As you dip back into lakes, chlorinated pools, and ocean saltwater, you may be wondering how often do you really need to wash your bathing suits? (Quick answer: Likely, more often than you think.) To save time — and because you don’t want it to languish at the bottom of your hamper — you may be tempted to simply hang your suit to dry after each wearing. Which is sometimes OK. Other times, though, it’s not advisable. Here’s the how often to wash your suits to stretch their lifespan.
How often to wash your bathing suit (if it gets wet)
A bathing suit that’s been worn swimming will need to be washed more often than one that’s simply been worn while lounging poolside. Chlorinated water can cause fabric shredding, colour-fading, and elastic breakdown. It can also turn white suits yellow. While saltwater isn’t as damaging as chlorine, it can still fade colour over time, so it’s best to wash your suit after every swim.
If you’re unable to wash it right away but want to get started on ridding your suit of harsh chemicals, (i.e., if it’ll be sitting in a gym bag for a while), you can put it in a Ziploc bag of lukewarm water for a low-maintenance rinse.
Swimming in fresh water, like a lake, river, or un-chlorinated water (anyone who’s inflated a kid’s pool and filled it with their garden hose knows what I’m talking about) requires washing only every 3-5 wears.
How often to wash (if it doesn’t get wet)
If the suit doesn’t get wet, and you wear it only briefly, you can be more lenient on your wash frequency — every 3 to 5 wears, as if you were in fresh or un-chlorinated water. However, this changes if you wear a suit for an extended period of time. “Wearing a bathing suit outside of the water for a prolonged period of time is akin to wearing underwear,” Dr. Lucky Sekhon, a board-certified OB/GYN told Well + Good. “Build up of sweat, vaginal discharge after prolonged wear outside of the water, while dry, should be cleaned before the bathing suit is worn again. If not, this can lead to skin irritation and discomfort.”
Should you hand wash or machine wash your swimsuit?
Washing a swimsuit by hand in warm water with mild detergent is preferred for being gentler on fibres and minimising fabric stretching. (The agitation from the washing machine is hard on the fabrics, straps, and elastic.) However, cleaning expert Jolie Kerr told Jezebel, while hand-washing is best, “machine washing on cold is also A-OK. Because I am a realist. It’s not a bad idea, though, to get your hands on one of those mesh zippie bags. That will help to keep the suits from tangling up on your other clothes, which can cause them to stretch out.” Use the delicate cycle when washing in your machine. Also, check the label, as there are some swimwear companies who make suits with machine-friendly fabrics.
How to dry your swimsuit
Putting your swimsuit in the dryer is a flat out no-no, as the heat can curl the fabric and permanently alter the elasticity and fit. The best way to dry is by rolling your suit in a dry towel and pressing the water out, rather than wringing or twisting the fabric, which can cause it to lose its shape. Hang to dry.