Everyone and their mom, from lingerie experts to laundering experts, will tell you that you must always hand-wash your bras. (Why? Because bras are delicate, high-maintenance pieces of work and they need the requisite care.)
But here in the real world, I know that most of you are chucking your bras in the washing machine along with the rest of your clothes. It's just life! You have dates to go on and friends to see over brunch and entire seasons of Netflix shows to catch up on. And you know what? That's fine.
If you must launder your bras in a machine, you now have this handy guide to make sure you do it the right way.
1. Choose Your Washer Cycle Wisely
The gentle or delicates cycle on a washing machine will come the closest to replicating hand-washing, so that's the one you should use. (Quick lesson: Washing machine cycles are based on the speed of the wash and spin cycles. The slower the speed, the less abrasion and agitation the clothes are subjected to. In the case of your bras, slower is better because the elastic and any embellishments on the bra benefit from dealing with less stress.)
2. Use the Right Detergent
Specialty detergents designed for use on bras and other delicate garments like shapewear or cashmere sweaters are a great choice whether you're washing your bras by hand or in the machine. You can find delicates detergents in a range of prices, from the wallet-friendly Ecover Delicate Wash to the pricier Delicate Wash by The Laundress.
If you want something more multipurpose, opt for an eco-friendly detergent, like Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent, or one of those "free and clear" options that most of the major laundry detergent brands offer (like Tide Free & Gentle or Wisk Free & Pure). Those detergents will be gentle enough for bras but effective enough for use on less delicate items of clothing.
3. Put Your Bras in a Bag
One of the problems with machine washing bras is that the straps and hooks can easily become tangled or snagged on other garments during the wash and spin cycles. Putting bras into zip-up mesh bags will protect the straps from winding around larger items and becoming stretched out. They will also help to keep hooks from snagging materials like fine cottons. Just be sure not to overstuff the bags, which will prevent the bras from getting fully clean.
Large Lingerie Wash Bag, NORDSTROM, $12
4. Wash Like With Like
Even if you're diligent about putting bras in protective mesh bags, you should still avoid machine-washing delicates with heavy items like jeans, sweatshirts, or towels. Those things are likely to cause damage to elastic, and metal or plastic underwire.
5. Always Air-Dry—Always, Always, Always!
Here's where the hard line comes in: Never put your bras in the dryer. You should always hang your bras to dry or lay them flat. If you opt to hang a bra to dry, do so by the center gore (the piece in between the cups) rather than by the straps, which will get stretched out because the wet cups will pull the garment downward. That mesh bag will come in handy for this purpose—you can just pluck it right out of the wash and set it aside before transferring the rest of the load to the dryer.
6. Rinse in the Shower
Somewhere in between hand- and machine-washing lies this neat trick, which will buy you a few more wears in between washings: Shower-rinsing! It is exactly what it sounds like—take your bra into the shower with you and rinse it with water, which will help to wick away body oil and skin buildup, then hang it by the center gore to dry. Frequent rinsing will help you cut back on the frequency with which you need to launder your bra, which means it won't be subjected to the potential damage machine-washing can cause.