Sports bras don’t last forever, but most of us runners can significantly prolong the lifespan of our favorites with a few tweaks to our laundering habits. With many high-quality sports bras costing in the $50-70 range these days, these low-maintenance washing tips can be a real boon to your wallet over time.
Wash After Every Workout
While you might be able to get away with not washing a sports bra after every walk or gentle yoga class, running is a different story. You’ll almost certainly break a significant sweat every time you run—and the salt in sweat is anathema to the fabric of your sports bra. It can develop into bacteria, or at the very least, stay trapped inside the pores of the fabric and cause chafing the next time you wear that bra. Try to wash your bra as promptly as possible after every workout to help the fabric maintain its integrity over time.
Wash By Hand—It’s Easier Than You Think
Best-case scenario: wash your sports bras by hand every time. An easy way to ensure this happens is to keep a small container of laundry detergent in your shower and scrub your bra clean at the same time that you scrub yourself clean. Of course, you can also hand-wash sports bras in your sink or a bucket of warm water, mixed with a dab of detergent. Rinse well with water to get the detergent residue out before laying flat to dry.
… Or, At the Very Least, Take Special Precautions
If you can’t be bothered to wash your sports bras by hand, it’s not the end of the world to toss them in your washing machine. However, if you opt to do so, invest in a small lingerie bag. Zipping your bras into a mesh bag before putting them in the machine will help prevent the clasps or Velcro on them from snagging on anything, which can cause unnecessary (and rapid!) damage to your bra.
Wash in cold water on your machine’s gentlest/delicate cycle.
Choose Your Detergent Wisely
Fabric softener interferes with the performance qualities of technical fabrics, so avoid using it or any detergents that include fabric softener in them. While regular laundry detergent will work fine, for synthetic sports bras you might also consider using a special performance-fabric detergent such as HEX Performance Advanced Laundry Detergent or Nathan Sport-Wash. These detergents are engineered to prolong the lifespan of your synthetic activewear (not just sports bras!) by eradicating sweat buildup and its accompanying bacteria, odors and stains.
Avoid the Dryer
The dryer is a sports bra’s worst enemy. The heat can interfere with performance fabrics and prematurely stretch out your bra, reducing its supportive qualities. Instead, hang or lay your bras flat to air dry. If you run every day, it’s a good idea to have multiple sports bras in your rotation; this way, you’ll have a clean, dry bra available at all times, and won’t be tempted to rely on the convenience of the dryer to ready a bra for your next workout.
With a little extra time and care, you’ll find your sports bras continue to perform at a high level for much longer, saving yourself a bit of money in the process.
Looking to buy a new sports bra? We recently shared our thoughts on the best running bras available at the moment.