Hands up, who looks at the care instructions on their bras? Now, hands up who follows them? That is, when you do wash them (a survey back in 2009 revealed that UK women on average only wash their bras every couple of months!). But did you know that not looking after you bra properly could shorten its already relatively short life?
Why is it important to care for your bra properly? Because a good bra is an investment, that’s why. That perfectly fitted bra is something to cherish. It’s easy to buy a bra that doesn’t fit well; it takes effort to find that one that fits beautifully and comfortably and gives you the right support.
The bad news is that all bras wear out over time and with wear, even when you look after them properly, but they will wear out much faster if you don’t.
A bra will typically last anywhere between six months to a year or longer depending on numerous factors, including the quality of the bra, how often you wear it, and how you care for it. If you’re not addicted to bra shopping, it stands to reason that you will want to look after your bra as well as possible to extend its useful life. Right?
Now, we know you’ve all got bras lurking in your drawers that are years old. There’s no point denying it. We do too. Usually it’s because we like them but they a) never fitted properly or b) no longer fit properly (or they are our special occasion bras that don’t get worn too often). But many women keep bras they wear regularly for years and that’s not good. Over time the elastics in bras relax, which is why you usually start by wearing your bra on the loosest hook and end on the tightest.
We know it’s hard to do, but once that back band is no longer doing it’s job, there really is no point hanging onto the bra no matter how much you love it. But, on the up side, it’s a great reason to go buy a new one!
So, what can you do to make sure your bras last as long as possible? Firstly, make sure you have enough of them. Most women have a drawer full of bras but only a few that they wear on a regular basis – see above about bras that lurk – and the more often you wear a bra, the quicker it will wear out. Make sure you have at least three but preferably five well-fitted bras that you can rotate day to day.
Then, wash them regularly, but not too regularly. Some people like to wash their bras with every wear, and that’s ok, but we think every two to three times strikes a good balance so long as you’re not wearing the same bra three days on the trot. Rotate, ladies.
Most importantly, take care how you wash them. Does your bra say hand wash on the label? There’s a good chance it does, especially if it involves delicate laces. Hand washing is the best way to go with bras, there’s no doubt about it, but let’s be realistic – we’re all busy and the washing machine is just so much more convenient.
So we’re not going to absolutely insist that you hand wash your bras, but if you do make sure you use cool water, a gentle detergent like Soak (Rigby & Peller sells a range of Soak detergents), and leave the bras to soak for a while instead of washing them aggressively. Gently squeeze out the excess water by placing them between two towels, reshape the cups and dry them on the line.
If you want to wash your bras in the machine, whatever you do, don’t just throw them in and hope for the best. How often have you pulled out a load of washing to find your bra straps hopelessly tangled around other clothes? That’s not going to help keep your elastic in good order. At the very least, do up the hooks before you wash bras, or put them in a laundry bag, bra ball or even a pillow case to prevent a tangled mess at the end of the wash.
You can pick up bra washing bags relatively cheaply. Try Bra Angel’s wash bag, £8.99 from GlamourSecrets.co.uk, available in either A-D, DD-GG, or H to K, H&L Russell’s padded wash bag, £2.79 from Amazon.co.uk, or the Betty Ball – great for keeping moulded bras in shape – £14.99 also from Amazon.co.uk.
Make use of the delicates cycle on your machine and wash bras in cool water with a minimum of mechanical action. Bras contain Lycra and other stretch fibres, and heat will degrade these. By the same token, don’t fill up the machine with the rest of your washing at the same time. Items like towels and especially jeans going round in a spin cycle are not going to do your delicate bras any favours, and you shouldn’t be putting your jeans in with your bras anyway unless you don’t mind if they go a bit off-colour.
Be rigorous with your whites, and wash coloured bras with like colours. And if you notice your whites turning grey, don’t try to bleach them back to white. It’s highly likely your bra will contain synthetic materials that won’t take this very well, including the aforementioned stretch fibres.
Finally, ignore all the rest of these steps if you want to, but please don’t put your bras in the tumble dryer. This is the single, quickest way of ruining them. Hang them on the line and take a moment to reshape cups, especially moulded cups, before you do so.
In short, look after your bras and they will look after you.
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