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How To Care For A Swimsuit So You Never Have To Go Swimsuit Shopping Again

Illustration for article titled How To Care For A Swimsuit So You Never Have To Go Swimsuit Shopping Again
Photo: Taylor Simpson (Unsplash)
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.

They say that summer doesn’t start until late June, but we — you and I and all other right-thinking people — know that summer starts on Memorial Day. And why wouldn’t you want summer to start as soon as possible?!? Summer is WONDERFUL, filled, as it is, with so many wonderful things: Grilling, buckets of beer on ice, jaunts to the beach …. One thing, however, that is not so great about summer is that with summer so often comes bathing suit shopping, and bathing suit shopping is a special kind of hell.

While I can’t save you from the hell of bathing suit shopping, I can help you make your suits last as long as possible, to stave off the need for bathing suit shopping just a little bit longer.

Ask a Clean Person and Style Girlfriend are teaming up this month to bring you the latest on what to wear for spring and summer...and how to care for your new wardrobe acquisitions. This week: swimsuits.


The Basics of Washing Bathing Suits

There’s one super easy thing that, if you do it as a matter of routine, will prolong the lifespan of your swimsuit: Rinse it out after you’ve been swimming, regardless of whether you do your swimming in fresh, salt or chlorinated water, and even if you didn’t swim but merely wore your suit simply to sun yourself. Rinsing will quickly, but not fully, wash away sunscreen, sweat, and body oils, which can cause staining, fading, and damage to the material. The easiest way to do this is to bring the suit right into the shower with you. See?!? I said it was super easy.

But even with diligent rinsing, your suits will need to be washed at some point. Hand washing is the best thing for the longevity of your suits — and is for sure the way to go with more delicate ones that may have fringe, beading, or other embellishments — but machine washing is absolutely fine, and will be the best option for most people.

There are, of course, some tweaks to make to ensure that your suits don’t get totally mangled in the washing machine:

  • Women’s one-pieces and bikinis, as well as men’s bathing suits that aren’t trunks, should be washed in a protective mesh bag, so that suits (especially straps) don’t get tangled around other clothing, which can cause them to get stretched out;
  • Don’t wash bathing suits in the same load as towels, sweatshirts, jeans and other heavy items that will abrade delicate swimsuit fabrics;
  • Wash bathing suits in cold water, using the gentlest cycle available on your machine;
  • Use a gentle detergent like Woolite that’s designed for delicates;
  • Never use bleach on a bathing suit;
  • Bathing suits, which are designed to be fast-drying, should be air dried if at all possible — barring that, machine dry on no- or low-heat;
  • If you air dry the suit, lay it flat rather than hanging it, to keep it from stretching out.

Some Tips for Black, Navy and Other Dark Bathing Suits

Dark bathing suits will fade over time, and that’s just a fact of life for fabrics exposed to sunshine and chlorine and salt water. The post-wear rinse will make a big difference in the effects all that sun and chlorine, but it’s also not a bad idea to invest in a gentle detergent for darks to help maintain the color. Woolite makes a darks detergent that comes in both liquid and pod formulas, and Purwoll makes a liquid formula for darks.


Some Tips for White and Light-Colored Bathing Suits

White or light-colored suits are prone to yellowing because of chlorine damage, sunscreen staining and skin, body oil and sweat residue. If you guessed that I was about to once again extol the virtues of the post-wear rinse you guessed correctly! But also, if you notice yellow buildup on white or light-colored bathing suits, dissolve a half cup of baking soda in about a gallon of cold water, soak the suit for 1-2 hours, then rinse well and air dry.


One thing to keep in mind is that, the nature of sunscreen stains being what it is, you shouldn’t use an oxygen bleach like OxiClean on swimsuits; if you need a more powerful brightening agent than baking soda, opt for White Brite.


Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and the host of the podcast Ask a Clean Person

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