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Lingerie 101: How to Clean 5 Common Types of Lingerie Fabrics

Lace, one of the most common fabrics used in lingerie, taken from the Twitter page of luxury lingerie designer Angela Friedman.

French laces, via Angela Friedman

There are a million ways to wash lingerie, from the good (use an inexpensive lingerie wash!) to the not-so-good (please don't wash your lingerie in vinegar!).

But at the end of the day, there isn’t one right way to clean lingerie: it depends on the fiber and the fabric. Here are our favorite ways to safely clean five common types of lingerie fabrics.

Satin

This Bettie Page by Playful Promises satin PJ set is made of polyester and elastane. Polyester satins can be machine washed, but manufacturers often give the most precautious washing advice. The care label says it should be hand washed and laid flat to dry.

The care of your satin lingerie will vary depending on its fiber content. Check the care label, or use our handy tips on telling polyester from silk.

Polyester and nylon satins are machine washable in warm water. Secure any closures like hooks and zippers, then use a laundry bag so the fabric does not get snagged on anything else. Air drying is always better, but you can likely tumble dry these fabrics on low.

Rayon satins are best hand washed in cool water. Rayon is very fragile while wet, so lay it flat to dry, especially larger pieces that can stretch out.

Contrary to popular belief, silk satin does not have to be dry cleaned. There are exceptions, of course. But for the most part, silk satin can be hand washed in cool water. Let it soak for 15 to 30 minutes, squishing the water through the fabric gently. Rinse the item in cool water, then hang it to dry or lay it flat.

Oil stains not coming out of your satin lingerie? We’ve covered that on the blog! Here’s how to get them out. And you can read even more about caring for silk lingerie here.

If your item is wrinkled, these fabrics can be steamed easily. If you don’t have a steamer, press them carefully with a very low heat iron. Use a pressing cloth and iron the “wrong” side of the fabric.

Once they’re clean and dry, lay small pieces of satin lingerie flat in a drawer. Hang larger pieces in your closet. This keeps them from creasing in your drawers. If you’re using clip hangers, keep marks from forming by using a piece of felt between the clip and the garment.

Lace

Hanky Panky's classic stretch lace is perfect for everyday wear, and should be hand washed for longevity.

No matter how inexpensive your lace lingerie, washing and drying it in machines will shorten its lifespan. Washing lace by hand will help keep it looking great - even if the care label says otherwise.

To wash lace lingerie, fill your basin with cool water and add lingerie soap. Add the lace pieces, squeezing gently to let the fibers absorb the water. Let the items sit for 15 to 30 minutes.

After they’ve soaked, rinse them thoroughly in clean water, pressing the water out without wringing or scrubbing. Lay the lace lingerie flat to dry.

Mesh

The Agent Provocateur Sparkle set is made of embroidered mesh and should be hand washed.

I always prefer hand washing mesh lingerie. This fabric is lightweight and cleans easily, so it’s easy to wash in the sink or a basin. If your mesh lingerie is embroidered, flocked, or beaded, it should be hand washed and dried in the same way as lace, above.

But if your mesh is polyester, nylon, or elastane, and does not have any extra flocking or embroidery, you can wash it in the machine. Secure any closures and place it in a lingerie bag, then wash on gentle or delicate in your machine.

Whether you machine or hand wash your mesh lingerie, let it air dry. Stretch mesh should be laid flat to dry. Stable mesh can be hung, but laying it flat won’t hurt. This is especially true when the mesh is attached to thicker fabrics or heavy hardware that may distort the fabric. Mesh is also best stored flat.

Jersey Knit

This Kilo Brava set is made of a bamboo/spandex blend, which can be machine washed.

Caring for your jersey knit lingerie is dependent on its fabric content.

You can wash most cotton, elastane, and nylon blends in the machine. Secure any closures and place the item in a lingerie bag. Wash on gentle or delicate in your machine. These items can be machine dried on low, but allowing them to air dry will extend their lifetime.

For any jersey that includes silk, hand-washing or dry cleaning is required. Use cool water and a lingerie wash, allowing the item to soak for 15 to 30 minutes. Rinse in cool water, taking extra care to not pull or wring the garment. To dry, lay the item flat. Hanging wet silk jersey can stretch and warp your garment.

On the other hand, caring for synthetic cellulose fibers can be tricky. Modal and bamboo can usually be machine washed like cotton, as they are fairly stable when wet. If your garment is labeled as rayon, it will be more delicate when it gets wet. You should hand wash it and lay it flat to dry, just like silk.

Microfiber

Parade's underwear is made of a blend of microfiber and mesh.

Microfiber describes many different types of fabric, but the microfiber fabrics used for lingerie are usually performance-based. They don't require special care.

Most microfiber underwear and lingerie can be washed on the gentle cycle in cool or warm water. Tumble dry them on a low temperature, or let them air dry to extend their life.

When in doubt…

First, check your care label! Lingerie manufacturers in most countries are required to include care information. These labels often feature the most cautious version of care for your fabrics. For instance, most silk will be labeled as dry clean only, even if you can easily wash it by hand.

If you’re still unsure about cleaning a certain lingerie item after reading this article, wash it by hand. It’s a fact that washing machines and clothes dryers shorten the lifespan of your clothing.

Nylon mesh gartered minidress by Laina Rauma

I don’t think you should put any lingerie you really care about in your washing machine, and certainly not the dryer. I air dry my most inexpensive underwear. Yes, even my classic Hanes underwear gets a spot on my drying rack. I want to spend less money on replacements! Plus, the fewer items that end up in the landfill, the better.

But it’s all up to you! You get to decide how you want to clean your underwear. Now that you know the facts, you can make the best laundry decisions for your life and wardrobe.


Quinne Myers

Quinne Myers is a lingerie expert living in Brooklyn, NY, where she creates quippy written content, crafts dreamy illustrations, and runs the ethically-made loungewear line, she and reverie.

2 Comments on this post

  1. Amy Smith says:

    Great article. But the Kilo Brava link is broken!

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