How to wash bras without breaking them — or your washing machine

Red bra with laundry in washing machine
Red bra with laundry in washing machine (Image credit: Shutterstock)

They may look like harmless garments, but not knowing how to wash bras properly can cause serious, laundry damage. With their delicate designs such as underwire, removable straps and metal hooks, these can easily snag, get lost in the drum or worse, damage the machine. So it’s important to know how to wash bras without breaking your washing machine, and save you a fortune on repairs or investing in one of the best washing machines.

While the experts advise not to machine-clean your bras, there is a simple way to wash bras without breaking your washing machine. Much like knowing if 'hand wash only' clothes go in the washing machine, learning how to wash bras requires extra care. After all, you don’t want to ruin your expensive underwear over a simple mistake. So if you don’t want the hassle, here’s how to wash bras and make them last longer.

If you've noticed your bed sheets look a little gray lately, be sure to check out how to make white sheets brighter as well. Also, check out these 7 laundry tips every college student should know too.

How to wash bras in a washing machine 

1. First, close the clasps and hooks together. This will prevent them from catching on to other items in the laundry, or bending the hooks. 

Bra clasp and hooks

Bra clasp and hooks (Image credit: Shutterstock)

2. Place your bras in a mesh lingerie/laundry bag to protect bras from tangling with the more heavy-duty laundry such as jeans. Mesh laundry bags like these Polecasa  Pack Small Mesh Laundry Bags for Delicates and Lingerie ($9, Amazon), also makes it easier to find your bras in the washing machine.  

Bra in mesh laundry bag

Bra in mesh laundry bag (Image credit: Shutterstock)

3. Put the laundry bag in the washing machine with similar colors and other delicate items. These lighter items will protect the bras from damage. Add a mild detergent to your washing machine and run on a gentle cold cycle. Hot temperatures can weaken the fabric and cause the straps to lose their stretch.  

Putting mesh bag in washing machine

Putting mesh bag in washing machine (Image credit: Shutterstock)

4.  Then, dry on either a clothesline or rack or lay flat on a towel. Reshape the cups if needed so they won’t lose their shape and comfort.

TOP TIP: Never put bras in the dryer. The high heat will ruin the shape and quickly weaken the fibres. 

Hanging up a bra outdoors

Hanging up a bra outdoors (Image credit: Shutterstock)

How to wash bras by hand 

1. First, pre-treat stains with a mild detergent and water solution using a clean cloth.  Next, fill a sink or tub with a gallon of cool water, adding a tablespoon of detergent, and soak your bras for about 15 minutes. It’s always best to wash similar colors together, as dark colors can discolor light colors.

Soaking bras in water

Soaking bras in water (Image credit: Shutterstock)

2. Gently swish the soap into your bra and rub to loosen any dirt or oil residue, paying close attention to the bands and armpit areas. Once clean, drain the dirty water and rinse a few times in cold water until the water is clear.

Handwashing bra in soapy water

Handwashing bra in soapy water (Image credit: Shutterstock)

3.  Then, either hang the bras up on a clothesline, or lay bras flat out on a towel to dry to absorb excess water.

TOP TIP: If you choose to hang up the bra, do not hang it by the strap to avoid stretching the material. Instead, drape the bra by the middle over a clothesline or a drying rack. 

Air drying bras on washing line

Air drying bras on washing line (Image credit: Shutterstock)

How do I keep my bra in shape? 

Row of different bras

Row of different bras (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Avoid folding your bra’s cups into one another to store them. The best method is to lay your bras out flat and stack them on top of each other. This will help to keep their shape and condition.

How do I wash lace bras?

Black lace bra

Black lace bra (Image credit: Shutterstock)

It's always recommended to hand wash lace bras, as the delicate lace may unravel or get snagged by other items inside the washing machine.

When it comes to drying, make sure you don't throw your bras in the dryer — here are 10 things you should never put in the dryer for more info. 

Bear in mind that even the best washers will require repairs if not well-maintained, so here's how to clean a washing machine and how to make your washer last longer for guidance.  You can also read about how to wash cashmere without damaging it.

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!