How to Wash Bras
A great bra is the foundation of an outfit, a source of support and comfort throughout the day. When a bra is executed well, it’s quite literally a feat of design and engineering. To make your bras feel, function, and look their best for as long as possible, you need to properly care for them.
Most bras should be washed after about four wears, or more frequently if you have a particularly sweaty day. Sports bras should be washed—or at least rinsed with warm water—after every workout. No bra will last forever. But considering that they sit directly on your body for hours at a time—and can cost as much as a nice pair of wireless earbuds—why not treat them well?
What you need
Laundry detergent: Whether you hand-wash or machine-wash your bras, we recommend using a mild detergent such as Soak. For most bras, though, any liquid detergent is fine.
Delicates bag (optional): A fine mesh bag helps bras maintain their shape, keeps straps from getting tangled, and protects delicate fabrics like lace in a washing machine.
Washing machine (optional): Machine-washing bras will make them wear out faster than if you hand-wash them. But if you do use your washing machine, clean your bras in a small load of laundry on a delicate cycle, if possible.
Drying rack, clips, or clothesline (optional): It’s essential to air-dry your bras, and we suggest using the sturdy and spacious Everyday Home Heavy Duty Drying Rack.
How long will this take to clean?
It takes 5 to 10 minutes to hand-wash bras, and it takes 45 to 90 minutes to machine-wash them. Either way, bras need time to air-dry—from 45 minutes up to a full day, depending on the fabric and drying conditions.
The best way to wash bras and other delicate clothing is by hand, using a mild detergent. We recommend Soak because you don’t have to rinse it out, so it’s gentler on some fabric fibers (especially silk or wool) and saves water. But as long as your bras don’t contain any silk or wool fibers, it’s safe to use any liquid laundry detergent to hand-wash them.
To start, add a tablespoon of detergent to a gallon of cool water. Let your bras soak for about 15 minutes before rinsing them under cold water. (You can skip this step if you’re using Soak or another no-rinse detergent.) Gently scrunch your bras to wring out excess water, and then leave them out to air-dry.
No matter how great your washing machine is, it’s going to wear out your bras faster than hand-washing will. If you’d still prefer to machine-wash your bras, you can try to reduce wear and tear by taking a few precautions.
Wash your bras in a small load of laundry. This is a good rule in general—and not just for bras. As we note in our guide to washers and dryers, “When your clothes move freely, they get cleaner.”
Try to wash them in a lingerie bag—we like this one from Tenrai—and on a delicate cycle. A normal cold cycle is fine if you’re washing bras with non-delicate items—especially in front-loading washers, since they tend to be gentler than top-loaders. Be sure to use the right amount of detergent. Despite what it might say on the bottle, there’s no need to use more than two tablespoons of liquid detergent for any load of laundry. Using too much detergent can leave an oily residue on clothes, and this might make your bras feel less comfortable.
Hang them out to dry
No matter how you choose to wash lingerie, you should always—always—air-dry it. Cora Harrington, founder of the blog The Lingerie Addict and author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie, told us that the rough-and-tumble motion of a dryer can twist, tangle, stretch, or distort the shape of the band, straps, or cups. And it can even cause an underwire to pop out of place.
We like the Polder Wall-Mounted Accordion Drying Rack or laundry-hanging clips like this set from Ipow because they’re super-compact and durable enough for everyday use. If you want to organize some other stuff in your laundry room or nook as well, we like the OXO Good Grips Expandable On-The-Wall Organizer and IKEA’s Råskog cart for hanging up a few small garments to dry. For traveling, we swear by the 5-foot-long Flexo-Line, which allows you to rinse and dry a few articles of clothing in a hotel room or in an RV on a long trip.
Store bras like precious heirlooms
Store bras upright and nested inside one another. This prevents them from becoming wrinkled or misshapen, and it will keep them looking and feeling like new for longer.
About your guide
Sarah Witman has researched, tested, and reviewed all manner of products—from massage chairs and mousetraps to pencils and power banks—since joining Wirecutter in 2017. Before that, she worked as a science writer and fact checker for numerous publications, and she studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin. In her spare time, she eats as much cheese as her body will tolerate.