Looking after your lingerie can be a surprisingly difficult task. While cotton underpants can usually be washed easily in a machine on a normal cycle, bras and other underwear that’s made from lace, silk or other delicate textiles should be washed and dried carefully in order to prolong their lifespan. A bra can be particularly tricky to care for since any loosening of its shape and fit as a result of excessive washing could lead to discomfort when you’re wearing it. If you’re unsure of how best to care for your lingerie, here are a few simple tips to follow.
First it’s important to remember that unlike underpants, bras don’t need to be washed after each time they are worn. British fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood claims she never washes her bras at all. Instead, she deodorises them with a dusting of talcum powder. Despite this fashion endorsement, it is advisable that you do wash your bras after you’ve worn them a few times in order to strip them of any odour, sweat or dirt that has built up. Ideally, they should be handwashed in a sink filled with warm water and washing detergent that’s designed for delicate fabrics, but a little gentle shampoo or hand soap will also work well. To ensure that your bras are well cleaned, either rub the material together softly and wash out the detergent, or leave them to soak for around an hour before rinsing. This is also the best way to wash all your delicate lingerie items, including lace and silk knickers, vests and basques.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to wash your lingerie by hand, they can also be washed in a machine on a gentle cycle or at a low-temperature. Settings that are designed for silk and wool are ideal, as these are programmed with a gentler spin cycle. Before placing your bras in a washing machine, make sure that the hooks are clasped so they don’t catch on to other items. It’s also advisable to place your lingerie in a small washing bag or a pillow case so they don’t become tangled or twisted during the cycle.
Once your bras and other delicate lingerie items have been washed and rinsed out, you need to dry them naturally on a washing line or drying rack. Don’t be tempted to dry them on a hot radiator or in a tumble dryer, even if you need to wear them relatively soon after washing. Most lingerie items are so thin that they dry quickly anyway, and if you wash them before you go to bed they will almost certainly be dry when you wake up. Drying lingerie in a tumble dryer or directly on a heating appliance may cause further wear and tear and could damage the underwire in bras, thereby directly affecting the amount of support they are able to provide.
Some expensive lingerie – such as designer bras, basques, corsets and wedding lingerie – may come with the direction that they be dry cleaned only. If you own lingerie that carries this instruction, make sure you adhere to it as washing them in a conventional manner may cause serious damage. Ultimately, caring for your lingerie properly could significantly prolong the life of your bras, knickers and other underwear items, so they could be effective for years rather than months.