How to Wash Bras by Hand (And in the Washer, If You Must)

Lingerie designer Mary Young gave us tips on how to wash your bras without ruining them

There’s a pretty good chance you haven’t washed your bras in a while. We’re busy, we’re lazy and washing our dainty delicates is a pain in the ass. No judgment! But if you want to keep things fresh, ward off bacne and lengthen the lifespan of your bras, it should be a habit.

For bra washing 101, we talked to Mary Young, founder of her eponymous and ethically made Montreal lingerie brand, for expert advice on how to keep your bras clean, soft and in tip-top shape—or at least not *totally* nasty.

How often should I wash my bras?

“Ideally, you want to wash your bra every four to six wears,” says Young. “If the bra is padded or made with a polyester material, you definitely want to wash it every four wears as these materials are not breathable and hold onto anything they absorb.” So if you need motivation, just think of all the dead skin cells and sweat building up after every wear. Delicious.

But keep in mind that when it comes to washing bras, more isn’t more; don’t go overboard with scrubbing your delicate underthings. “If you wash your bra too much, you will shorten the lifespan of it,” warns Young.

Can I use regular detergent to wash my bras?

Young says that regular laundry detergent will do the trick for most bras, but some intricate undergarments will need extra TLC. “If you own bras with delicate fabrics such as lace, then it is best to invest in lingerie soap,” she explains. Specialty lingerie detergents are gentler and usually contain more conditioning ingredients to keep things soft.

Forever New Swirl Lingerie Wash, $10,

Young suggests the Swirl Lingerie Wash above as a perennial fave among her inner circle.

Do I have to wash by bras by hand?

Sorry, but hand washing is the best way to make sure your bras last. If you’re hellbent on using a washing machine, keep scrolling to see Young’s tips on how to minimize the damage.

A step-by-step guide to washing your bras by hand

1. Check the care instructions

Always look for the care instructions on the label. This will usually tell you what water temperature to use. “Depending on the colour of the bra and the dyeing process for the fabric, you may bleed out colour if you wash it in hot water,” says Young. If the water temperature isn’t specified on the bra’s tag, lukewarm is a safe bet.

2. Fill your sink (or basin) with water and soak the bra

Once you’ve figured out the water temperature, fill up your clean sink or bin and soak the bra in it. Start gently massaging water into the bra. Be extra careful if it’s made of a delicate fabric or has padding.

3. Add some detergent

The amount of soap you add depends on the type of bra you’re washing—sturdier materials like cotton can handle a bit more—and how many you’ve got in the sink, but Young generally recommends two tablespoons for 1–3 bras.

4. Gently massage the bra in the soapy water for 5 to 10 minutes

“You can be more aggressive along the band or any sturdy area of the bra to ensure the soap gets into the fabric,” says Young, but don’t pull too much.

5. Drain the soapy water and rinse the bra multiple times

Once you’ve drained the water, rinse the entire bra with running water from the tap multiple times to get all the detergent out. Very gently squeeze and massage the fabric to get the water out—don’t wring! If you’re feeling fancy, you can gently press the bra between two towels.

6. Hang to dry, but be careful

One way to dry your bra is laying it flat on a towel, cups facing up. If you’re hanging it, hang it by the centre and not the straps or you risk stretching them out.

Hand washing is just too much. Can I *please* use a washing machine on my bras?

For delicate fabrics, hand washing is always a better idea. Otherwise, you can use a washing machine as long as you’re very careful. Make sure to fasten any hooks and attach straps to prevent things from getting stretched out or snagged.

Young says to use the delicate or hand-wash setting and put the bras in a wash bag that will protect them from being tossed around too much. “Don’t overfill the wash bag,” she warns; only put two or three bras per bag to ensure they get cleaned properly.

Ooh, so does that mean I can use a dryer, too?

Please don’t. “At all costs, avoid the dryer,” says Young. If you want your bras to last, putting them in the dryer is a big no-no as the heat can damage dainty fabrics and padding.

Still determined? “If you absolutely must, throw it in the dryer on low heat for a short period of time (around 20 minutes) to get most of the moisture out and then let it hang dry,” says Young. You could also do the reverse. “If you planned on wearing a bra that hasn’t completely dried from hang drying, you can toss it in the dryer on low for 20 minutes or less.”