How to Wash Bras

Mar 27, 2018 | Hurray for Lingerie, Hurray Kimmay TV, Underneath | 13 comments

In my many years as a bra fitter since 2005, I’ve helped thousands of people find bras and lingerie that fits well and feels great – from cup sizes AA to N! And no matter what sizes they took home, I always had the same last piece of advice: wash your bras well. 

Psst! Some of the links in this article are affiliate links or a brand partner. As always, I only share my honest opinion to help you say hurray inside, outside, and underneath™!

Caring for your bras is a great way to practice caring for yourself. These items support a really dear part of your body, and are close to your heart. Not to mention, they cost money! So taking care of them is important. In fact, it’s very important in my opinion. When I hear someone say: “oh, I just throw my bras in the washer and dryer”, I have the same physical reaction as if they said, “oh, I love to kick puppies for fun!” WHAT?! WHY!? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!? OK, maybe that’s a touch dramatic. I won’t really lose sleep if you don’t wash your bras well, but I will call the authorities if you harm animals. But I hope you’re seeing the importance of it here.

That’s why I’ve partnered with Soak wash to bring you some of my finest lingerie, undergarment, and delicates care tips. Keep reading for my best advice for washing bras, and hop over to my Care page for my whole video series with loads of tips on washing and caring for other items! From swimwear to shapewear, and lace bras to period underwear – I’m here to support you.

Use Great Soap

One of the most important aspects of washing bras well, is deciding which detergent to use. Basic laundry soap and even some so-called gentle soaps are too harsh on the delicate or stretchy material of bras. Use something specifically for lace and lingerie, or delicates. I like to use Soak! It’s a favorite of mine for several reasons:

  • Soak uses naturally derived ingredients, and it is skin and fabric friendly. In fact, they like to say it’s like skincare for your clothing!
  • They have several light and fresh scents which makes hand washing more fun! I personally like Yuzu the most so far. If you’re not a fan of light scents, there is also scentless.
  • I can use Soak on more than just bras and lingerie! I hand wash a lot of items, like sweaters, blouses, gym clothes, wool base layers, tights, swimsuits, and more.
  • It’s highly concentrated, which means you just need a little bit. A large bottle can last you a long time, and help your delicates last longer so it’s a great investment.
  • Soak is a “no rinse”, low suds formula. That means when I’m soaking my sweaters I don’t need to wring and rinse and wring and rinse and break down the fibers. I do generally suggest rinsing lingerie and undies, but even if you didn’t, Soak doesn’t linger and dry on the material – which can break it down faster than usual. Plus, no residue.
  • The lovely people behind this brand are just that – lovely!

Clearly, I believe in the importance of choosing a really great soap, and it’s why I’ve partnered with Soak on this care series!

Hand washing your bras

I say hurray for hand washing for many reasons. Hand washing your bras with Soak will:

  • Help bras last longer (save you money and trips to the store)
  • Help bras feel softer and wash the itchiness from starch and sizing away
  • Prevent stains (wash those sweat or other soils out right away before they stain!)
  • Prevent broken underwires
  • Maintain the shape of your bras
  • Help them (and you) smell fresh and clean
  • Prevent extra stretching out

That last one – stretching out – is a biggie. When your bra stretches out it won’t fit or support very well, and then all SORTS of things can happen: back pain, shoulder pain, digging underwires, shifting, falling straps, a back that rides up. Do you see where I’m going here? A little bit of extra care goes a LONG way (and that goes for inside, outside, and underneath™)

Keep in mind that hand washing is the most gentle you can be on your delicates. You are literally letting them sit and soak and then hand rinsing them. When it comes to machine washing, I drop my clothing at an industrial laundry mat, so there’s no such thing as a “gentle cycle”. And while the crew at the laundromat does a phenomenal job of folding my shirts (how do they get them to be so perfect!?) I have little faith that they will treat my lace bras and undies with a gentle hand. They’re intense.

Did you know that running your bras through the washing machine is one of the most common reasons for underwires breaking! Bras get stuck in the holes in the drum or tangled up during the spin cycle and ::POW!!:: the underwire is now either poking through or totally broken.

And don’t get me started on the dryer. High heat is DEATH for bras. The elastic or stretchy fibers (which most modern bras use) get fried and crunchy and lose their elasticity. And when the band or straps are stretched out, the bra can’t hug you and stay in place to do its job.

I can hear you now, “but Kimmmmmaaayyyyy! Hand washing is such a pain in the neck! Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I hear you. I see you. I was you. So CALM DOWN. Hand washing delicates is pretty darn easy, and it can even be enjoyable. Yes, that means you, too, can say hurray for washing your lingerie! The steps (and my case for how easy it is) are below.

OK! Ready to say hurray for washing your lingerie? To help your bras last and lift longer follow these bra washing instructions. Let’s get to it!

How to Hand Wash Bras

What You’ll Need

  • A clean sink, bucket, or basin
  • The bras you need to wash, separated into light and dark colors because you’ll want to wash them separately so the colors don’t bleed and discolor each other 
  • Detergent made for lingerie
  • A towel
  • Water faucet
  • Optional: a dry rack

Step 1: Fill up your container with lukewarm water. 

  • I like to place my Soak Basin in the tub or shower so I can easily pour out the water, and without taking up the sink, but you can place it anywhere.
  • You can even use the basin as a separate delicates laundry basket so your lingerie is separated and ready to go.
  • You don’t want to go too hot with the water because you’ll mess with the fibres of your bras but you don’t have to freeze your hands, either!
  • Make sure the water level can cover the undergarments you’ll be washing. There should be enough water so it can move through the items with the soap.
  • If you’re using a sink, you may also want a universal tub stopper.

Step 2: Squirt or pour in about a teaspoon of soap, or follow the instructions on your bottle of detergent.

  • As mentioned above, I cannot stress enough how important it is to use a soap or detergent that is specifically made for delicates and lingerie. Regular laundry detergent is too harsh on stretchy or delicates fabrics. Plus, lingerie detergents help prevent elastic from breaking down so your bra won’t stretch out super fast.
  • There are several great options on the market and I recommend using Soak. Soak is a gentle, skin and fabric-friendly soap, with no harsh chemicals or overwhelming fragrances.
  • It comes in a few light scents, or scentless. I’m going to use Soak in Yuzu, which has a yummy Japanese citrus smell to it. Hurray!
  • The Soak that I’m using is super concentrated so you just need a tiny bit, which is fab, because that means depending on how often you wash things, this big bottle can last you a LONG time. {I hand wash lots of things because the alternative is dropping off my clothes at an industrial laundromat in NYC, so my Soak bottle is used quite frequently, and it’s still pretty full.}

Step 3: Submerge some similarly colored bras into the water. 

  • Tip: Take off your rings so you don’t snag any delicates!
  • Make sure each cup and parts of the bra are fully saturated and wet, especially push up or padded bras. 
  • You can give them a little swirl, or hold them under the water, or gently toss them like a salad to make sure.

Step 4: Soak them!

  • Let them sit and soak like this for about 15 minutes or so. You can leave them in longer – it won’t harm them – but there’s no need to.
  • During this time you can read another blog post, follow me on Instagram, or cuddle with your cat. All are encouraged. The best tip I have is to do something that makes you say hurray! In fact, if you make it a habit, you can start looking forward to washing your bras because you know you’ll have a favorite activity to look forward to while your bras are soaking. And while you’re doing that, Soak is moving through the garment with the water, grabbing all the dirt particles and bonding them to the water particles, and washing the dirt out and into the water.

Step 5: Rub and Rinse

  • Using your fingers, gently rub the parts of the bra that are soiled – mostly, around the underwire and band.
  • You can also use the fabric of the bra against itself to create a little friction. Be gentle though!
  • Do not warp, wring, or scrub. A simple gentle rub will do.
  • You can do this under clean running water while you’re rinsing, too.
  • A note on Soak: the soap that I’m using here is actually “rinse free”, meaning, “because Soak is a low-suds liquid, the dirt and detergent come out in the water, and whatever is left in the item evaporates. When you squeeze out the water, all that’s left behind is a hint of fragrance that dissipates over time.” Cool, right!? However, I do suggest giving bras a rub and quick rinse. And I certainly suggest giving underwear and shapewear a rub and rinse. (More on washing underwear and shapewear on my Care page.)

Step 6: Air dry.

  • After everything is rinsed, gently remove as much excess water as possible. Do not twist or wring it, or warp the cup to do this – especially for a molded or formed bra – because you’ll ruin the shape of the cup!
  • You can even use a towel to press out and absorb the water. This is especially helpful for molded, push up, or padded bras because you can ball up the towel into the shape of the cup and press onto it.
  • Hang dry your bras by the center gore (the part in between the cups). If you hang a wet bra by the end of the band or a strap, you’re likely to stretch it out.
  • You can toss your bra over the shower curtain rod, or there are plenty of snazzy methods for hang drying and I have a handy list below.

A few items to help you hang dry:

  • Basic foldable drying rack – this is the one I’m using in the video.
  • Heavy duty dry rack – this has a different layout option. Pick your pleasure.
  • Clip and drip hangers – similar to what I show in the mirror, these are available in several sizes, from 8, 16, and even 26 clips.
  • Laundry drying hangers – a different silhouette with several clips for drying.
  • Retractable clothesline – install a retractable clothesline anywhere in the house, including the laundry room or shower. Hang bras over the line or use clips to secure delicates in place.
  • Laundry sleeve – these Velcro over a hanger, towel rod, or even a tree!

Most bras will air dry overnight, especially if you allow some gentle air flow around and in between them. Get a great night’s sleep and wake up to fresh, ready to wear bras. Hurray!

Machine washing your bras

If you MUST put them into the machine pah-lease take some extra precautions:

  1. Hook the back: if your bra has a hook and eye or clasp, please hook them before washing. This will prevent them from hooking onto anything and getting snagged or even snapping.
  2. Be gentle: Use the gentle cycle {or that snazzy hand wash cycle that some machines have} and wash alone. If you’re putting in a few other delicate items, place the bras into a mesh bag first to protect them.
  3. Use gentle soap: DO NOT use your basic detergent on bras. I have an entire section in this article about the best soaps to use and why it’s so important. Educate yourself.
  4. Hang dry: {Pretend I’m using my most stern Mom voice} Don’t you DARE put your bras in the dryer, missy. For serious, though, dryers are death traps for bras. Please read my instructions and tips for hang drying and let the air do the work.

Want more info? Watch my video on machine washing bras.

How often to wash bras

This is up for debate, but I typically suggest washing your bras every 3-4 times you wear them. Of course, if you have a super sweaty day or it’s a sports bra, you should wash it right way. Remember that the longer your bra sits with dirt, oils, dead skin, and other stuff on it, the less the elastic is able to bounce back to its natural state. So gently washing your bras with Soak often actually helps clear away the grime and maintain elasticity – which means your bra is fresher, and a better fit for much longer!

PS: If you have sensitive skin like me (my chest legit turns red when I’m trying on some new bras) or a new bra feels itchy, give it a soak before you wear it. Most likely there is starch and sizing in the bra and it needs to be washed out.

Your Turn: How do you wash your bras? How often do you care for them? How can you use bra washing as a self care practice? How can you start to care for your bras differently, and up your level of support?

Hurray Kimmay Logo

PS: Want more tips on how to wash your delicates, lingerie, shapewear, and even swimwear? Check out my care page with loads of videos and tips!

Soak believes that bras and lingerie (among other things) are Soakworthy®. You feel your best when you’re wearing your best bras, and Soak knows it. They want to help you keep those Soakworthy® items fresh and beautiful – because you are worthy of wearing that beautiful bra and feeling your best. I love that. And I truly love using Soak. I’ve been using this gentle detergent for everything from bras to swimsuits, blouses to tights, and so much more. Plus, I’ve partnered with them because they truly understand what care means – it’s not just about your things, it’s about caring for yourself, too. Hurray to that!

Soak is modern laundry care. It’s perfect for washing your laciest lingerie, softest sweaters, swimwear, workout wear, quilts and all the delicates you care about most. Made in Canada, Soak is the best, easiest to use, most deliciously scented no-rinse laundry product anywhere. Their eco-friendly wash cleans beautifully, and is ideal for hand or machine washing. Show your laundry (and the planet) some love, with Soak.

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