Caring for your Lingerie

The fancy lingerie boutiques will fuss with me for this, but my take is that as long as you never put stuff in the dryer, you’re fine.  OBVIOUSLY there are exceptions; if you have some hard-core leather dominatrix stuff or something you spent $500 on at Agent Provocateur or $100 silk stockings, yeah, you’re gonna want to care for them like they’re your first born child and follow the instructions on the label, but here’s what I, a primarily mid-range/frequent bargain shopper/non-silk underwear owner do:



Don’t you do it.

The dryer is so mean to your lingerie.  It will knock the underwires around and push them through the fabric.  The blasts of heat will degrade the Lycra so your bras will stretch out of shape sooner and lose their support, and then you’ll have to buy more, and the damn things aren’t cheap.  Even if you don’t wear underwires, your bras and briefs and (ESPECIALLY) stockings are made out of delicate materials, and the dryer is not delicate.  Air dry, air dry, air dry.  Get a drying rack, stick it in the bathtub, pull the shower curtain closed, and let everything drip dry in privacy.

If you have a kitten, he will want to help you sort your delicates. I would not recommend trusting him with this operation.

When we had a tiny washing machine in the kitchen of my miracle apartment, Roommate and I would wash our underwear on the machine’s delicate setting.  You should take a few precautions: use Woolite or a gentle laundry detergent or one of those expensive lingerie washes the fancy stores guilt you into buying and then you never replace once it runs out.  Make sure all of your bras/suspender belts are hooked closed, so the hooks are less likely to catch on other things (think of your lace! your stockings!).  Pack your items gently into a mesh laundry bag, and try not to cram everything in: you want to leave some room so that the water/detergent can reach all the pieces and get them thoroughly clean.

Nowadays, when the laundry machines are an entire elevator ride away (I KNOW, I’M SPOILED AND LAZY), I hand-wash my underwear, which is what you “should” be doing anyway.  Fill up the tub (or kitchen sink or what have you) with cold water and use the same Woolite/gentle detergent/fancy lingerie wash, in the amount indicated on the label for hand-washing/a small load (generally around 2-3 tbsp.).  Hook all your bras and suspender belts closed.  Let everything soak in the tub for a few minutes, swirling it around occasionally.  If there’s a spot on an item you can gently scrub at it until it’s gone, or pre-soak it in cold (always cold) water and a bit of dish soap or hand soap.  I sometimes let everything swim around for 20 minutes or so while I take care of other chores/catch up on Parks & Rec.  Does the water in the tub now look super gross?  Yep!  Drain the tub, and gently press the water out of your clothes.  Refill with cold water, swish, drain, repeat.  When the water remains mostly clear, gently press the water out of your clothes (don’t wring!  laying everything out flat on a bath towel and rolling the towel up like a jelly roll helps) and hang to dry. Woo!  You’re done.

Fix yourself a drink and feel very classy for taking care of your underwear like a goddamned LADY.

11 Comments on Caring for your Lingerie

  1. Anne Lane Witt
    June 7, 2012 at 7:50 am (11 years ago)

    I stopped using Woolite years ago. In my experience, it actually breaks down the fibers of the fabric, and it (at least then) contained some bleach! Currently, I use Ecover’s delicates wash, which is reasonably priced and very concentrated, but I have also used Dreft or Ivory Snow. Whatever you’re using should not cause irritation. Invest in some lingerie bags if you’re using your washer.

    • Sweets
      June 7, 2012 at 8:05 am (11 years ago)

      Thanks for sharing your experience Anne Lane! I use Woolite Extra Delicate, which does not contain bleach and has been super-kind to my things, but I appreciate your sharing your brand recommendations! That’s really helpful.

  2. Mary
    June 7, 2012 at 10:13 am (11 years ago)

    Thanks for the actual instructions! For some reason, I am perfectly happy to hand-wash all of my dry-clean-only sweaters, which is pretty much exactly the same operation, but I just cannot bring myself to hand-wash my bras. They just go in on cold with everything else…but you might have convinced me to do the separate mesh bag thing.

  3. Mary
    June 7, 2012 at 10:15 am (11 years ago)

    Also, hooking the bras before you put them in = just as brilliant as making sure none of your socks are balled up, and equally non-intuitive for me. But then, nothing about laundry is intuitive for me.

    • Sweets
      June 16, 2012 at 6:49 pm (11 years ago)

      Oooh, thanks for the tip Kat, and thanks for introducing me to your store! I’ll definitely have to check that out!

  4. Cassie Hargett
    December 2, 2014 at 8:07 am (8 years ago)

    Putting your lingerie inside the dryer and the washing machine would definitely destroy them and make the quality bad as you repeatedly put them on the washing machine/dryer. It’s always advisable to wash them with your hands, they won’t take long and much effort to wash anyway.

    • Sweets
      December 2, 2014 at 9:34 am (8 years ago)

      Hi Cassie, thanks for stopping by! You’re right that the dryer is terrible for your lingerie, and it’s always advisable to air-dry your delicates. However, for some women hand-washing genuinely is impractical or difficult, whether because of time constraints, having the space to do it, or issues of comfort/mobility. I feel like it’s important to let people know that they can use the washing machine, provided they use care. I machine-wash my factory-made delicates (I do wash my hand-made and finer lingerie like silk by hand), and some of them have lasted for years. I’ve never once had a bra destroyed in the wash, provided I used the appropriate setting, the appropriate wash, and a mesh laundry bag. While hand-washing is the definitely the safest option, there are alternatives.

      • Cassie Hargett
        December 3, 2014 at 1:20 am (8 years ago)

        I see. I haven’t thought of that. I agree, not everyone has the time and the space to do this and maybe machine-washing is the most convenient thing for them to do. I just hope they do it with care, but if you have some costly bras, better wash them by hand if possible.


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