Swimsuit shopping is an almost universally dreaded event. And so, when we find a swimsuit we like, there is extra incentive for us to keep it in good shape so that it lasts a long time — after all, the longer a swimsuit lasts, the less time you’ll have to spend shopping for new ones.
Tania Garcia, the director of fit at Cuup, says, “You should avoid putting your swimwear in the washer and dryer. Although it seems quick and easy, electric washing and drying machines are too rough on delicates and will stretch, reshape and even ruin the materials.”
Swimwear, because it is made of fabric that can easily become stretched or frayed, will last longer and look better if washed by hand rather than in the machine. Ahead are experts’ tips for the best ways to wash and care for bathing suits and other swimwear.
How to hand-wash bathing suits
Washing a swimsuit by hand is the ideal way to preserve its fit and appearance. It is a straightforward job that will only take a few minutes, especially if you use a no-rinse detergent.
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Regular laundry detergent can be used for hand-washing any type of garment, but a specialty detergent like Soak Wash, a no-rinse formula, is our top choice when it comes to detergents for hand-laundering because of its ease of use.
Follow these steps to hand-wash bathing suits:
- Step 1: Fill a basin with cool water, ensuring there’s enough water to submerge the bathing suit while leaving room for your hands to move through it.
- Step 2: Add detergent. In the case of no-rinse detergents like Soak Wash, a capful is enough; if using a regular detergent, add only enough to create a slippery feel to the water and some sudsing.
- Step 3: Agitate the bathing suit gently with your hands.
- Step 4: If using regular detergent, rinse thoroughly to remove all detergent.
- Step 5: Remove the bathing suit from the water and gently squeeze out water, but do not wring — wringing can cause a bathing suit’s delicate fabric to stretch.
- Step 6: Lay or hang the bathing suit to dry. (See more drying tips below.)
For more tips and tricks, check out our complete guide to hand-washing clothing and accessories.
How to wash bathing suits in the washing machine
While experts discourage it, bathing suits can be successfully washed in the machine if they are treated like specialty garments and extra precautions are taken.
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When washing swimsuits in the machine, place them in a mesh washing bag prior to laundering. The bag will help to protect the suit from getting caught or tangled on other garments, which can cause the bathing suit to become stretched or frayed. In addition to using a mesh washer bag, follow these instructions when machine-washing swimsuits:
- Wash swimwear in cold water.
- Select the delicate, slow/slow or hand-wash cycle.
- Wash swimsuits alongside like items such as underwear, socks, lightweight pajamas, etc. and avoid laundering them in the same load as heavy items like jeans, sweatshirts or towels.
- Avoid the use of both chlorine bleach and oxygen bleach when washing swimsuits.
- Allow bathing suits to air-dry instead of putting them in the dryer.
How to dry a bathing suit
Regardless of how you wash your suit, when it comes to drying swimwear, air-drying is always best. “Your swimsuit will best keep its shape and structure if air-dried laying flat,” Garcia says.
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Bathing suits, because of their fabrication, are typically quick-drying items. If possible, lay them flat to dry rather than hanging them so that they retain their shape — hanging a wet suit can cause it to stretch.
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Clip-style hanging drying racks are a great way to provide lots of drying space for bathing suits, making them great for big families, beach homes, bringing along on warm weather vacations, etc. When hanging a suit with straps to dry, clip it on the side or bottom rather than hanging it from its straps, which can cause the suit to stretch out and ruin its fit.
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When it comes to selecting a drying rack, Garcia says, “Any drying rack will do, as long as you can lay your swimwear flat. If you’re traveling, laying your clean swimsuit on a towel to dry will also do the trick!” We like super-absorbent microfiber towels for hand-laundering at home and during travel. Use them to roll a freshly washed or rinsed suit to extrude water without wringing the fabric, which can cause stretching, to speed up drying time.
How to remove sunscreen stains from swimsuits
Avobenzone, a common ingredient in sunblock, has a chemical reaction when it’s exposed to iron that causes orangish stains. If you notice those types of sunscreen stains on a bathing suit, the most important thing to know is what not to do: Do not treat orangish sunscreen stains with chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach. Both of those products will cause those orangish stains to deepen.
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Those orangish stains are, essentially, rust stains. So a rust stain remover designed for clothing, like Carbona Stain Devils #9, is the thing to reach for when you need to remove sunscreen stains from swimsuits.
Prolong the life of a swimsuit with these expert tips
In addition to strongly recommending that you hand-wash swimwear, the experts we spoke to shared some tips to keep in mind to help extend the life and good looks of your bathing suit.
- “Always wash right after wear — even if it’s a cold outdoor shower,” says Sabra Krock, the creative director and owner of Everything But Water. “Leaving chlorine and salt to sit on a suit harms the fabric.”
- Krock also recommends limiting hot tub use, as prolonged exposure to very hot water will break down a bathing suit’s delicate fabric.
- When drying swimsuits, Garcia recommends doing so indoors. “Keep swimsuits inside to dry,” she says. “Although tempting to hang it in the sun, direct sunlight can cause colors to fade and materials to wear out.”