Bras, lingerie and other foundational garments need to be washed regularly, but oftentimes these important items of clothing are worn over and over without being laundered. Ideally, a bra should be washed every two to three wearings.
Tania Garcia, the director of fit at Cuup, says, “A good bra is made of technical and delicate materials, and should be treated with extra love and care!” Bras and lingerie, because they are very delicate, will last longer if washed by hand rather than in the machine. We spoke to experts about the best ways to wash a bra to ensure it retains its shape and fit.
How to hand-wash bras
When it comes to laundering bras, which are both delicate and highly technical garments, experts agree that washing by hand is best.
“Always hand-wash your bras with a gentle detergent,” Garcia says. Sarah Shotton, the creative director of Agent Provocateur, agrees: “Using the washing machine is just too rough for delicate fabrics.” While a specialty detergent is not required for hand-laundering, one can be nice to have.
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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.
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“Personally, I love Tocca laundry wash,” Shotton says. “It smells amazing!” Tocca’s gentle formula detergent comes in five of the brand’s signature scents: Florence, Cleopatra, Giulietta, Bianca and our favorite, Stella.
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Of course, you don’t need anything fancy to hand-wash a bra; regular liquid laundry detergent is perfectly fine. “Gentle baby shampoo also works in a pinch,” Shotton says.
Follow these steps to hand-wash a bra:
- Step 1: Fill a basin with cool water, ensuring there’s enough water to submerge the bra 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 bra gently with your hands.
- Step 4: If using regular detergent, rinse thoroughly to remove all detergent.
- Step 5: Remove the bra from the water and gently squeeze out water, but do not wring.
- Step 6: Lay or hang the bra to dry. If hang drying, hang the bra by its center gore rather than by the straps, as the weight of the wet bra will cause the straps to stretch, ruining its fit.
“When hand-washing your bras, stay away from harsh detergents and intense lathering or rinsing,” Garcia says. “Instead, opt for a delicate detergent and gently handle your bras to avoid materials from stretching and reshaping.” For more tips and tricks, check out our complete guide to hand-washing clothing and accessories
How to wash bras in a washing machine
Garcia and Shotton emphasize that hand-laundering a bra is the ideal way to clean those garments but offer tips for machine washing a bra without causing damage.
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“If hand-washing really isn’t an option and you must use a machine,” Shotton says, “put them in a lingerie/delicates bag — a small mesh bag that will stop it getting stretched or snagging on anything else in the machine. And wash it on a gentle cycle or a hand-wash cycle, which is the best choice if your machine has one.”
How to dry bras
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.”
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After washing, use an absorbent towel to remove excess water from the bra. “Don’t wring lingerie out, as that can stretch and damage fibers,” Shotton says. “Instead, gently press it between the folds of a clean towel to get rid of excess moisture, gently reshape it whilst it’s still damp, then let air-dry. Too much direct sunlight can also fade strong colors, so bear that in mind when choosing a drying spot.”
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“Air-drying is the best and most gentle way to dry your bras,” Garcia says. “After rinsing out your clean bra, lay it flat with the cups facing up to best keep original shape and structure.”
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When it comes to picking a drying rack, Shotton says, “As long as it’s sturdy and doesn’t have anything that might catch and snag on delicate fabrics, you’re good! I also like good old-fashioned fresh air — there is nothing better than letting your knickers dry in the fresh air on a washing line. It also lets your neighbors know you have great taste in underwear!”
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“Any drying rack will work, as long as there’s a place for your bra to lay flat while air-drying,” Garcia says. “Our team loves a foldable drying rack that lays over the sink — it’s a great space saver!”