The first step is looking at the care label. This might seem like a given, but it’s easy to overlook something so obvious. The labels are not there for looks and certainly not for comfort! Manufacturers know how to best care for the clothing items they make, so don’t ignore the care instructions. Sometimes the care instructions are clearly written out and sometimes you have to decode the symbols. Take notice of key information — particularly the type of materials or fabric used and then the temperature of water and drying instructions.
The Absolute Best Way to Wash
Your underwear: If you’ve got a few really nice things and want to upgrade your lazy-girl cleaning game, hand washing underwear that has some silk and/or lace elements is queen. Silk is such a fine fabric, so you should hand wash all of those. "And lace garments are so delicate, you don’t want them to pull or rip." Plus, you want the elastic that makes it all hug your curves so nicely to keep its shape. If you’re dealing with jersey, many items offer laundry directions that say you can put them in the washer. If you’ve got time, hand wash them instead. generally never wash jersey because it can twist the yarn.
First, be sure to separate undergarments by color, just like you would for a normal load. “Like colors go together because dark will always run. If you do your light colors before your dark, you can probably use one sink full of water for an entire load." If you’ve only got a few things to wash, there's an even easier alternative: Take them into the shower with you!
For hand washing, fill the bathroom sink, large bowl or washtub with warm or cool water. Swish the undergarment in the water, add detergent (not much — about 1 Tbsp) gently agitate or squeeze the suds through the garment.
If there are any spots that need extra attention, like perspiration stains, treat with a little of the detergent and allow the item to pre-soak for a bit. Gently rub the fabric against itself or use a soft cloth to scrub the stains away.
Be sure to remove rings from your fingers and be extra careful if you have long fingernails so you don’t snag the fabric. This is especially true when hand-washing hosiery.
That being said, machine-washing can be a great way to save time and is safe for most fabrics. (Remember- — not silk!)
You can lay your underwear on a drying rack, but if you want to go the extra mile, use a few towels to your benefit. “You can put them on a towel to let the excess water drain away instead of wringing it out, then pat them on top with another towel so they dry flat and don’t lose their shape.
Your bras: Again, hand washing is key unless you’re dealing with a bra made of a sturdy cotton with no wires. Those can go in the wash on a normal cycle. Otherwise, to the sink you go. The structure is quite integral to fragile garments. "When it comes to bras, you don’t want your wires to become misshapen after going through a machine."
Although in general you’ll want to be very gentle when hand washing, you can use a bit more strength with your bras. “Give areas that have a lot of sweat build-up, like the bust-line and the straps, a good rub.
As for drying bras, you can either put them on a drying rack or in your closet. “Not only can you see them more clearly, but it lets the bras air out and get their shape and support back between wears.
In general, bras that you wear a lot won’t be in stellar shape for much longer than six months, no matter how gentle you are while cleaning them. “A bra is a support garment. "They do a lot of work!"
Your tights: Tights are especially in danger of stretching and losing their shape when they’re not treated well. Hand wash them as you do your other delicates, focusing on the crotch and feet, then use that looping technique when you put them on the drying rack.
Your shape wear: Same goes here. Hand wash to preserve the fabrics and fibers that help you look so good in a clingy outfit, then put the item somewhere flat to dry or carefully hang it on a drying rack.
The Smartest, Most Time-Saving Way to Wash
What you’re about to learn is that, when it comes to undergarments that aren’t made of durable cotton, hand washing trumps all. That doesn’t mean you can't be as safe as possible if you’re turning to the washing machine, though!
It’s best if you’ve got a front-loader washing machine rather than one that opens from the top because that spinning drum in most top-loaders can give your clothes a beating.
Get a laundry bag that’s specifically for delicates, which will protect your undergarments from getting roughed up by other clothes (and will especially keep your bras from snagging other items). Hook the bras in the back before you put them in the bag so they don’t all tangle together. To make it even quicker, you can put various undergarments in the same laundry bag as long as everything is a similar color.
Be sure to choose a delicate cycle with cool water and use a gentle detergent. Some detergents are even formulated for hand wash or gentle cycles, so keep an eye out for that on the labels.
When your undergarments are clean, you can pop them in the dryer for a quick spin if you absolutely have to wear them ASAP, but know this: The dryer is your worst enemy when it comes to keeping any kind of undergarment fitting well in the long term. “Not only does the heat shrink things, it literally breaks down the fabrics and bends wires out of shape. That means doom for your bras’ underwire and saggy elastic for your underwear, tights, and shape wear.
What’s better—and almost as quick—is putting your items on a drying rack. Close the bras’ hooks, and drape them instead of leaving the sides hanging down. Hang your underwear and shape wear any which way you please!
As for your tights, take an extra second to make sure you’re not accidentally stretching them out. You don’t want them to end up six feet long. "When you put them on the drying rack, don’t just let the legs and feet hang down. Bring them up, and loop them around." If you separate the legs when you loop them up, they'll dry faster.
How Often To Wash
Now for the big question: How often should bras and other undergarments be washed?
Washing undergarments too often will wear them out more quickly, but you should wash them often enough that the fabrics don’t break down from natural body oils, deodorants, lotions and perfumes, etc. And as you can guess, letting soiled clothing sit for too long in the hamper isn’t a good idea.
A good rule of thumb is to wash a bra after you’ve worn it twice. If you have perspired a lot, then you might want to wash it after one wearing — this applies to sports bras particularly. If you have a drawer full of bras that you rotate wearing, then you might only be taking care of your delicate laundry every few weeks. If you only have a few bras, this might be every few days or once a week.
When it comes to other undergarments and hosiery, it’s personal preference and there’s some debate here. (I’m not talking about panties. Wash nylons and tights about every third time you wear them, unless they are worn for an extended length of time. You’ll know when it’s time. Slips and other items seem to last longer between washes, so they might only get a wash once a month, more if dressing up more often.
• Can handle hot temperatures
• Chlorine bleach is safe for 100% cotton whites
• Color-safe bleach can be used with dyed cottons
• Can be dried on high heat
• Can be ironed on hot
Microfibers (acrylic, nylon, polyester):
• Can be machine-washed on cold to warm temperatures
• Can be tumbled dry on low temperature
• Most rayon garments must be professionally dry cleaned
• Some can be hand washed in cool water
• Professional dry cleaning is always the preferable method for washing silk
• If you must hand wash, use cold water and never chlorine bleach
• Hand or machine wash in cold to warm water, never hot
• No chlorine bleach
• Color-safe bleach can be used, but be sure to rinse thoroughly
• Line dry or tumble dry on a very low heat setting