all the skin cells, sweat, and other oils your body produces.How do you dry bras in the dryer? ›
- Place a wet bra in the dryer.
- Put the dryer on the gentle, cold setting.
- Dry it for as short of a time as possible.
- Follow the directions for lay out the bra to dry the rest of the way.
Anyway, fill up your sink with cool water and a small amount of detergent and fully submerge your bras. Let them soak for a few minutes before rinsing with fresh, cool water. For everyday bras, give them a wash after every two to three wearings to remove all the skin cells, sweat, and other oils your body produces.Why should bras not be put in the dryer? ›
Use the Right Detergent
The best thing you can do for bra care is to allow them to air dry, either flat or by hanging. Tumble drying will cause the same damaging friction as washing without a washing bag for delicates. Drying bras flat or by hanging is the best way to maintain their shape.
While the experts we spoke to conceded that machine washing a bra can be done, though it is not recommended, they are firm that a bra should never see the inside of a dryer. “The golden rule: Avoid the tumble dryer,” Shotton says. “It's just way too harsh on anything delicate.”Why do my bras get ruined in the wash? ›
Washing your bras in the machine shortens their lifespan.
The elastic will stretch out more quickly, again from agitation or from wrapping around other clothing. The clasps are more likely to become damaged or get lost entirely. And putting your bra in the dryer just ups all those risks!
The best way to protect your bras during a wash cycle is to place them inside a mesh laundry bag and wash using mild detergent and cool water on the delicate cycle setting, making sure to air dry afterwards. These precautions can help protect the bra's shape and structure, but it does not guarantee it.How many times can you wear a bra before washing? ›
How often you need to wash your bras isn't an exact science. But dermatologist Alok Vij, MD, says that as a general rule, you should wash them after every two to three wears.What kind of soap do you use to wash bras? ›
Laundry detergent: Whether you hand-wash or machine-wash your bras, we recommend using a mild detergent such as Soak. For most bras, though, any liquid detergent is fine.How do you wash expensive bras? ›
- Set the Cycle. Set your washer on a delicate cycle, and use cold water with an alcohol-free, gentle detergent.
- Use a Mesh or Lingerie Bag. Use a mesh or lingerie bag to keep the bras from getting snagged on the machine's agitator. ...
- Don't Put in the Dryer.
Although air drying is the gentlest way, if you don't have the time (or patience) to wait for your bras to air dry, Barton advises drying them on an extremely low heat setting to cause minimal damage.How many bras should I own? ›
As a general rule of thumb, it's important to have a healthy rotation of bras at the ready so that you're never left blindsided — and bare chested. All things considered, we'd suggest owning 11 bras in total in a couple of distinctive styles that range from everyday to on-occasion.What happens if you don't wash your bra? ›
"By not washing bras frequently, body soils like sweat, sebum, and skin cells can build up on bras, which can eventually lead to malodors and even residues and dinginess," Wang warns. And, according to Miller, any bacteria left on the bra can lead to annoying skin problems, such as "irritation or rash."Should you wear a bra for bed? ›
Is it OK to sleep in my bra? There's nothing wrong with wearing a bra while you sleep if that's what you're comfortable with. Sleeping in a bra will not make a girl's breasts perkier or prevent them from getting saggy. And it will not stop breasts from growing or cause breast cancer.Should you use fabric softener on bras? ›
You should never use fabric softener when you wash your bras, as it can damage the elasticity. Soap is not a complete no-go, but if you are using detergent, it's best to use one that's as mild as possible – preferably one for delicate washes.Can I wash bras with regular clothes? ›
Wash Delicates Separately
Don't wash your bras and lace underwear with your shirts and jeans. They need to be cared for differently, so separating them will ensure that their structures are maintained and that any metal, plastic, or elastic components are kept intact.
Use a pillowcase. “A pillowcase works as a great substitute for a lingerie bag. Toss your bras inside, tie a loose knot, and wash with lukewarm water on a gentle cycle,” says Macbale. Or, wash freely with delicates.Can I use Dawn to wash my bras? ›
Yes, you can use regular laundry detergent to wash bras. You can always use a gentle detergent if you prefer, but regular detergent won't hurt your bras.How often should you replace bras? ›
It's generally recommended that a bra should last anywhere between 6-9 months, although we think that with good care your bras should last a lot longer. We encourage you to look after them as much as they look after you - extending the life of your clothes by even a small amount has a significant environmental benefit.Should you take cups out of bras before washing? ›
Tip 1: Remove any removable pads or cups before washing. If the bra comes with removable pads, remove them before washing the bra so they don't lose their shape. Ideally the pads should be washed by hand separately, but if they must go in the machine, be sure to follow Tip 2. Tip 2: Wash ALL bras in a lingerie bag.
How Often You Should Wash Your Sheets (And How to Get Them Really Clean) Experts recommend washing or changing sheets once a week.How many bras does the average person own? ›
Most people have between one and four special occasion bras, though some may have more depending on their style and what type of clothes they like to wear. You might own anywhere between five and 15 (or even more) bras. It all depends on your lifestyle and your preferences.Why does my bra still smell after washing? ›
Overuse will lead to detergent buildup, which in turn will lead to the development of a sort of mildew-y smell, because the soap combined with your sweat, oils, and dander creates a perfect environment for bacterial growth.What is the fastest way to dry a bra? ›
Although air drying is the gentlest way, if you don't have the time (or patience) to wait for your bras to air dry, Barton advises drying them on an extremely low heat setting to cause minimal damage.Will bras shrink in the dryer? ›
"The heat from the dryer is literally kryptonite for the bra. It will break down the material of the bra much faster." "Always hang dry bras, as the heat from the dryer will shrink the bra and could also damage the elasticity of the straps as well," added Gatherall founder, Louise Lai.What happens if you put a wired bra in the dryer? ›
The heat from the dryer can melt your underwire.” Rather than letting your bras tumble dry, let them air-dry. They won't get too hot or ruined from tumbling around with other items.How long does it take to air dry a bra? ›
It takes 5 to 10 minutes to hand-wash bras, and it takes 45 to 90 minutes to machine-wash them. Either way, bras need time to air-dry—from 45 minutes up to a full day, depending on the fabric and drying conditions.Can you microwave a bra to dry it? ›
Don't microwave your bra (or cook in your dryer)How many days can you wear a bra without washing it? ›
How often you need to wash your bras isn't an exact science. But dermatologist Alok Vij, MD, says that as a general rule, you should wash them after every two to three wears.How do you dry bras without ruining them? ›
The best way to dry your bras after washing is to hang them up to air dry away from direct sunlight. Tumble drying can be too harsh on the underwire and elastic of your bra, so machine drying is not recommended.
This is great for manufacturing, shipping, and display purposes, but less great for sensitive skin. If you wash your new bra before you wear it, you're removing that starch, softening the fabric and helping the band ease up a little. That last part's extra helpful if you're new to wearing a snugger band.Can you wash bras in a pillowcase? ›
Use a pillowcase. “A pillowcase works as a great substitute for a lingerie bag. Toss your bras inside, tie a loose knot, and wash with lukewarm water on a gentle cycle,” says Macbale. Or, wash freely with delicates.Can you wash bras with Dawn? ›
Can I wash my bra with dish soap? You could, but you definitely shouldn't. Dish soap is made for cleaning grease and grime and the detergents are much harsher than in mild laundry detergent. Harsh cleaners break down the fibers in the fabric and ruin the elastic in the band.Is it bad to wear a new bra before washing it? ›
Not washing clothes after you buy them does have its consequences, and all of the laundry experts we spoke to say it's important to clean your bra even before wearing it. "Manufacturers often use finishes on new fabrics for aesthetic reasons," Wang tells InStyle.How do you dry a bra overnight? ›
Lay the bra flat: You can lay the bra flay on a drying tray or across a drying rack. This way, there is no strain on your bra. Hang on a hanger, just as you would wear: You can also hang the damp bra on a hanger as if the hanger is “wearing” the bra (i.e., back clasped and a strap over each “shoulder” of the hanger).Is it OK to soak bras overnight? ›
Cold water will make the bra last longer. No bra should be washed really hot as this can destroy its elasticity. Let the bra soak in water, preferably for a few hours to get rid of dead skin etc. It can be left to soak overnight.