How to Hand Wash Bras

ISABELLA TORCHIA / STYLE WELLNESS

Once you find a bra that’s the perfect fit, comfortable, supportive and oh-so-stylish, it’s natural to want to care for it properly. 

But what’s the best way to care for your favourite bras to give them the greatest longevity? Read on...

Must You Hand Wash Bras?

If you shop at lingerie stores, you’ll know they’re BIG on telling you to hand wash your bras after every wear. They can be so adamant that this is the best way, many of us think it’s a hard and fast, unbreakable rule. 

But it’s really not that straightforward. Bras come in many different styles (underwire, non-wire, bralette, sports bra etc.) and materials. So the care instructions can actually vary quite a lot. For example, Knix bras can be thrown in the washing machine! 

That said, hand washing your bras is an excellent way to give them the gentlest care. But that doesn’t mean no bra can go in the washing machine. 

Our advice: Read the label. If you’re not sure and don’t want to risk it, wash your bras with a hand wash. But if the manufacturer says the washing machine is fine, don’t feel like you have to toil over the sink.

How to Hand Wash Bras

If you never do hand washing it may conjure images of toiling over a steaming hot tub with a washboard. But really it’s not that big a chore at all. You won’t break a sweat and most of the “work” can be passive. 

Here are the steps to follow:

  • Step 1: Fill your sink with warm (not hot) water and mild detergent. Swish the water gently to make sure the detergent is mixed and dissolved properly. See our note below about choosing the right detergent. 
  • Step 2: Submerge your bras in the water. Like any time you’re doing laundry, separate lights from darks and colors and wash like together. Colors can run even when you’re hand washing!
  • Step 3: Leave them to soak! Aim for about 10 to 15 minutes. But you can leave the bras to soak for up to an hour (great time to catch an episode of Netflix, have a glass of Sauvignon Blanc or run some errands). 
  • Step 4: Agitate the bras in the water. Swish and swirl each bra in the water. Don’t get too aggressive here… remember these are delicate garments. But you do want to make sure you agitate any dirt out of the fabric. The water will probably look pretty murky at this stage, which is always simultaneously kinda gross and satisfying to see!
  • Step 5: Rinse. Under running lukewarm water, rinse each bra until the water runs clear. By the way, you can also wash other undergarments and clothing using the same steps.
  • Step 6: Do not wring your bra! Instead, press it gently between two small towels (or one larger folded one) to gently absorb excess moisture.

Drying Bras: Opt for Air Dry

After you’ve gently patted the excess moisture out of your bra, it needs to dry. Air drying is always recommended as dryer machines are just too hot for bras and will break apart the delicate elastic—the quickest way to destroy a bra!

If your bra has padding or molded cups, make sure to gently press them back into shape before the bra dries, so that it keeps its shape.

You can hang your bra to dry, but don’t dangle it by one shoulder strap as this can stretch it out. Instead, hang it on a hanger just the way you would wear it; both straps over the hanger “shoulders” and fastened at the back.

The other option is to lay the bra flat to dry. You can use a drying rack or a lay bras flat on a towel on any clean surface to do this.

If you live in a more humid or muggy environment, consider pointing a fan at any damp clothes to encourage them to dry quickly and prevent them getting that dank, moldy smell.

Choosing Detergent

You may notice that your lingerie store sells specialty detergent or lingerie wash for washing bras and lingerie. The key to look for is an alcohol-free detergent. Some of our favourites include:

  • Soak Wash: Manufactured in Toronto, Soak is an eco-friendly, rinse-free wash that cleans beautifully, and is ideal for hand or machine washing your bras.
  • The Laundress: The Laundress’ Delicate Wash is ideal for lingerie and other items labeled “dry clean”. This formula removes perspiration, body oils, and stains while cleaning and preserving fabrics.

If you’re dealing with stains, you should still have a gentle approach. Do not be tempted to increase the temperature of your wash and instead, think about repeating the soaking steps in the hand washing section above. A soft, clean toothbrush and a little spot treatment with your detergent can also help loosen a stain without pulling the delicate fibres.

A Note About Bra Storage

A really good way to undo all your careful washing is to simply shove your bra in a drawer. So don’t do that. It’s recommended that bras get plenty of space so they don’t get mangled or crushed against other clothes (especially rougher or heavier items).

If there’s one place to channel everything you learned from Marie Kondo, it’s in your lingerie drawer: 

  • Don’t bend or fold the cups into each other
  • Simply fold the bra as you would when wearing it
  • Let the cups have some air so they stand out
  • Give the bras space (i.e don’t stack or pile them)
  • Do not hang bras from one strap

How Often Do You Need to Wash Bras?

This is a topic worthy of a longer piece (click here to read more about washing frequency). But let’s give you the key takeaway: For us every two to three wears is the ideal frequency. 

We may need to increase this frequency when it’s hot or humid and we’re sweating more. But a little bit of common sense will steer you the right way.

Some people prefer to wash their bra after every single wear and that’s okay too. But it feels a little less realistic that you’ll apply the same care if you’re doing this chore daily. It’s important to remember that washing bras can damage them too, if not done properly.

What About Using a Washing Machine?

As we said at the start, not every bra needs to be hand washed. Like Knix bras! But if you are going to machine wash your bra there are some important steps to follow too:

  • Step 1: Fasten all the hooks / clasps. Hooks and clasps can catch on other items of clothing, which can cause a lot of stretching, pulling and even breakage of your bras. So make sure you fasten all the clasps to minimize the chances of that happening.
  • Step 2: Place the bras in a mesh bag / lingerie bag. A mesh bag or lingerie bag is great for keeping delicates (underwear, socks, tights) contained in the laundry and protected from tangling with less delicate garments.
  • Step 3: Separate your colors / weights. As always with laundry, you want to take a moment to separate your colors (white, black and colors). You can also separate your loads by weight, including bras with other lighter items, like tees, socks, underwear etc. rather than heavier objects like bed linens, jeans and sweatshirts.
  • Step 4: Choose a gentle or cold water cycle. Make sure to set your machine on a gentle cycle or cold water cycle when you’re washing undergarments or other delicates.

Whether you choose bras that absolutely need to be hand washed or have ones that can go in with your other laundry, these tips will help you ensure your favorite bras can last as long as possible.