TLC for Your Lingerie: An Expert’s Guide to Caring for Delicate Undergarments

So, you’ve cultivated a dream wardrobe of lacy balconette bras and silky slips and all manner of frilly underpinnings, but much like anything else, to make them last you need to show them love. And lingerie requires a very different kind of tlc than the other pieces in your closet. Here, Hannah Yokoji, brand director at The Laundress, shares some lingerie-care rules.

Your Lingerie Is Not Your Sweater or a Pair of Jeans

Well-made intimated are a true embodiment of craftsmanship and elegance. Often made from delicate fabrics like lace, silk, and fine synthetics, lingerie should be treated with care to help extend its longevity. You can support your favorite pieces by giving them a deep clean with gentle solutions and washing tactics that are mindful of lingerie’s structures and shapes. 

Hand Wash as Much as You Can 

All lingerie—from slips to bras to underwear—should be laundered using cool water and a gentle washing solution for best results. While some items like everyday panties and slips can be placed in a protective washing bag and tossed in the machine on a gentle cycle, most delicate and structured lingerie with boning and underwire like bras and corsets, should not be placed in the machine. The agitation in the drum can cause fabrics to warp, snag, tear, or become misshapen so it’s best to play it safe and wash by hand. 

A Lingerie Bag is a Must 

This is vital when opting to machine wash. Made from fine mesh, these bags add a much-needed layer of protection around your pieces to help prevent snags and tears, while still allowing for proper cleansing. They’re also great for preventing the loss of small items and can double as a travel or storage bags. 

Take Your Time, Do It Right

Before hand or machine washing, pretreat stains and any stain-prone areas like straps [with something like our Stain Solution]. To hand wash, first fill a basin or sink with cool water. Next, add the appropriate amount of soap. Mix the water and detergent together and submerge your items. Let soak for 30 minutes or less, then rinse with cool water until there is no more soap. Do not wring, as this can warp the shape of your items. Instead, press the water out between your hands. To machine wash, start by placing your lingerie inside a lingerie bag. Then, add the appropriate amount of gentle soap [like our Delicate Wash] to your machine’s dispenser and select a delicate cycle on your machine with cool water and a low spin. Keep in mind that cotton or durable synthetic lingerie (like everyday panties) can be washed using a warmer cycle if desired, but a low spin is always preferable to cut down on agitation to the fabric.

Avoid the Dryer 

From garter straps to corsets, lingerie should always be air dried for the best and safest finish. Tumbling in the dryer (even on “no heat”) can cause unwanted damage to lingerie fabrics, so it’s best to skip it. Instead, lay items flat to dry, or hang them on a drying rack. To help prevent wrinkles, bunching, or other unsightly finishes, gently smooth and reshape items by hand before air drying. 

Wash More than You Think 

This depends, of course, on personal comfort and level of usage. But since it sits so close to the skin, lingerie needs to be laundered more often than other special garments (like a cashmere sweater, for example). Bras can be washed every few wears, while hosiery typically should be washed after every wear. Items like slips and shapewear should be washed after 1-2 wears depending on type. Keep in mind that if you’re placing lingerie in long term or seasonal storage, always store it clean (even if it’s only lightly used), as unseen bodily oils and residue can attract pests and can lead to yellowing. 

Fiorella is a writer, editor, creative, and brand consultant. She is a contributing editor at The Wall Street Journal, her writing has appeared in Vogue, Town & Country, Allure, and New York Magazine, among others; and she has worked with brands like Google, La Mer, and Madewell. She lives in Brooklyn with her partner, daughter, and dog.