How Often Do You Really Need to Wash Your Bras?

A dermatologist explains the dirty truth

How Often Do You Really Need to Wash Your Bras?

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

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

What’s the heck is “a wear” anyhow?

Hey, it’s a valid question. Dr. Vij admits a wear can mean different things.

“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.”

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It’s also important to rotate your bras, so that 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.”

The icky why — and best way to extend the life of your bras

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

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“All the dead skin cells, oils and sweat trapped under your bra make for a cesspool of bacteria and yeast,” Dr. Vij says. “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 more often you wash your bra, though, the higher the stress you place on the fabric. The cups tend to lose their shape and the straps lose their elasticity, unless you:

  • Fasten the strap before washing, so it won’t get tangled or snag other clothes.
  • Place the bra in a mesh laundry bag, so it won’t get twisted around other clothes.
  • Use your laundry machine’s most gentle cycle with the coolest water to prevent pilling and preserve elasticity.
  • Lay your bra flat on a towel to dry, making sure the cups are positioned in their natural shape.
  • Avoid the dryer at all costs. The heat and vibration will ruin the fit and reduce your bra’s stretchy properties.
  • After drying, store them 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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