The right way to wash your bras and knickers — plus care tips for undies

RADIO presenters often ­discuss burning issues that divide public opinion.

But a seemingly innocent debate between two Radio 4 broadcasters on how women should wash bras has sparked social media frenzy.

Here’s the right way to wash your bras and knickers

Listening Project presenter Fi Glover joked on a podcast that she was washing her “upper support ­garments by hand” as Woman’s Hour host Jane Garvey was “horrified” that she didn’t already.

But do you really need to spend hours soaking bras and knickers in the sink?

Two undies experts — who don’t agree on everything — share their tips with Fabulous Daily.

Must I hand-wash my bra?

JENE Luciani, lifestyle expert and author of The Bra Book, says: “Ideally, hand-washing is best.

Bras have underwires and hooks that can bend if you put them in the washing machine.

“Hand-washing doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Simply soak in the sink in some cool water with a bit of baby shampoo then hang them out to dry.

Ideally, you would be hand-washing your bras, experts say
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“If you prefer to machine-wash, buy a mesh laundry bag and be sure to clasp your bra before ­putting it in the bag.

“It doesn’t need to be a separate wash as long as the water is cool, but a mesh garment bag will stop the hooks damaging other clothes.”

How often?

Jene says: “You should wash your bra after every wear. The dirt and oils in our skin can break down the elasticity in the fabric so the best way to increase the lifespan is to wash it regularly.”

Wash your bra every three to four wears, says Good Housekeeping Institute
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Katie Mortram, from the Good Housekeeping Institute, disagrees, saying: “You might think you’re being hygienic, but washing bras after every wear can cause them to lose their elasticity.

“We recommend washing every three to four wears.”

How should I wash shapewear?

Jene says: “The same rules apply to shapewear as to bras.”

What temperature should knickers be washed at?

Jene says: “It really depends on the fabric. Cotton undies would be OK in warm water so maybe 40 to 60 degrees. Anything hotter might cause them to shrink.

“If it’s a delicate fabric such as microfibre or silk, use cool water and a delicate cycle.”

Here’s the right temperature to wash your smalls at
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Katie recommends washing ­knickers at as high a temperature as the care label allows. She says: “Unsurprisingly, worn pants are a breeding ground for ­bacteria.”

Best way to wash a bra?

Jene says: “Never put your bra in the dryer. The heat is like kryptonite for it. Bras should be put on a hanger or laid flat, without crushing the cups.”

Katie recommends not hanging drying bras by the strap. She says: “This can cause them to stretch and become ill-fitting. Instead, hang from the centre, where the cups meet.”

Best way to dry a bra?

Julia Mercer, head of specialist services and bra-fitting at M&S, says: “I recommend twisting the cups, keeping both facing outwards and lining up in that way. This stops them from getting squashed in the drawer and helps them retain their shape for longer.”

Never put a bra in the dryer or hang it by the straps
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When should you throw out a bra?

Jene says: “There isn’t a specific time frame. It really depends how often you wear it and how well you care for it. Also, if you’ve lost or gained weight, even as little as 5lb, and your size unknowingly changes, it may not support you any more.”

Jene says: “Look for signs such as the back band riding up. Think about gravity — if it’s riding up at the back, it’s going in the opposite direction at the front!”

Which material is best when buying a pair of knickers?

Jene says: “Microfibre is popular but look for something with a cotton gusset. I like the Soma Vanishing Edge panties (from £14 at

“You want some breathability in the private region that only cotton can provide.

Cotton provides breathability in the private region
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“Typically, it’s a nylon spandex blend.

“The nylon makes them soft and smooth against the skin while the spandex provides stretch. Throw them out when you start to see signs of wear and tear such as shrinking.”

Any tricks for keeping your whites white?

Jene says: “Bleach is the best and only trick that I know of. They make kinder, gentler bleaches now that will be kinder to your undies.

“I only use bleach for whites though, and wait about five minutes into the cycle before adding it to your machine.

“You can also use ­baking soda for a boost.

“Colours will typically fade in high heat, so using cool water should ­prevent that as well.”

And now… the big reveal – this is how not to lose a sock ever again
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How can we stop socks going missing in the wash?

Jene says: “It’s an age-old dilemma which happens to everyone.

“You could use a mesh garment bag and put them together in pairs. They should, in theory, come back out in pairs too.”


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