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SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? [Email her.](mailto:joliekerr@gmail.com)  

If you are a person who regularly wears a bra, I have to tell you something terrible: You are probably not washing it nearly enough. In fact, a great many of you are simply not at all, ever, washing your bras.

That looks crazy, there on the screen, but it is true. And so I have to now tell you something else terrible: You do, in fact, need to wash a bra. “How often am I supposed to do that???” you may be wondering, and I have an answer for that! A bra should be washed every three-to-six wears. Right now, it’s very hot out in most places! Which means you’d probably want to wash closer to every three wearings, whereas when it’s cooler — and therefore things are less sweaty — every six or so wearings is fine.

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When it’s hot out, of course, doing laundry isn’t super high on the list of activities we look forward to (and, I mean, this is me saying so! And I love laundry!) so before we get into the best practices for washing a bra without completely destroying it, let me tell you about a little trick that can help get a few extra wears in between washing: Take your bra into the shower and rinse it! Doing a quick rinse while you’re already in the shower will wash away some of the sweat, dead skin and body oils that contribute to a bra’s need to be washed.

So now you know that! But eventually, the bra is indeed going to need to be washed for real, and while I would very much like you to hand wash your bra, I know most of you will not do that. Machine washing a bra is perfectly fine but, because bras are delicate animals, there are some pretty important things to know about the process. Here they are!

  • Use cold water.
  • Select the gentle/delicate cycle.
  • It’s not absolutely necessary, but using a detergent formulated for delicates is a good thing to do. Woolite is a good choice, but a regular free and clear detergent like Tide Free & Gentle is A-OK if you don’t want to buy a separate detergent for your delicates.
  • This part really is absolutely necessary: Put the bras in a mesh laundry bag, which will help protect the bra, especially the straps and hooks, from getting tangled around other items in the wash. If you put more than one bra in a bag, take the time to hook them, so the hooks don’t get caught on the other bra, and leave at least half of the bag empty so the bras have room to move around.
  • Don’t wash bras in the same load as heavy items like sweatshirts, jeans or towels, because the weight of those items can cause a bra’s underwire to become bent.
  • Air dry the bras.

About that last point...even a low- or no-heat drying cycle is rough on a bra, so it really is best to air dry. If you hang-dry a bra, do so by the center gore (the strip of fabric that joins the two cups together) rather than by the straps. Hanging a wet bra by the straps will stretch them out, which is no good! Also, it’s best to avoid clip-style drying racks for hang drying bras, as the clip can stress the fabric, causing premature deterioration. Instead, opt for a dowel-style or flat drying rack for your bras.