Here’s all the information I’ve gathered over the years to help you keep your bras, underwear, shapewear or anything marked “delicate” in tip-top shape.
In my years as a personal shopper, I always make sure that my customers know not only how to find the best-fitting shapewear or bra for their needs, but also how to care for it. Like your favorite fancy dress or blouse, caring for these garments requires a little extra love and due diligence. But don’t fret! Learning how to do it like a pro is easier than you might expect, and care requires no special equipment or costly trips to the dry cleaners (unless you want it to).
The 10 Commandments of Delicates Care
Don’t have time to read our entire guide? There’s so much to know about keeping certain fabrics and garments in great shape, but if you follow these 10 commandments, you should run into zero issues as you clean, dry and store your favorite pieces!
- 1. Thou shalt not use hot water.
- 2. Thou shalt not use bleach or harsh detergents.
- 3. Thou shalt not scrub too vigorously.
- 4. Thou shalt not over-soak.
- 5. Thou shalt not go too long without washing.
- 6. Thou shalt not machine-dry.
- 7. Thou shalt not iron.
- 8. Thou shalt not stuff in drawers.
- 9. Thou shalt not dry in a wet environment.
- 10. Thou shalt not stress too much over care!
Washing: By Hand Is Best
Washing your bras and other undergarments frequently is important to helping ensure that they stay fresh and clean. The fact is that these items are in a prime position to absorb sweat (and start to smell) all day long. As a result, you need to get on a good washing schedule so your items maintain their perfect shape and appearance.
- Always Read the Care Tags aBefore you do anything, make sure you reference the garment’s care tags. There is a near-universal symbol convention that makes figuring out the care requirements of any garment a breeze. The symbols on the care tag will indicate how to wash, what kinds of detergents you can (and can’t) use and whether or not it’s safe to dry and iron your items. You may even want to hang a poster in your laundry room for reference.
- Know Your Fabrics: Another important thing to do is to get to know different fabric types and how they should be cleaned. For example, our latex shapewear has special care instructions (it needs to be washed in warm water with baby shampoo and stored in a place with no sunlight). Get to know the different fabric types so you have a general idea of how they should be cleaned.
- Start with a Gentle Soak: To clean your delicate items, always start out with a quick, gentle soak in cool or warm water to loosen any stubborn dirt or stains. However, be sure that you don’t leave garments in any water for too long or you risk the colors fading. Be sure to give attention to any stains beforehand, rubbing them lightly with soap and your fingers.
- Wash Frequently and Rotate: How often to wash bras is a hot topic, and it’s easy to see why. On one hand, you want to wash frequently enough to get rid of sweat stains and gross odors. On the other hand, you don’t want to wash too often for fear of wearing out your garments and shortening their lifespan. We recommend washing bras and shapewear frequently, but not every time you wear them. Try to rotate your bras and wash them every three to four wears.
- Hand Wash in Cold or Warm Water: For the best results, anything marked “delicate” should be hand-washed with cold or warm water. Never wash any fragile pieces with hot water or put them in a hot dryer. The simple fact is that heat is the enemy of many fabrics, and washing your clothes in cold water will help them last longer by preventing the dyes from breaking down and safeguarding fibers from shrinking.
- Always Wash Gently: Always wash your delicate items gently using a mild laundry detergent. And, remember, even hand-washing can be too vigorous for certain pieces! You don’t want to scrub your garments too hard because too much friction and pressure could damage the fabric and make them age faster. Remove stains and buildup gently by swishing the fabric between your hands under water.
- Machine-Wash with Care You can wash your delicates, undies, shapewear and more in the washing machine so long as you practice extreme care and use your machine’s most delicate settings. Here’s how to wash machine-safe delicate items:
- Wash with similar items of the same or similar colors. This will help prevent damage due to bleeding.
- Use a delicates bag—a fine weave mesh bag that adds a layer of protection around your fragile items—for underwear and bras. If you don’t have one, you can use an old pillowcase tied in a knot.
- Never wash delicate garments with bleach, chlorine or fabric softeners. These will deteriorate the fabric faster.
- When washing bras and shapewear, make sure everything is zipped, buttoned or snapped beforehand to prevent garments from getting tangled with one another.
- Use your machine’s cold or delicate cycle to ensure that you’re not exposing your items to high heat or any rough tumbling action that could cause permanent damage.
Drying: Aim for a Gentle Air-Dry
Washing is only half of the process. You’ve also got to think about how to get your freshly washed garments dry and ready to wear in the fastest way possible. As a general rule, it’s best not to let your bras, shapewear or lingerie go anywhere near a conventional dryer. In this case, a good old-fashioned clothesline is best! Here are some of our best tips for how to get your delicates dry without damage.
- Don’t Squeeze or Twist Wet Garments: As tempting as it may be, never wring out your soaking-wet delicates, especially bras. Instead, dab with an absorbent towel to soak up excess moisture and lay flat or hang to dry for a few hours. Twisting and wringing can cause the bra to lose its shape and create stretch marks in the bra cups.
- Never Put Delicates in the Drye: As we already mentioned, heat can change the look, feel and size of certain materials, especially materials that tend to be found in bras and shapewear. The high heat and rough tumbling action of the dryer can cause the fabric itself to shrink while warping elastic and putting extra stress on closures. Your best bet is always to hang delicates out to dry or let them dry on a flat surface.
- Air Dry in the Shade: The sun can do a lot of damage to your favorite items, especially those that have bright colors. Make sure you hang your delicates to dry somewhere in the shade to prevent too much sun exposure. The sun can cause the color to fade while also deteriorating fabric and making garments lose their form.
- Don’t Iron Anything Delicate: As you can see, there is a common theme emerging: NO HEAT! Of course, that means that the iron is completely off-limits, too. If you want an extra-gentle way to steam delicate clothing items, you can hang them outside on a hot, humid day or let them hang out in the bathroom while you take a hot shower.
- Don’t Dry in a Moist, Humid Area: A little humidity can help smooth out stubborn wrinkles, but a lot of humidity can prevent garments from fully drying and can create a hospitable environment for the growth of smelly mold and mildew. Dry in a cool, dry place—not the basement or the porch on a super-humid day—to ensure that pieces dry out fully and smell fresh when they’re done.
Storage and Travel: Maintaining Your Best Garments
I have seen many women make the mistake of expertly caring for their most beautiful undergarments, only to damage them while in storage. How you stash your items when you’re not wearing them (and when you’re traveling) is essential to keeping them in pristine condition, so don’t just shove them into your drawer or suitcase blindly. Here are some of my favorite tips for storage.
For Bras and Shapewear with Bra Cups
Anything that has molded bra cups or underwire is going to be slightly more delicate than those garments that don’t. The wrong move can leave cups permanently misshapen and prevent them from fitting and supporting properly.
- Hanging is best. If you have extra space, hang your shapewear and bras from hooks rather than putting them in drawers. This will prevent them from getting smooshed or deformed in your dresser.
- To store in a drawer, use the unique shape of the cups to stack bras and shapewear on top of one another so nothing gets squished.
- Don’t fold bras or stuff them into a tiny space. This can deform the cups, wires and other materials permanently and can cause the straps to get tangled in other items.
- Fill them with socks. Don’t let your bra cups flatten under the pressure of your luggage! Stuff them with socks or other items (only those that you don’t mind wrinkling) to help retain cup shape. You can also buy special bra cases for when you travel to keep them neatly separated.
- Don’t stack anything on top of bras, as this can cause the cups to flatten and it may be hard to get them to bounce back when you arrive at your destination and want to wear them. The same goes for bikini tops that have molded cups or underwire!
- Pack light bras and shapewear with no cups or wires so that you don’t have to worry about messing them up in transit. Sports bras and comfortable bralettes are always a great option for this!
Delicates Are An Investment
Many times during my career as a personal shopper, women have asked me, “Why does taking care of my bras and underwear take more work than taking care of the rest of my clothes?” Here is why: You wear the same undergarments a lot more than you would wear a dress, a shirt or a pair of pants. This means that your undergarments need to be washed a lot more often and that they need to be a lot more durable.
I like to think of my delicates as an investment. If you think about cost per wear—how much you paid for the item in total divided by how many times you wore it—there’s a good chance that you’re coming out in the pennies with your favorite bras and undies. Protecting your investment requires two important steps: purchasing only high-quality bras, underwear and shapewear from the best brands and retailers, and knowing how to take care of them so they last longer.
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