How often should you wash your bra?

Looking after your lingerie can be a delicate matter, so here’s how to prolong the life of your smalls. By Sam Wylie-Harris.

Sam Wylie-Harris
Monday 31 July 2023 07:30 BST
Delicate lingerie deserves some TLC (Alamy/PA)
Delicate lingerie deserves some TLC (Alamy/PA)

Summer and smalls… it’s the yin and yang of our wash-day world.

You’ve got a bit hot and sweaty at lunchtime, but you’ve only worn your favourite lacy bralette once… so it’s OK to put it back in the drawer, right?

And then there’s the sports bra in your gym bag – it’s looking a little bit grubby but you can’t remember perspiring in your Pilates class.

Here, experts shed some light on how you should be looking after your lingerie, along with some do’s and don’ts…

How often should you wash your bra?

 “Realistically, if your bra hasn’t been worn for sports or on a particularly hot day, then we would advise washing every three to four wears,” says Rachael Burdis, product and marketing assistant at Pretty Polly.

“If you leave it too long, then it will allow bacteria to build up and you could get dreaded boob spots; or even worse your bra could start to smell,” warns Burdis.

Do you need to hand wash your bra or can you put it in the washing machine?

We’ve all read the small print… some labels recommend hand washing but is this really necessary?

Fabric plays a huge part in not only how often, but also how you wash your bras, says Burdis. “We all know bras are delicate garments and ideally, we should be hand-washing them each time in warm water – this keeps the bras’ shape and maintains the quality of the materials used.

“However, I think we can all say we’re guilty of not doing that all the time – but we should try our best!”

With fine fabrics like silk and fragile laces, she says they should always be hand-washed to avoid any additional wear and tear.

If you’re pushed for time and your bra is going in the washing machine, Dinara Akhmerova, senior manager UK and Ireland for Simone Pérèle, advocates a detergent made specifically for delicates.

“We recommend you don’t add softener as it can stay in the fibres for longer and reduce elasticity. Also, wash on a delicates setting at maximum 30C and no more than 800 RPM spin.”

She also suggest using a bra wash bag to protect your underwired bras – and always dry lingerie flat to keep the shape.

Does it matter if you wear the same bra for a week, even in summer?

“We wouldn’t advise wearing a bra for a week; whether that be summer or winter, just to avoid any bacteria build-up,” says Burdis.

“We also know length of time worn plays a huge part when deciding when to wash your bra.”

If it’s been for a couple of hours a day, she says you could have a week’s worth of wear. But for a full day’s wear, she wouldn’t advise wearing your bra for a week.

For matching sets, should you always wash knickers and bras together, so they don’t become different shades?

 “We tend to wash our knickers more often than bras – and good-quality lingerie shouldn’t fade so dramatically that you can see a marked difference, simply from not washing them together on a few occasions,” says Akhmerova.

However, how well your lingerie maintains its colour depends on many factors, such as how careful you are when washing it, the type of fabric and colour, suggests Akhmerova.

“Whether you wash your sets together or not, the number one rule is to always separate colours, especially your whites. Just don’t mix the colours!

“Also, don’t use bleach on whites,” she warns. “It’s more likely to turn lingerie yellow than brighten it.”

What about sports bras?

For sports bras, Burdis sees this a little differently: “With a less intense low-impact workout, we advise every two wears.

“But when it comes to a heavy gym session, long run or HIIT class, we advise after each wear to ensure you are always smelling fresh – and the bra isn’t accumulating bacteria.”

Should you wash you underwear before wearing it, if it’s brand new?

“Underwear should leave factories or packing houses clean as strict hygiene rules are in place,” says Akhmerova. “But it never hurts to give it a rinse out before the first wear.”

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in