How to Wash Bras in the Washing Machine

ISABELLA TORCHIA / STYLE WELLNESS

Bras may be one of the smaller garments in your wardrobe, but they demand a lot of tender loving care. These little pieces of fabric do a mighty job; lifting, shaping, supporting your breasts, and (very often) all the while looking deceptively pretty.

But how exactly do you provide them with the care they deserve? How often do you need to clean them? How do you wash a bra? How about a Knix bra? Is hand washing really required? Read on…

Can You Machine Wash Bras?

Can you wash bras in the washing machine? Maybe... 

Frustrating as that answer may be, hang in there. Here are some ways to determine if your bra can be machine-washed or if it requires a handwash.

  • The care instructions: Always start with the care instructions. Different brands and styles demand different care.
  • Underwired or wireless: Underwire bras are more likely to require a hand washing because the wire can so easily get bent in a machine wash. Wireless, or soft cup bras on the other hand, have better odds in the machine. This usually includes sports bras.
  • Silk, lace, delicate fabrics: If your bra is very delicate (we’re thinking full on Agent Provocateur lingerie here), it’s best to hand wash it.
  • Your appetite for risk: If you’re the kind who likes to play it super safe, or perhaps you enjoy handwashing, the hand wash is always a gentler approach.

How to Wash Bras: Machine Washing

But even for bras that can be machine-washed, there are some tips to help prolong the bra’s life. A little bit of tender loving care can make a difference.

Here are the steps to follow if you’re opting for the washing machine:

  • 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 cycle. Make sure to set your machine on a gentle cycle or cold water cycle when you’re washing undergarments or other delicates.

A Note About Detergent / Stain Removers

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 mild 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 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 gentle toothbrush and a little spot treatment with your detergent can also help loosen a stain without pulling the delicate fibres.

NOTE: You should never use a fabric softener with your bras (or any synthetics, like athletic clothes) as it can leave a residue on these fabrics.

What If You Have to Hand Wash Your Bras?

Hand washing can sound like a laborious task but when it comes to hand washing bras, it’s really not that difficult. Let’s break it down step-by-step:

  • Step 1: Fill your sink with warm (not hot) or cold water and mild detergent. Swish the water gently to ensure 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 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, the best way is to press it gently between two small towels (or one larger folded one) to gently absorb excess moisture.

Now you know exactly how to wash bras, either in the machine or by hand!

How to Dry Your Bras

Whether you hand wash or machine wash your bras, it’s your choice. But if there’s one hard rule it’s on drying: Drying machines are an absolute no-no. Instead opt for an air dry.

Why? Because the heat of dryers can be detrimental to the elastic in your bra. And once the elastic is gone, your bra is finished.

So, after you’ve gently pressed excess water out of your bra with a towel, you’ll want to air dry them. Our preference is to lay them flat to dry rather than hang them by their strap. 
Some other drying tips:

  • If you do hang them, hang them as you’d wear them (i.e. both shoulders over a hanger, clasped at the back).
  • If your bra has molded cups, make sure you gently reshape them while your bra is damp so it dries in its original shape.
  • If you live in a humid environment, consider putting them near a fan to help them dry more quickly and effectively without any stale smells.

How Often to Wash Bras

While some people wash their Knix bra after every wear, we feel this might encourage a hurried approach. Washing is not always a gentle process, so we think the sweet spot recommendation for washing your bras every two to three wears.

The best way is to have a few bras in rotation. This will make it much more manageable to stay on top of your laundry and to sync up with your regular laundry routine. Get in the habit of doing this and observing careful laundry practices and you can rest assured that your bra, and your body, is cared for.

Every rule has exceptions, right? These are mostly common sense but let’s spell them out for those of us who love explicit guidelines:

  • Hotter day? Change more. If you’re sweating more than usual, you might not want to stretch out to 3 wears. When the mercury rises, get used to washing your bras more often.
  • A “wear” is a full day. If you wear a bra for a few hours only (say for an evening dinner), you don’t have to count this as a “full wear”.
  • Sports bras are different. Hot yoga, running, HIIT? These activities are a whole different ball game. Wash your sweaty sports bra every day. Yep, that means if you work out every day, you need a few sports bras in rotation.

The Best Bra Care Includes Storage

After you’ve taken such great care of your bra washing and air-drying it, you’ll definitely want to make sure you store it properly. 

  • Don’t fold your bras in any unnatural way - aim to fold them the way you wear it.
  • Definitely don’t tuck the cups into each other.
  • Don’t cram them into a drawer and crush the cups, especially if they are padded. You can even get fancy drawer dividers if you feel like unleashing your inner Marie Kondo.

Following these steps will ensure you keep your lingerie in the best possible condition and give it the longest possible lifespan.