The dirt on bras: Handwashing is key

Brittany Moon

During the last few decades, bras have dramatically grown in popularity not only for wearing every day but also for expressing oneself through colors and details. Two major bra retailers in the United States are Victoria’s Secret and Aerie. Given that the popularity of undergarments has skyrocketed, the delicate nature of the items needs to be taken into account when caring for and cleaning them.

Depending on whom you ask, you will hear many different ways as to how you should wash your bras. Most bras come with a tag that explains care instructions, which are usually along the lines of “hand wash and lay to dry.” Although this may seem incredibly tedious, hand washing bras is the best way to maintain the shape and gently care for the delicate parts such as lace or gemstones. A popular method by some is to wear the bra into the shower and wash with a mild body soap, then remove the garment and lay to dry while continuing the shower. As odd as this may seem, it can be helpful in a time crunch, especially with college students, who are always busy.

Hand washing is ideal because it helps maintain the original shape of the item. Since the majority of bras have an underwire, keeping the wire in the correct place and maintaining the shape has to be a concern. When a bra is put into the washing machine, it is tossed around frequently, which can cause bending in the underwire. It can also harm the straps of the bra, causing fraying.

Many women simply don’t have the time or don’t want to make the time to hand wash, which is perfectly fine. One alternative that can still help maintain the bra’s shape is a lingerie bag, which can be found at Target or Walmart. These mesh bags help keep the garment in place while in the washing machine. If one were to take this route, it’s imperative that the bra still be washed on a gentle cycle with cold water. This will also help the bra keep its current shape.

When drying a bra, it is never advised to use the dryer. Since the majority of dryers do not have a gentle option, it can be disastrous for the bra. The high velocity at which garments are flipped over in a dryer can be one of many factors that damages a bra. The center gore, or the fabric piece holding the two cups together, can be torn easily if the bra is put in the dryer. The wire may also pop out from the bra being jostled so heavily.

The most ideal situation would be to lay the bra out to dry, flat on a towel. Hanging a bra to dry can also damage the cups and distort the way they fit.

Sports bras and bralettes are a bit of a gray area. In recent years, many companies have released sports bras with underwire for women who are more well endowed. Although this is a great concept, sports bras with an underwire should be cared for the same way as a regular everyday bra. Always check the back of the tag when unsure of the proper care instructions.

Bralettes have grown in popularity immensely during the past two to four years. Most bralettes are made of only fabric and/or lace, which makes them even more delicate than a normal bra. Since this is the case, hand washing should be the No. 1 choice with these garments. A lingerie bag could also work, but better safe than sorry.

The frequency of a bra being worn will affect how often it will need to be washed. If one has a single regular everyday bra, bi-weekly washes are best. If one has three or four bras that are worn in a rotation, the washes don’t need to be as frequent. Sports bras should be washed after each wear, especially after working up a sweat. 

Keep these tips in mind the next time doing laundry and remember to always play it safe when caring for bras.