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Lingerie Care Guidelines: Maintaining Your Bras

One of the most important things you should do when it comes to your bras is proper care. Washing, drying, and storing your lingerie—especially your bras—can help extend the life of the garments quite a bit. This means that they’ll keep their shape and save you from spending unnecessary money to replace worn out lingerie that should’ve lasted longer. Here, you’ll find out exactly what you should and shouldn’t do to keep your bras and other undergarments looking and feeling their best.

washing bras

The Washer & Drying Dilemma

Caring for your lingerie can be bothersome. You’re probably constantly tempted to throw everything in the washer and dryer together just to save time and energy (if you don’t already do this). However, those care instructions on your bra labels, undies, and even your swimsuits are there for a reason.

While some undergarments’ care labels might say that they can be machine washed and tumbled dry on specific settings, most lingerie’s instructions will tell you to skip the machines and care for these garments by hand.

If you’ve dealt with the underwires of your bras popping out or padding bunching up, you probably are more than aware that machine washing and drying your bandeau bras isn’t the best idea. But you might not have realized that other lingerie like panties, negligees, and similar items should be treated with the same care.

While it may seem like a hassle to do anything additional when it comes to your laundry, you have to think about how much of your money you’re essentially throwing away every time you improperly wash a piece of lingerie. By simply following this care guide and the individual instructions for your garments, you’ll extend the life of your favorite pieces and save money on replacing worn out items.

Before You Wash

When sorting through your laundry before you begin washing everything, keep all of your lingerie together, separate from your other clothes. Check the labels of each piece of lingerie to be washed and see what is best to do for each in order to get them clean.

While most should have easy-to-follow instructions, there’s always a chance that a piece or two will say “dry clean only.” If that’s the case, don’t ignore this. Manufacturers know what’s best for the garments they made and if they’ve specified that the item should be dry cleaned, you should follow the instructions despite the hassle.

Next, you’ll want to separate your colors (you don’t want your sexy red bra ruining your white and nude bra!) and pre-treat any stains that you see in the garments. Dab stains with a mild soap or a lingerie wash and gently rub them to work the soap into the stain.

Lingerie wash is a specific detergent made especially for delicate garments. Yes, this is another hassle and an additional expense but it’s more than worth it considering that it’ll help your lingerie last longer. Regular detergents tend to be too harsh for lingerie made of silk, cotton blends, or lace, but lingerie wash is mild. Usually, only a capful is necessary per wash so it’ll last you a while, too.

If you’re not looking to spend more money on a separate detergent, you can make your own DIY lingerie wash. Mix one cup of hot water with one teaspoon of baby shampoo then add a drop of essential oil like lavender to the mix. This will give you a cheap yet efficient alternative.

Washing Your Bras

After you pre-treat stained bras, it’s time to wash them. Start by soaking your bras in a basin with lukewarm water and lingerie wash. There should be enough water in the basin to fully submerge your garments. Let them soak in the soapy water for about 15 minutes. Don’t let this soak time turn you off from the process. Use the time to do something else productive if you hate idle time.  

Next, gently rub the parts of your bra that contact your skin. You can use a soft toothbrush to get out stubborn stains, but rubbing the inside of the cups, the straps, and the inside of the band with your hand should be sufficient if there are no stains.

Empty out the basin and refill it with plain, clean water. Put the bras in the clean water and let them soak for another five minutes in order to rinse out the soap. When time is up, squeeze out the bras gently making sure you don’t wring them out like a towel. Once the excess water is out, place them on a dry, clean towel. Fold the towel over the bra and press down on it gently allowing the towel to absorb any water that comes out.

Tip: if you’d like your stickie bras to be a little softer after washing, add a couple of drops of distilled white vinegar to the clean water during the rinsing process. The vinegar will act like a fabric softener and will also help draw out any soap left behind.

Desperate Times: When the Washing Machine Can’t be Avoided

Ok, if you HAVE to use your washing machine for some reason, you have to use precautions to minimize the damage to your belli bras and other undergarments. Hook all of your bras closed and throw them in a mesh laundry bag that zippers closed. This will keep your lingerie separate from the rest of the laundry in the machine which will help maintain the shape of your bras and keep other undergarments from getting tangled, stretched out, or torn.

Here are some other tips to follow:

  • Use the delicate cycle if possible
  • Always use cold water

Drying Your Delicates

The towel should’ve absorbed any excess water so your bra(s) isn’t dripping wet at this point. Once the excess water is out, hang your bras up somewhere to dry. Since there is always a chance that water will continue to drip from the garments as they hang, it’s best to hang them in your bathroom or in your laundry room, if you have one.

Again, it might be tempting to throw your bras in the dryer on the lowest setting, especially if you’re in a hurry and planned on wearing the bra that same day. Fight this temptation. Putting your bra in the dryer will contribute to it falling apart quicker than it should. The heat of the dryer will break down the spandex and elastic in the bra which will make the bra essentially useless over time.

lingerie being washed

Store Bras Standing Up in a Drawer

Your bras should ideally have room to breathe when you store them away. They should lie flat in a drawer with the cups standing up. Don’t fold them in half, this can ruin the padding and distort the cups. Think about displays at lingerie stores and try to follow suit.

If you can, invest in lingerie drawer dividers or use boxes to store your bras. This will ensure that your bras keep their shape. You won’t have to worry about crimped wires or bunched up pads. If you’re especially diligent, you can color coordinate your bras making them all easy to find when getting ready in the morning.

Underwear Care

Most panties can be washing in your washing machine as long as you use the delicate cycle and cold water unless their care labels tell you otherwise. Some materials or fabrics will call for special care, but in most cases, you’re free to use your washing machine. Here are a few additional tips that you can follow to better care for your panties:

  • Pre-treat any stains with lingerie wash by dabbing the soap on and gently rubbing the stains
  • Use a mesh lingerie bag to prevent them from stretching out or getting tangled

To dry your panties, you can safely use your dryer as long as you tumble them low with no heat. Remember, if the care label says otherwise, follow those instructions instead. In general, it’s better to allow your panties to air dry instead of using your dryer.

Lay them on a clean, dry towel, fold the towel over them and press down gently to squeeze out excess water. You can them leave them lying flat to dry or hang them up.

Special Instructions for Special Garments

Lingerie comes in a variety of fabrics and each one calls for their own care. Here’s a quick guide on caring for some of the more popular fabric options.


Used mostly for hosiery, nylon can be washed on the delicate cycle of your washing machine and dried in your dryer. However, always use a lingerie bag since nylon tends to stick to other garments and can easily snag and rip. Be sure to always use a dryer sheet in the dryer to avoid static electricity, too.


This is a sensitive material that needs to be handled with care. Use only a mild soap or one specifically made for silk. Your silk lingerie should be left to soak in warm water for around five minutes instead of the 15 as mentioned earlier. It should then be rinsed with cool water (vinegar is still a safe option here). Lay the garment flat in a folded towel and allow it to dry like that. Here are a few more tips to follow for temperamental silk lingerie:

  • Do not scrub the material
  • Do not wring out the item(s)
  • Do not spot treat silk lingerie


This is incredibly delicate and is prone to tearing and fraying. Always follow the care labels for lace lingerie first and foremost for the best possible results. Unless otherwise stated, hand wash lace in a basin of warm water with a mild detergent or lingerie soap (be sure the wash you’re using doesn’t have enzymes which will break down the lace). Instead of scrubbing or rubbing the lace, gently plunge the lace up and down in the basin of water several times.

Lay your lace lingerie out flat to dry making sure to keep them out of direct sunlight. Never wring out lace or put it in the dryer. While lace can look wrinkled as it dries, avoid ironing it; the wrinkles should work themselves out.

Washing lingerie with lace trimmings

If the items only have lace trimmings, your safest bet is to hand wash the item and leave it out to dry naturally. This will ensure that it maintains its integrity and lasts you as long as possible.

If you follow this guide as well as your garments’ care instructions, you can extend the life of your favorite bras and lingerie. While it might seem like a hassle at first glance, not only will your lingerie thank you but your wallet will too when you see how much longer your bras will last.