How to Wash Sports Bras

ISABELLA TORCHIA / STYLE WELLNESS

Washing bras is a whole topic unto itself. But once you’ve mastered how to wash your everyday bra, you might wonder if the rules for washing your sports bras are the exact same.


Generally, it’s smart to think about your everyday and sports bras as different items of clothing altogether. Now, we know that might be simplistic; after all, many everyday bras resemble sports bras. Some women choose to wear a sports bra daily.

But if you’re wearing a typical everyday bra (thinner material, perhaps underwired, perhaps made of or including silk or lace), it’s a very different garment from a sports bra. 

And it’s not just the material composition that differs between everyday and sports bras. It’s also how you use them. If you’re working up a real sweat (spinning, hot yoga, running, HIIT), that’s an entirely different scenario than your everyday bra encounters (walking, sitting at a desk etc.)

So here are the rules specific to washing your sports bra....

The “Must Follow” Rules of Washing a Sports Bra

In general, sports bras work a lot harder than regular ones, so they need more immediate and dedicated care. 

Wash Your Sports Bra Immediately

If you work up a real sweat during a workout, it’s recommended that you wash the bra immediately after you work out. If you’re going from gym to work, don’t let it sit there damp with sweat all day. Some women go so far as to bring their bra into the shower at the gym and give it a rinse. 

Why this seemingly overzealous reaction? It’s because sweat (and the salts it contains) can be ruinous to the elastic of your bra. Secondly, sweat usually doesn’t smell when it’s wet but when it dries and becomes stale, it can be more difficult to shift that smell. So the sooner you rinse all that sweat out, the better.

Wash Your Sports Bra Often

It is generally recommended that you wash your everyday bra every 3 wears or so. This is assuming a low-to-moderate level of activity (sitting at a desk, walking etc.) Obviously, this recommendation changes on, for example, very hot days when you might sweat more.

With a sports bra, the recommendation is much more aggressive: You should aim to wash your sports bra after every workout. Again, this is because sweat can be so damaging to the bra’s elasticity and appearance.

That said, you know the intensity of your own workouts. If you’re donning a sports bra to do some gentle stretching at home, you may not need to wash it. But if you’re working up any kind of sweat, err on the side of washing after every wear.

Don’t Use Softener

Most sports bras can safely go in the machine (follow the steps further down). However, fabric softener is an absolute no-no for any workout clothes. Softener is really designed for natural fabrics (cotton, linen etc) so is good for towels and bed linen.

Fabric softener is not designed for synthetic fabrics that are used in sportswear clothes. It can leave a residue on synthetic fabrics that compromises its moisture-wicking properties. So, it’s a hard “no” for softener when washing sportsgear; including clothes like leggings, sports bras, moisture-wicking tops etc.

Either skip softener altogether or separate your laundry so that your synthetic load has no softener.

Skip the Dryer

While you can safely toss most sports bras in the washing machine (following the guidelines outlined further down), the dryer should be seen as an enemy of the bra.

The hot temperatures of the dryer can cause elastic to snap and break. Remember the whole point of a sports bra is that extra support, so you definitely want to preserve their elasticity. Skip the dryer and either:

  • Lay your bra flat to air dry
  • Hang it over a hanger just as you’d wear it (shoulder straps over the hanger shoulders, clasped at the back.

Do not hang the bra from one shoulder strap as this can also cause it to stretch and deform.

Hand Washing Might Be More Convenient...

Now, while most sports bras can be safely thrown in the washing machine, we find it sometimes makes sense to just hand wash them. Bear with us… this doesn’t have to be a major chore.

It all depends on how often you’re working out and how often you do laundry. But if you’re working out every day and do laundry once a week, you might just find it easier to rinse your sports bra in the sink. Remember that a damp and sweaty sports bra shouldn’t just sit in your gym bag or laundry hamper. 

If you think handwashing bras is a major pain in the you-know-what, you might be doing it wrong. It can actually be a pretty hands-off activity. Let the detergent and water do the work for you! Here's how to wash a bra by hand:

  • 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 bra 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. You 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. 
  • Step 6: Do not wring it! Instead, press it gently between two small towels (or one larger folded one) to gently absorb excess moisture.

How to Machine Wash Your Sports Bras

If you do want to throw your sports bra in the machine with your other workout gear, here are the steps to follow:

  • 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 sports bras with other lighter items and other synthetics.
  • 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.
  • Step 5: Skip the softener. As outlined above, you want to avoid softener on synthetic fabrics as it can leave a residue.

Other Tips for Sports Bras

If you’re moderately or vigorously active, you’ll put your sports bras through the ringer. So here are some other tips to prolong them:

Keep a Number of Sports Bras in Rotation

If you exercise daily, one sports bra won’t cut it. If you do a variety of styles of exercise, you might also want to explore different sports bras that offer different degrees of support. For example, the bra you need for hatha yoga will not be the same one you might want for long distance running. Whatever your range and frequency of activity, keep a few bras in rotation so you have a clean one for every workout and let your bras “rest” between wears.

Recognize When It’s Time to Replace

The telltale signs a bra needs to be replaced are obvious; damaged hooks, fabric pilling, elastic showing visible breakages, a general sense that the bra is no longer supportive (loosened steps etc.) But you wouldn’t be the first woman to ignore those signs, especially if it’s one you loved. 

Try to stagger your bra purchases so you don’t have to replace your entire underwear drawer at once (an expensive undertaking). Instead, add new bras on a semi-regular basis (quarterly or bi-annually) and phase out the older ones. That way, it’s easier on your pocketbook to ensure your bras stay fresh. 

Get Fitted When You Make a Change

When it does come time to make a change, it’s definitely worth getting fitted again. It can be easy to assume that your size hasn’t changed if your weight is stable. But bodies change for many reasons and getting fitted is a good practice.

At Knix, we want to make getting fitted as convenient as possible. So we developed our virtual fit program. Learn more about it today and book your appointment!

What to Expect from a Knix Virtual Fitting:

  • Book your virtual fitting here
  • We’ll connect you with one of our expert Knix team members for a 1-on-1 fitting session over video chat. 
  • For your bra fitting, we recommend you wear a bra with little or no padding and a fitted t-shirt to make sure we get an accurate measurement. You’ll also need either a) a soft measuring tape or b) a piece of string or cord and a tape measure or ruler.
  • With different styles and sizes for 30A to 42G in the world’s most comfortable and supportive wireless bras, our fit experts can help you get into something that you will love to wear every single day.