Even though you (hopefully) wear your undergarments 365 days a year, the care and upkeep ascribed to them often get the short end of the stick when stacked up against your other wardrobe workhorses. However, thanks to a recent run-in with the co-founders of Negative—a must-know minimalist underwear brand—we’ve got oodles of tips and tricks to keeping that top drawer of yours in pristine condition.
Scroll down to find out exactly how to wash your lingerie, according to the experts at Negative.
Firstly, how often should you wash your undergarments?
Underwear should be washed after each use. (Yikes, duh!)
Bras depend on a few factors, like how many bras you have in your rotation, how often you’re wearing them, in what conditions, and underneath of what.
If you tend to wear only a few bras every day of the week, it probably makes sense to wash them every other week. If you have more bras in your rotation (our recommendation so you can give your bras breathing room to readjust in between wears!), and you’re really only wearing a specific bra once a week or less, then perhaps washing on a monthly basis (or less) makes more sense.
Also, in the summer, when you’re outside in the humidity and (likely) sweating into your clothes, you’d want to wash your bras more often than if you were wearing them indoors in colder climates. Similar to your summer clothes, they have to endure more elements, so they usually get washed more often.
What should you hand wash, and what can be done in a machine?
Like clothing, the quality of your undergarments determines the care required. The finer the materials, the more delicate the care (in an ideal world). It’s also pretty intuitive, but like any fine garment, if you treat it well, it will last longer.
With lingerie, hand washing (in a sink, in cold water, and with delicate detergent) is especially important for underwire bras. We know, it sounds like a total hassle, but wires tend to warp in machines, which can cause poke-through over time. And really, it should only take you 10 minutes tops (most of which is just soak time), so in the grand scheme of obligatory chores, this is pretty low effort on the list.
With underwear bottoms, the delicate cycle of a machine definitely works. The ideal conditions would be delicate cycle, cold water, delicate detergent, in a lingerie bag—no dryer, no iron. Again, these are all just helpful precautions to keep your undergarments looking good for longer. If you send everything out to a wash/dry/fold service, you’ll just need to replace things more frequently, so there’s a tradeoff.
What’s the deal with detergent?
Something we never knew before starting an underwear company is that lingerie detergents aren’t just marketing. They exist because normal detergents are more abrasive and tend to break down fabric fibers more quickly.
For delicate garments, delicate detergents really do preserve the shelf life. One of our personal favorite brands is the Laundress. The regular scent is amazing, but they also partnered up with Le Labo for a custom Santal scent. And honestly, who wouldn’t want their lingerie drawer to smell like a fancy hotel lobby?
What temperature should the water be?
Colder water is best for washing to avoid any shrinkage or unraveling and in general to keep the integrity of the materials intact. Really, you can wash most all of your clothes in cold to keep them looking better longer!
How do you rinse and ring them out without stretching?
Gently is best. Unlike a swimsuit, which can really take a thorough squeeze, lingerie should be treated with a more light, gentle touch. The fortunate news about unlined bras and underwear is that the materials are so thin they won’t absorb much water to be wrung out. If you’re dealing with molded cup or push-up bras, you might need to put a little more squeeze into it to get the water out before hanging or laying to dry.
Should it lay flat or hang?
If you have a drying rack handy, laying flat to dry is great. If you don’t, hanging from hangers in the shower or bathroom also works. We would not recommend laying flat on a solid surface because the air won’t be able to circulate.
What else do we need to know?
The tip of letting your bras breath between wears was something we never knew before starting Negative. Most of us (our prior life selves included) are guilty of owning a drawer full of bras, wearing only two of them, and wearing them for WAY too long before they get replaced. The reality is (more than most garments in your closet) bras have a real job to do—they have to support the girls every day! If you can give them a few days in between wears, it will allow the elastics time to readjust back to a more supportive state. If you wear the same bra every day for days (or weeks) on end, the elastics will stop doing their job as well, and you’ll end up with more sag over time.
The final tip is about shelf life. Most of us have pretty unrealistic expectations about the lifespan of a bra—wearing a bra to death is not necessarily the goal here! Assuming you’ve got a solid set in rotation (say for to six bras at least), you should still aim to replace your bras every nine to 18 months (depending on wear and cup size). The more you have to support (one of the many joys of being well endowed!), the more often you’ll need to replace them and the more bras you’ll need in rotation.
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This post has been updated by Lauren Eggertsen.