Bra Care: How Often Should You Wash Your Bra?


Here’s a great question on bra washing from the August 27th edition of Slate:

Dear Prudie,

My girlfriend of six months has worn the same bra every day now for two weeks. I really wonder: Is this a normal thing for most women or a psychological issue? I feel it is a matter of hygiene, abnormal behavior, and also really gross.

—Dirty Laundry

And Prudie responds… [edited for length]

Dear Dirty,

Perhaps your worries about hygiene arise from watching too much soft-core porn in which women get in the shower and soap their breasts for extended periods. This is not because breasts are intrinsically dirty but because such scenes are gratifying to dirty minds. If bra hygiene were an actual issue, don’t you think American womanhood would have been subjected to decades of commercials along the lines of, “What’s that smell?” “It’s Myrna’s bra. Someone has to tell her!”

On your behalf, I actually polled some of the cleanest women I know on their bra-washing schedules. The answers ranged from “weekly” to “when my white bras look black and can walk themselves to the washing machine.” The average was a monthly laundering. So your girlfriend’s behavior is perfectly normal and neither unhygienic nor gross.

—Prudie

Your friendly neighborhood Lingerie Addict washes her bras once a week in the spring and summer, and once every two to three weeks during the fall and winter. I have several favorite “everyday” bras so I rotate them during the course of the week; each bra only gets worn once every 2-3 (or more!) days.

The general rule is that the more you sweat, the more often you should wash them, as sweat not only decomposes the fibers, but could also rust the underwires, and even result in a lingering “sour” smell (one that doesn’t go away).

Other tips include not wearing the same bra more than one day in a row (bras need time to air out as well as regain their original shape so as not to lose elasticity), always washing your bras by hand (though if you do use a washing machine, always use a lingerie wash bag), never machine-drying your bras, and using a special lingerie cleanser when you wash your bras to help them last longer.

15 Comments

  1. La Couturier
    30/08/09 at 14:28

    I am officially addicted to your blog, period.

    And this is quite true! I used to feel a bit dirty if I didn't wash my bra after two days or so, but when it comes down to it, its simply not practical, nor necessary (:

    bisous,
    La C.

  2. Treacle
    30/08/09 at 14:43

    I am so happy that you stopped by, La C.

    I've really enjoyed reading the entries to the Faire Frou Frou contest over on your blog, too! :-)

  3. T-Rex
    30/08/09 at 15:53

    I read that letter! I was shocked to see that Prudence came up with an average of one month between washings. Every day seems excessive, but longer than one month seems excessive in the other direction. (Assuming that we are talking about only one bra.)

    I wear my bras two or three times between washings, but since I have way too many bras, that means that each bra doesn't get washed that often in a year.

    I think Prudence was a bit hard on the guy. Several people pointed out in the comments that women will sometimes buy multiples of the same bra if they find one that fits well, so he may only *think* he is looking at the same bra every day. Too bad Prudence didn't think of that possibility.

  4. Treacle
    30/08/09 at 17:58

    Good points all, T.

  5. Stocking Vixen
    30/08/09 at 18:25

    Loved this post, too. I have often wondered if I was washing my bras often enough and felt a bit like a stinky monkey for going a week, but it didn't seem to make sense to do them more often because they appear clean, especially when I don't wear the same one every day. Washing is hard on bras.

    I learned something new when you said bras need a rest to regain their shape. Thanks!

  6. Anonymous
    31/08/09 at 17:10

    I wash my bra after wearing it 2-5 times, depending on how dirty it is, and whether or not it's one of my pretties that I'll be showing off later. If I'm going casual, I really don't care about deodorant stains.

    I actually wash my most delicate bras more often. Oils and sweat are not good for the fibers. As long as I wash them carefully by hand with Forever New, the wear and tear from washing is minimal.

    -Johanna

  7. Ailie T.
    08/09/09 at 13:32

    Our Lingerie Retailers recommend washing your bras every 1-3 washes. This prevents body oils from building up in the fibres.

    We recommend washing in our Soak Wash. This is a rinse free, gentle and delicately scented wash. It is also biodegradable and phosphate free.

    Ailie T.

  8. Treacle
    08/09/09 at 20:49

    Thank you so much for all the comments, ladies!

    It not only makes me happy when I find out other women read my blog (you all are my primary audience, after all), you gals also give great advice! :-)

  9. Solanah
    21/03/10 at 0:44

    Oh gosh, I could NEVER wear a bra for more than two days in a row, same as shoes, they need to breath! I suppose though if I had one that was just so amazing I would want to wear it all the time ;) This reminds me of the IT Crowd episode where one Character makes a wonderful new bra for the other, it supposedly is never supposed to "go bad" but of course it all ends in hilarity.

    xoxo

  10. Alora
    02/07/12 at 20:19

    I think Prudence lacked prudence with the poor fellow. He asked an honest question & jumping to the thought that he came to this question from too much porn is horrible. In any case jumping to assumptions is never tactful! Furthermore if it is indeed the ‘same’ bra every day for a week I do think it’s gross. I wear 4+ bra’s per week & wash a load by hand 2x a month. In theory each bra is worn 2-3x before it’s washed.

  11. freedom
    10/04/13 at 21:57

    Do you know of a good sulfate free bra wash, one that I can possibly pick up at the grocery store. I am on a limited budget and need something for minimal money but will keep my new bras nice.

  12. Mimi J
    12/01/14 at 15:53

    I think we sometimes “overwash” everything we wear…I know I used to be guilty of it!
    I use a lovely shampoo without all the additives to “swish wash” my pretties after a few wearings! Just fill a basin let them soak a bit, rinse well and I ALWAYS towel blot/hang to dry, I think a dryer kills our clothes :)

  13. Mary
    12/01/14 at 18:20

    I find that Woolite works just as well as lingerie detergent. Also, the new washing machines that have a “hand wash” cycle make my life much easier. We have one, and washing every week is much easier because of it.

  14. Jasmine
    13/01/14 at 10:12

    What a needlessly hostile response!

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