How many “wears” do you give a bra before it’s time to go into the laundry? The answer isn’t straightforward, though many of us wonder what the “best practice” is.
Many women drag out wearing a bra for weeks before laundering (especially if it's their beloved wireless bras from Knix). And it can depend on the season and how active you’ve been. After all, if you’ve been sitting in an air conditioned office all day, how dirty can your bra be?
Wash Your Bra Every 2-3 Wears, Use Common Sense
How often should you wash your bras? The general answer is that it’s a good idea to wash your bra every 2-3 wears.
Now, there are obviously caveats to this answer: If you wear a bra for a single evening is that really a “wear”? Or, what happens when the mercury rises and you’re coming home positively damp from the muggy weather?
Well, that’s where your common sense comes in. There are definitely days when your bra needs to go straight in the laundry. And there are other occasions when you can extend beyond those three days.
And - important - if we’re talking about a sports bra… well that should be washed after every wear.
How Bras Get Dirty
It’s easy to see why we might think bras need washing less often. After all, they’re mostly protected from scuffs and spills by our outer layers. And while most of us wouldn’t dream of not changing our underwear daily, bras just seem a little less iffy.
However, there are plenty of ways for bras to get dirty nonetheless:
- Sweat: If you experience boob sweat this will be obvious to you. But even those who don’t perspire a lot still sweat. While sweat is nothing to be ashamed of, when it dries it can leave a stale smell.
- Oil: Everybody’s skin produces oil. You’ll often notice it most on the neck of tees and shirts. But fabrics that sit close to the skin will particularly be exposed to skin oil. Oil and sweat can combine to make a happy breeding ground for yeast and bacteria.
- Lotions: Don’t forget the products you apply to your skin too. While it’s good to keep skin moisturized, the residue from lotions can cause dirt and grime to accumulate on your bra and clothing.
- Perfume: Many women love a spritz of their favourite scent on chest or décolleté. But those fragrances can contain oils and chemicals that also build up.
Why Washing Your Bras is Essential
These all sound like pretty benign realities. And the problem isn’t so much that you sweat or produce oil or use perfume as what can happen when these things build up and form dirt and grime.
Then, your bra (and your skin) can become a breeding ground for bacteria. This can cause some things you’ll definitely want to avoid, like:
- Skin irritation & infection: Yeast infections don’t just happen in your vagina. Sweat and bacteria can create a perfect environment for this kind of infection, which can in turn cause skin irritation and chafing.
- Odour: Stale sweat, stale perfume, oily residue from moisturizers… they don’t exactly make a sweet-smelling cocktail.
- Shorter lifespan for your bra: Wearing a dirty bra isn’t just a problem for you… it hurts your bra too. All that oil and dirt can also wreak havoc on your bra and shorten its lifespan.
Other Ways to Prolong Your Bra’s Lifespan
So, changing your bra every 2-3 wears and washing it makes sense; for you and your bra.
Most bras last 6-12 months, depending on how many you have in rotation. Given their expense, it makes sense to try to prolong your bra’s lifespan. Here are some other ways to do that:
Wash Your Bras and and Dry Them Carefully
Washing your bra is a bit of a double-edged sword: Don’t do it and your bra’s lifespan could shorten. But do it wrong and you could also shorten your bra’s lifespan. What’s a girl to do?! Be gentle...
How to wash a bra? Some bras can be safely washed in the washing machine (hello, Knix!) while others require a gentle hand wash. No matter what the washing instructions, think about how you can protect your bra.
Mesh laundry bags, for example, will prevent your bra getting entangled in other garments and getting stretched too much in the wash. Gentle detergent can also help prolong lingerie’s life.
Dryer machines can also cause damage to the delicate fabrics and elastic of your bra. Instead, opt for air drying. If possible, dry your bras flat (not dangling from a shoulder strap). This helps preserve their shape.
Carefully Store Your Bras
After all that careful laundering, you’re not just going to shove your bras in a jam-packed drawer, are you?
Bras love space and the best way to store your bras is laying them flat and front-facing in a drawer. Avoid folding them or bending molded cups. You can nest bras into each other to help preserve their shape (this will also give you a bra drawer Marie Kondo would be proud of—win/win!)
Rotate Your Bras
Ideally you have more than a few bras that you wear in rotation (and you love them all). This will mean your all bras will last a little longer as you’ll be wearing each one a little less often. It also gets you in a good habit of switching and keeping them clean.
When it Is Time to Replace...
All good things come to an end and that includes your trusted bras, even when you’ve faithfully cared for them.
When it’s time for a bra replacement, it’s a good time for a new fitting to make sure you’re wearing the right size. You might also want to try out different styles or colours. A little novelty might make it easier to move on ;)