How to Hand-Wash Bras to Make Them Last Longer 

Preserve your favorite bra by washing it the gentle way - by hand

Published December 13, 2022
Female bra is hanging on the rope

If you're just throwing your bras into any old wash cycle, stop! The washer and dryer are not good for your bras. The agitation is harsh on the fabrics, the shape of the underwire, and the clasps. And let's not even start on what the heat of the dryer does to the elastic.

So, if you want them to last - because, let's face it, they aren't cheap - you'll want to learn how to hand wash bras. Hand washing is super easy. It's a simple fill, swish, soak, and rinse. It might even be easier than throwing them in the washing machine.

How to Hand Wash Bras Step by Step

When you find a bra that works for you, it's a rare thing. So, you want to keep it in good shape for as long as possible, because you never know when the perfect bra will come along again. Keep your favorite bra around for a while by washing it by hand. To start this process, you need:

  • Mild laundry detergent
  • Towel
  • Drying rack (optional)
  • Clips or clothes pins (optional)

Sort by Material

You have all kinds of bras. You have sexy lacy lingerie, lounge bras, push-up bras, and sports bras. Every one of these bras has a different type of fabric. So, it's best to sort them out and wash likes with likes.

Check the Care Label

Now, take a look at your care label. Similar bras are typically going to have the same type of care instructions, but you want to make sure. Look for the dry clean only symbol and take note of the recommended water temp and what to avoid.

Treat Stains

The ravioli you spilled all over the front of your shirt at lunch went through the fabric onto your bra. Treat it before washing, since these areas are going to need a little extra cleaning power.

  1. Add a bit of detergent to the stain.
  2. Work it into the stain.
  3. Allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes.

Fill the Sink and Swish

Most of the time, the care label will recommend warm or cold water. So, filling your sink with cold water is typically a good bet.

  1. Add a tablespoon of detergent to the water.
  2. Put all your sorted bras of one type in the water.
  3. Swish them around.
  4. Work your fingers over any stained areas to help loosen the stains.


Cropped Hand Of Woman Washing Bra

One of the best things about hand washing your bras is you can just leave them to soak. The detergent and water will do their things while you answer some emails, catch an episode of your new Netflix binge, or whatever. Let them sit for about 30 minutes (longer is fine).

Rinse & Drain

After the soak, give the bras a good once over. Check on any stained areas to ensure the stains are gone. If not, they might need to soak longer.

  1. Pull the plug and rinse out all the water.
  2. Rinse them with clean, fresh water several times. (You can fill the sink with fresh water, swish, and watch for suds. Repeat until you no longer get suds. This could take five to six times.)
  3. Make sure no soap remains in the bra before moving on to drying.

How to Dry Bras

Bras on rope

Remember that whole no heat thing? Well, heat is bad for the elastic in bras. It will stretch them out, break down the material, and just wreak havoc on your wardrobe. Since no one wants to have to tie their bra together because of an elastic blowout, opt for heat-free, air drying.

  1. Lay down a towel.
  2. Put your bra on top of it.
  3. Fold it over and press. (Use your body weight to give it a good smushing.)
  4. Repeat using a fresh towel until most of the moisture is removed.
  5. Throw your bras over a drying rack or pin them to a hanger.
  6. You can also try my personal favorite, throwing them over the shower bar overnight.
  7. Allow them to dry completely.

How to Handwash Sports Bras or Stinky Bras

Sports bras need added attention. These bras are going to see you through some hard and sweaty times. Give them extra cleaning and a good de-stink.


  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Laundry detergent


  1. Fill the sink with hot water. (Check the care label to ensure your bras can take hot water.)
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of laundry detergent and 1 tablespoon of baking soda.
  3. Agitate the bras in the water.
  4. Allow them to sit for 45 minutes or more.
  5. Drain and refill the sink.
  6. Add ¼ cup of white vinegar.
  7. Allow to sit in rinse water for 5 minutes.
  8. Rinse until all suds are gone from rinse water. (This could take 4-5 rinses.)
  9. Dry.

How Often to Wash Bras

Unless you stain your bra or spill something down your cleavage, you don't need to wash it after every wear. Washing is hard on the delicate material of bras, so excess washes can limit their life. Wash them every two to three wears. So, if you rotate your bra collection, this could mean you only need to wash your bras every few weeks.

But this rule of thumb is only for your normal, everyday bras. You'll want to wash your sports bras or sweaty bras after every wear since they absorb a lot of sweat. Washing them after every wear works to mitigate any odors that could build up.

When to Replace Bras

With proper care, a bra will last you about eight months. You'll know it's time to replace your bras when you notice the elastic is stretched or the cups are getting too big. Another telltale sign is the underwire poking you (it's clearly trying to break free of the Fort Knox stitches holding it in there). If your bra has started shedding or the lace has holes, it's also time for the trash.

Bra Care Tips and Tricks

Bras are a necessary accessory for most women. So, you want to make the most of their time in your closet. Be sure to hand wash and air dry them, give them space in your closet, and always rotate them. Sometimes, even if you love them, you have to let them go.

How to Hand-Wash Bras to Make Them Last Longer