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How Often Do You Really Need To Wash Your Bras?

A dermatologist dishes on the dirty truth

clean bras drying on a clothesline

You’ve probably rationalized how often you need to wash your bras. And you know what we mean: “I’ve only worn this bra to work. I sit there all day at my desk in the air conditioning. And I didn’t even break a sweat! Surely, it’s not time to toss it in the laundry yet!”

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How often you need to wash your bras isn’t an exact science. But dermatologist Alok Vij, MD, says that as a general rule, you should wash them after every two to three wears.

How often should you wash your bra?

If you’re wondering “What qualifies as a ‘wear,’ anyhow?” it’s a valid question. Dr. Vij says it can mean different things, and your air-conditioned-office rationalizations aren’t all that far off.

“A few hours with a bra on with minimal sweating might not count as a full ‘wear,’” he says. “But a few hours with heavy sweating could count as a double or triple wear.”

It’s also important to rotate your bras, so the cups and straps can relax. This allows them to retain their shape and elasticity.

“You can wear the same bra two days in a row, as long as you take it off for several hours in between to allow the bra to relax,” Dr. Vij says. “But wearing a ‘lucky’ bra day in and day out will make it lose its shape more quickly.”

What happens if you don’t wash your bra?

Keeping your bra healthy is all about balancing the care for the fabric with the removal of skin debris, oils and sweat.

“All the dead skin cells, oils and sweat trapped under your bra make for a cesspool of bacteria and yeast,” Dr. Vij explains. “Not washing frequently enough can lead to stains and persistent odors on the bra — as well as skin irritation, rashes or local skin infections from yeast or bacteria.”

The best way to wash your bra

But the more often you wash your bra, the higher the stress you place on the fabric. The cups tend to lose their shape and the straps lose their elasticity. So, here’s how to wash your bras so they last as long as possible:

  1. Prep: Fasten the strap before washing, so it won’t get tangled or snag other clothes.
  2. Protect: Place your bra in a mesh laundry bag, so it won’t get twisted around other clothes.
  3. Wash: To prevent pilling and preserve elasticity, wash your bras on your laundry machine’s gentlest cycle using cold water.
  4. Air dry: Avoid the dryer at all costs, as the heat and vibration will ruin the fit and reduce your bra’s stretchy properties. Instead, lay your bra flat on a towel to dry, making sure the cups are positioned in their natural shape.
  5. Store: After drying, store your bras laid flat. Rolling or twisting (putting one cup inside the other) can permanently change the shape of the bra.

“With gentle care, quality bras can last for years,” Dr. Vij says. “But washing too frequently — or not frequently enough — can destroy your bra or mar your skin.”

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