How Often Should You Wash Your Lingerie?

When I made my bra and panty math post, I heard from several women who didn’t know how often you’re supposed to wash your bra. This opened my eyes to the fact that many don’t know how often to wash lingerie.

As Deanna wrote in Why We Do Laundry, there are four primary reasons we do the laundry: Hygiene, Pride & Respect, Thrift, and Comfort. You can read Deanna’s illuminating (if somewhat disgusting) article for more specific details on the other three areas; I’m just going to focus on Thrift. Here’s some of what Deanna wrote on the subject.

Washing fabric — as directed — is as act of preservation. It’s not just a matter of stains ruining appearance, but every day soiling breaks down fibers, thinning the fabric, making holes, weakening seams, etc.. The longer such simple and often unseen (icky) things as salt crystals from our sweat remain in contact with fabric, the more damage they can do.

For example, not all the holes in socks and hosiery are caused by rubbing against toenails. Abrasions are hastened by the salt crystals, sloughed-off skin cells, good old fashioned dirt, etc. which cut away at the fabric threads. So wash your hosiery after every wearing — the sooner the better, for as the moisture evaporates, it drys the salts into harder crystals. Or “darn it,” you’ll have more repairs to mend! (Or more socks and hose to buy.)

…Proper laundering removes the soils and prolongs the life of the fabric, which means you have less repairs to make, less things to buy.

But given the nature of the fabrics and construction used in undergarments and intimate apparel, many are confused by just how often they should be washing them. Unless otherwise stated by manufacturer, brand, or designer (which you should always follow for the proper care of your lingerie), here are the suggested guidelines for how often to wash your lingerie to keep it in the best shape to make the most of your shape:

Panties: Do to their extreme intimate nature, panties should be washed after every single wearing. Ditto teddies, as their bottoms are next to your bottom.

Bras & Bralettes: Bras should be washed after every three or four wearings — unless they are obviously soiled, are sports bras or otherwise supporting you through rigorous, sweaty work. This includes longline bras and bustiers.  Hand-washing and line-drying is recommended, especially for bras with underwires.

Full-slips, Half-slips, & Camisoles: If a bra and panty are worn beneath them, slips and camis need only be washed after three or four wearings. If worn without a panty, slips should probably be washed after one wearing… Maybe two. If worn without a bra, full-slips and camis can still wait three or four wearings. If you wear your slips and camis to bed as sleepwear, follow the sleepwear guidelines.

Stockings and Hosiery: From classic stockings with garters to modern pantyhose and tights, each should be washed, preferably by hand, after every single wearing. (Back in the day, the “rinsing” of stockings was done every night.)

Garter belts (suspenders): Unless they are obviously soiled, garter belts should be washed after being worn three of four times.

Corsets: Corsets should be laundered as absolutely as little as possible; this includes dry cleaning. If there’s a spot, often you can simply spot-wash or treat that area. If you wear corsets often, you probably know that wearing a chemise, undercorset, bodysuit, or even a tube top under the corset saves your corset from needng to be laundered. (Those under corset garments can be washed after every wearing, if needed.) Leather corsets can be wiped clean with a damp cloth as needed; latex corsets should be washed with a soapy sponge and rinsed clean after every wearing.

Girdles & Shapers: Open bottom girdles, corselettes, and shapers should be washed as little as possible. Typically once a week (or five to seven wearings) is fine, unless obviously soiled. Other girdles, all-in-one corselettes, panty girdles, shapers, and other foundations garments with gussets (crotches) worn without panties should be worn once then washed.

Nightgowns & Sleepwear: Generally speaking, all sleepwear can be worn four or five times before being washed. Pajama bottoms, unless worn with panties beneath them, should be washed after every single wearing.

Robes & Peignoirs: Robes can go as long as two weeks before being laundered, but typically they show soiling, spots and stains before then. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Mom!)

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