How to Hand-Wash Bras So They Really Last

Blue floral Cosabella bra.


A good bra can be an investment, so you want to ensure that it lasts as long as possible. And while your washing machine may be great at removing odor and set-in stains on your regular clothing, it might not be ideal to throw delicate pieces like your lingerie and bras in the tumble cycle or dryer.

Hand-washing can extend the life of your bra by keeping the underwire in place, stopping the padding from breaking down, and reducing pilling. Keep reading for everything you need to know about hand-washing bras.

Use Cool Water

Check the care label to make sure there aren’t any special instructions. Plug your sink and add cool water—warm or hot temperatures can break down elasticity—then add a couple of squirts of baby shampoo or liquid detergent specifically designed for delicates, avoiding anything with alcohol).

Let It Soak

Soak your bra for a full hour, if possible. After this, very gently rub the bra so that it gets a good lather. Do not scrub it or rub the bra together or wring it out, as doing so can stretch the elastic and destroy the padding.

Rinse It Out

Rinse your bra (once again, gently) in cool water until the water is clear and all the soap is removed. Lightly squeeze any excess water out, avoiding any wringing or tugging in the process. If the bra is still too damp, lay it between two towels and gently pat the extra water out.

Drying Your Bras

While it may be tempting to throw your bra in the dryer after hand-washing, don’t; the heat and friction from the dryer can ruin the fit of your bra as well as its elastic. Instead, hang your freshly washed bra(s) over a drying rack, clothing line, or your shower rod. You'll also want to avoid hanging your bra by the straps, as that adds strain and can stretch the elasticity. To prevent that, lay your bra flat on a towel. Make sure that the cups are pointing up and shaped, as proper drying position is key to making sure the bra continues to fit well after washing. 

Storing Your Bras

Whether you store your bras in a drawer, on a closet shelf, or somewhere else, be sure not to flip the cups over and fold them in half. Instead, lie them flat so they maintain their shape. Try to give them time to sit between wears, then enjoy how hand-washing your bras properly keeps everything from the fabric to the fit as good as new.

How Often to Wash Your Bras

It all depends on how often you wear a given bra, how long you wear it for, and whether you were sweating. But according to the Cleveland Clinic, as a general rule, a bra needs washing after every two to three wears. Also, having a few bras in your rotation can be helpful for extending the life of your garment, as time in between wears allows the bra to return to its original shape.

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