Do I have to wash my bras by hand?

Hello Ladies,

On the back of every Sophisticated Pair receipt, we include suggested care instructions for maximizing the life of your bras, and our Bra Naked Truth series even contains an article outlining those guidelines along with additional tips.  However, we are still asked by women across the globe “Do I really have to hand wash my bras?” Usually, the question broadcasts a tone of mild annoyance reminiscent of a child asking her parents why she has to clean her room before going outside to play.  There may even be feet stomping.

While I exaggerate a little (and only a little), the rather valid query remains:  Do you have to hand wash your bras?  No, of course not.  You are not obligated to do anything you don’t want to do, including bypassing the washing machine for your bathroom sink.  Nevertheless, here are five reasons why you should wash your bras by hand:

  1. With hand washing, you control the agitation level of both the water and the items sharing space with your bras, thus ensuring sensitive components like underwires and foam cups are not distorted.
  2. Hook-and-eye closures are unlikely to snag other items mixed in with the bras and either damage those items or the hooks themselves.
  3. The excess water is gently squeezed after hand washing instead of forcing the bras to dry via wringing, whipping, or smashing against the side of a metal cylinder.  Foam cups and underwires will sing your praises.
  4. Hand washing can prevent straps from fraying, lace and embroidery from ripping, and thin meshes from developing runs or holes
  5. It extends the life of your bra!  With hand washing, you have the maximum control over how that bra is treated during the washing process, meaning your gentle treatment keeps the bra in top shape for significantly longer.

All of the reasons above deal with washing the bra because regardless of whether you brave the machine or stick to the ultra delicate “hand cycle,” the bras should never go into the dryer.  Lay them flat or hang them up to dry, but heat should never be part of the equation.  Never.

In all fairness, some bras do have a lower risk of destruction in the washing machine.  Unpadded bras usually fair better because padding and foam are both more sensitive to the agitation and compression.  Often, foam cups which ventured too frequently into the laundry room will return with the weaker points (typically the top or center of the cup) curling upward and outward.  The foam/padding also loses its natural shape which impacts how the bra fits and lift.  Some unpadded bras feature additional design elements like embroidery or lace that may be damaged by the washing machine as well, but it’s at least a little safer for them.

Then, there’s the underwire.  Underwire can be twisted and strained so much by the washing machine that it will breakthrough the fabric and pop out faster.  If the underwire becomes distorted, the fit and comfort of the bra nosedives, and even if there is nothing visibly wrong, the bra will not feel as supportive and comfortable.  Consequently, wireless, unpadded bras have the lowest risks associated with washing machine.

If the lure of the washing machine still tempts you, at least consider using a specially designed lingerie bag on the gentlest cycle, double-checking all of the closures are hooked.  Use mild soap or detergent and avoid Woolite as it breaks down elastic.  I know the idea of spending $60.00 on such a delicate item can seem baffling.  It’s only a bra after all!  However, consider how many other delicate items you own and the care you ensure they receive.  If your shoes get dirty, you don’t toss them in the wash and dryer, or if that fabulous dress needs a refresher, it’s not thrown in with your towels.  Bras are one of the most complexly designed garments you will ever buy, and as such, they require a little more time to keep them looking and feeling great.

On a personal note, I only hand wash my bras, and I have yet to have an underwire pop out, a strap fray, or a delicate piece of lace/embroidery rip.  In fact, I recently donated some of the bras I had worn for well over a year.  The only thing wrong with them?  The bands stretched out too much. To facilitate the ease of cleaning my lingerie, I either wash it after work as needed or on the weekends while cleaning my bathroom.  I find that if I incorporate washing them as part of a routine, it makes the process easier and faster.

Bottom Line:  Hand washing is not essential, but I highly recommend it!

Erica

Do I have to wash my bras by hand?
Erica
Erica is a lover all things lingerie and is passionate about helping people find the bra which fits and flatters. Side passions include reading, writing, hiking, dairy-free food, walking her Jack Russell terrorists, and dying her hair everything from black to red.

14 thoughts on “Do I have to wash my bras by hand?

  • May 24, 2013 at 4:22 pm
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    A good way to avoid damage to bras in a washing machine is not using the spin cycle either.

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    • Christina
      May 24, 2013 at 5:36 pm
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      Even without the spin cycle, the hooks can get caught in the drain holes or on other garments. The lingerie bag in the video is the one I use and it works beautifully but you do have to make sure to hook the bras to minimize chances they will catch on anything.

      Reply
    • Erica
      May 25, 2013 at 9:55 am
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      Having different machine cycles does help if you can figure out which ones have the lowest agitation levels. Mine seems to have very few settings, but some of the newer ones are pretty impressive!

      Reply
  • Christina
    May 24, 2013 at 5:37 pm
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    Love the advice. I’ve been following your hand washing method for over a year now and I still have my first bra I purchased from you. It still looks brand new with the exception of the band being a little stretched.

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    • Erica
      May 25, 2013 at 9:55 am
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      Thanks Christina! Glad to hear all of the bras are holding up well for you. 🙂

      Reply
  • May 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm
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    I admit to putting mine in the front loading washer on hand wash, in a delicates bag, by themselves. I feel guilty sometimes for running a bra load but I think mine get cleaner that way. We have very hard water….

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    • Erica
      May 25, 2013 at 9:54 am
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      I’ve heard a couple people have never had issues with the bras, but then I’ll get customers who say they were throwing the bras in a couple times when BAM! Something happens, and the bra’s not in as good of shape. I’m a chicken about it, so I only wash the matching undies/tights in the lingerie bags. Bras are strictly hand wash only for me.

      Reply
      • May 25, 2013 at 10:07 am
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        I don’t have thick molded cup bras -that helps, I’m sure. My “hand wash” cycle on my machine is very gentle. I think there’s 30 seconds between rotations…and a very gentle spin. When I hand wash they don’t get clean -I see spots all over them, they feel sticky, and I can smell the detergent. I really think its the water….

        I think I am rougher on them hand washing -since I work so hard on them to get the stains out.

        I’d never put them in there without a lingerie bag, though.

        Reply
  • May 24, 2013 at 7:14 pm
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    Another thing to consider is that how alarmingly popular is the search “bra wire washing machine drum”.

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  • May 25, 2013 at 10:42 pm
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    Erica, I have a Woolite Etra Delicate Care detergent I use to hand wash my bras – are you saying it damages the elastic? Or are you talking about some other detergent? What detergent would you recommend that is available in regular stores? I also happen to have a big container with baby detergent that I am not using – would that work?

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    • Erica
      May 28, 2013 at 1:34 pm
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      Hi Naira! From what I understand, Woolite breaks down elastic. I hadn’t heard this before, but then another bra store owner mentioned it as did a shapewear sales rep. Personally, I recommend either something very mild (baby detergent would be great but Ivory Snow is another option) or something especially formulated for lingerie (Le Delicate Wash, Soak, Eucalan, etc.). Because of skin sensitivities, I’ve always used my body wash (Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap) since I know it’s safe for use on my skin and won’t irritate me.

      Reply
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