How Often Should You Wash Your Bra?

How Often Should You Wash Your Bra?

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How Often Should You Wash Your Bra?

Your breasts sweat. And if it’s a hot summer day, they might sweat a lot. Your bra not only has the job of supporting your breasts, but it has to do it under high-moisture conditions. So, it makes sense that, along with a T-shirt or leggings, you’d wash your bra regularly. But just how often do you have to do it, both for your breast and skin health? We asked the experts.

Why It’s Important to Wash Your Bra
Your bra has an intimate relationship with your skin. As such, the fabric collects sweat, dirt, and bacteria, explains Kemunto Mokaya, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and lifestyle medicine expert and author of Live & Look Younger. “Wearing clean, fresh-smelling bras not only promotes better skin health, but also enhances comfort and boosts confidence throughout the day, which impacts your well-being,” she says.

How Often Experts Recommend Washing Your Bra
There are no established studies about the best hygiene practices when it comes to bra washing. However, there are sound recommendations you can follow. And no, you probably shouldn’t wear your bra for a week before washing it. “As a dermatologist and skincare expert, I would recommend that bras be washed after every few wears to maintain proper hygiene and skin health,” says Dr. Mokaya. That can differ depending on several factors, but should be every two to four wears in general.

From a gynecologist’s perspective, Christine Greves, MD, board-certified ob-gyn at Winne Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies in Orlando, Florida, notes that though there is no established rule, she would recommend washing it every two to three wears.

Factors that would suggest you need to wash your bra sooner rather than later include your activity level, the season (you’ll obviously sweat more in warmer summer months), if you had body odor, length of wear, and other things you apply to your body that could get on the bra, such as lotions or and perfume, Mokaya adds.

The Right Way to Wash Your Bra
The first step is to look at the care instructions on the tag and follow those. Whirlpool says that best practice is to wash bras by hand with mild laundry detergent and cold water, especially if they have padding. If you’re going to wash them in the washing machine, you should place them hooked in a mesh laundry bag first, which will help them hold their shape. Use cool water, gentle detergent, and a delicate cycle. Hang bras to dry.

In addition, Mokaya suggests running bras (and underwear) through an extra rinse cycle to ensure that there is no lingering detergent residue, which can be a source of irritation for skin.

What Could Happen if You Don’t Wash Your Bra After a Couple Wears?
Yes, it’s tempting to wear a bra for a long time, says Dr. Greves — especially if nothing has happened. “Maybe your skin is not as sensitive and you’ve been lucky thus far,” she says. Certain things in your life are governed by well-established rules, like wearing your seatbelt, but this is not one of them, she says. If you’re experiencing no problems from your bra wearing habits, you may not need to change a thing.

That said, it’s possible that several things could happen to your skin health, says Mokaya. The accumulation of aforementioned sweat, dead skin cells, and dirt on the bra “creates an environment conducive to bacterial and fungal growth, leading to potential infections, such as folliculitis or candida intertrigo,” she says.

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Folliculitis is a skin infection that develops in hair follicles and looks like an acne breakout, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Tight clothing that rubs against damp, hot skin can damage hair follicles and set the stage for an infection. Candida intertrigo is an infection in skin folds (like under your breasts) caused by yeast, according to DermNet. If you notice any signs of these infections, you will need to wash your bras more often and seek appropriate treatment from a board-certified dermatologist or medical doctor.

Notice a ripe stench to your bras? “Bacteria present on the skin break down sweat and produce odor-causing compounds,” says Mokaya. You may also notice irritation and chafing from a sweat-damp bra rubbing against your skin or acne breakouts from accumulated bacteria and dirt that clogged pores in the area, she adds.

How to Stretch the Time Between Washing Your Bras
If you don’t want to toss them into the wash often, there are several things you can do to extend their pre-wash lifespan, says Mokaya:

Wear antiperspirant to cut down on sweating.
Wear your bra less often.
Stick to cooler environments to limit sweating.
In addition, Greves recommends not sleeping in your bra. For many women, it’s unnecessary since you’re not fighting gravity when lying down. “Give your body a break to air out,” she says. If your breasts are large and you find wearing a bra enhances your comfort at night, wear a sleep bra to bed.

How Often to Wash Other Bras
Beyond everyday bras, here’s how to handle washing sports and nursing bras:

Sports Bras You know what happens in sports bras. They’re there to control the bounce while you sweat — and depending on the activity, you may be sweating buckets. “Sports bras should be washed after every wear,” says Mokaya. One exception is if you did a light, gentle activity, such as stretching or a restorative (and not heated) yoga class and consequently did not sweat much. If that was the case, you may be able to wear them one more time.

Repeated washing, though necessary, does have an effect on the lifespan of your sports bras. One study found that breast support decreased after 25 washes and 60-minute wears. It also decreases with simple repeated washing, the researchers found out. Although you’re not going to simply wash a sports bra without wearing them, the results speak to the fact that washing them breaks down their support structures. People said that the sports bras maintained their comfort even after all those washes, however, and they may not consider replacing them. For best results, follow the care instructions on the label, and keep in mind that your sports bras don’t last forever—get new ones when you find that they’re not holding you up as well as needed.

Nursing Bras If you’re breastfeeding, you know how your breasts leak, especially in the beginning. And even though you might be exhausted, try to change this bra every one or two days, advises Greves. If you’re leaking breast milk on the bra, you’ll want to change it. On the other hand, you can stretch it out to washing every two days if you use nursing pads to absorb some of this excess milk. In addition, you can use what’s called a “milk saver” or “milk collector,” which is an insert that catches milk from the opposite breast that you’re actively nursing on as your milk lets down. Not only will that save your bra from being soaked, you can then empty this milk into a bottle to save for later for baby.

The Bottom Line
Bras are repositories for dirt, sweat, and dead skin cells. For best skin health and support, wash them every two to four wears, though increase that to more often if you were sweating a lot when wearing it or are experiencing skin irritation or infection in the area around your breasts.