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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.


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.

Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

29 Comments on this post

  1. Kaytie says:

    Okay, I realize this blog is super old, but hopefully someone can tell me. How exactly do you hand washeld bras? What do you use? Do you just let them soak? Do you gently scrub them?
    I have never in my life hand washed a bra and I will admit that I tend to go through bras much quicker than I imagine an average person should. Wires always pop out and I’m screwed because I tend to only have one bra at a time. Maybe two if in lucky enough to have actually found two or more in my size.

    • Hi Kaytie, I just saw your comment & though I would answer. I wear a 40H so my bras are a huge investment (typically $200). I need to treat them well.
      I simply soak them in a sink with a lingerie cleaner. You can buy the specialty cleaner in almost any lingerie store.
      Just let your bras sit in the solution for a while – up to 30 minutes – then drain the water out and rinse with cool water.
      The first time I used proper lingerie cleaner I was shocked to see the colour the water turned. It was brown from all the built up sweat that regular detergent hadn’t removed.
      Good luck!

  2. Hosting says:

    So, that lacy bra you break out for dressy occasions? It can probably live in your drawer for awhile. But your sports bra after spin class? Wash it after every use.

  3. Samantha says:

    I’ve always used Dr. Bonner’s castile soap – the liquid at home (2-3 drops for a sink full) and use their bar soap when I travel. It’s available in unscented.

    I live in the deep south (USA) and sink wash bras after one hot day, after 3-4 days wear in winter. Not counting the all to often week of mid-high 80s F weather (all to often) in winter.

    My general rule is wash after sweating enough to soak the bra.

  4. Jekku says:

    Had a friend who, when I told her I rotated bra’s and washed them about every 2 weeks, was so grossed out she could barely look at me. SHE, on the other hand, insisted that wearing a different (clean) bra EVERY DAY was the only way to go, which I think is complete overkill. Needless to say, she had a LOT of bra’s all over her house! (requiring lots of storage as they were all padded LOL)

  5. Diane says:

    So here’s a question: I’ve never purchased a “set”. I have several panties and I usually try to choose one that coordinates at least a little (just for me) with my bra, of which I don’t have many. Is it common that if a person buys a pretty bra, to also buy more than one of its matching panties?


    And implying that his girlfriend is filthy and has psychological issues was appropriate?

  7. SG Fitzpatrick says:

    Even shoes that you wear socks with? I won’t tell you how long I have had my fave Converse All-Stars :) How do shoes breathe if they’re stuck in the closet? I always have leave my closet doors open, as there is mold here and dark, cose places now freak my shiz OUT.

  8. SG Fitzpatrick says:

    I found this after I wrote the not-helpful stuff :

    Looks interesting, I am going to check some of this out.

    We use fragrance-free everything here (I so miss fabric softener), but I haven’t looked for sulfate free. I have found that going back to older cleansers or using baking soda for some things helps. I’ll check if you haven’t found anything, but for now, as someone who is allergic to *everything* (I can’t even go to Wal-Mart) I just use he thing with the least amount of ingredients and def no added fragrance.

  9. SG Fitzpatrick says:

    Do you mean the hilarious answer from the writer at Slate? I just read that out loud to my *very* conservative, Sunday-School-teaching Mom and we laughed our butts off! Neither of us has seen porn, but it seemed funny! The question, OTOH, was ….well, your words were perfect actually. The question was needlessly hostile. I wonder what the what was with that guy… his Mom didn’t let him play outside because “germs! germs!” ;0)

  10. Miss J says:

    I can’t stand not changing my bra everyday and I wash it too right after I wear it. I don’t like to wear my bra over and over that’s why I have 40 bras.

  11. Raven says:

    I wear my bras only once before washing them. But I’m an athlete with typically 2 really sweaty training sessions per day. If I wear a bra on my rest day I usually won’t bother washing it before wearing it again.

    • Casey says:

      The most I’ll wear a bra before washing is two days, but when it’s humid and I sweat I rotate out my bras and shirts.

  12. Jasmine says:

    What a needlessly hostile response!

  13. Mary says:

    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. Mimi J says:

    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 :)

  15. freedom says:

    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.

  16. Alora says:

    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.

  17. Solanah says:

    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.


  18. Treacle says:

    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! :-)

  19. Ailie T. says:

    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.

  20. Anonymous says:

    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.


  21. Stocking Vixen says:

    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!

  22. Treacle says:

    Good points all, T.

  23. T-Rex says:

    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.

  24. Treacle says:

    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! :-)

  25. La Couturier says:

    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 (:

    La C.

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