4 Bra Washing Mistakes We All Make
When experts recommend handwashing lingerie, it's because the TLC "really makes a difference for the fit and longevity of your intimate apparel," Harrington says. Tossing your bras in the rough-and-tumble washing machine, even on the delicate cycle, will significantly shorten their life expectancy and stretch them out (which can make you look heavier than you are).
That said, Harrington does understand that some of us just aren't up for hand washing. Yes, your bras won't last as long if you machine-wash them, but there are some steps you can take to minimize the damage. First, Harrington says, hook the bras closed so they don't snag, and use a mesh lingerie wash bag (or two) for added protection against the hard surface of the washer's interior. Choose the delicate cycle on a cool or lukewarm setting (never hot). And finally, only wash bras with underwear; no other garments, towels or sheets should be in the machine with them. That may mean the machine is only half- or one-third full, but it also means you'll reduce the amount of damage to your undergarments, Harrington says.
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Sensitive skin-friendly, dye-free detergents are great for most of your clothes, sheets and towels. But they're still too harsh for lingerie, says Harrington, which is made of sheerer, thinner material. Your best bet is a delicates (not wool) detergent; she alternately recommends baby shampoo or Castile soap. Add about a teaspoon amount to your bathroom sink, fill with cool water and add two or three bras (in the same color family, so the colors don't bleed). Gently move them around, let them soak for 15 or so minutes and then rinse them with cold water.
You probably know the dryer is always a no-go (heat permanently ruins elastic, says Harrington, and once the stretch is gone, the band won't be as supportive and the straps will have too much slack). But even if you are letting your bras air dry, make sure you're doing it the right way. The common mistake is to hang them by only one strap on a hanger, over the fixtures in your bathtub or from a drying rack. This completely vertical position will result in disproportionate stretching, as the wet bra's weight tugs on the top strap. Instead, make sure the bra is balanced (hang it from the center gore, which connects the two cups). Or, Harrington says, you can lay the bra flat on a towel to dry. And make sure you don't dry bras near a heater, which can weaken the elastic; also don't wring them out to make them dry faster (you could twist the underwire).
Despite your most diligent efforts to wash your bras with care, Harrington says every bra "dies" a little with every wash. So wear them two or three times between washing (the exceptions are if you've sweat a lot or have a skin condition like eczema). And Harrington also advises letting a bra "recover" (i.e., regain its shape) for a day in between wears, so rotate yours, if you can.