How to Wash and Care for a Sports Bra
Follow these five simple tips to remove oils, sweat and foul odors and lengthen your sports bra's lifespan.
- Shampoo or Laundry Soap
- Fabric Booster
- Cold Water
- Small tub or sink
- Lingerie or garment bag
- Washing machine (optional)
5 Steps to Properly Wash and Care for a Sports Bra
Your sports bra provides the essential support you need to run, jump, and leap without distractions. But as you tackle your fitness goals, each workout will leave your sports bra sweaty and in need of a good washing.
Like other performance-based activewear, a sports bra requires special care. If you want it to continue to provide the support and lift of your first wear, you need to know how to wash it properly.
Follow these laundry tips to lengthen your bra's lifespan and keep it clean and smelling fresh.
1. Wash After Every Use
Washing your sports bra after every workout will mitigate unpleasant odors, but even if your sports bra doesn’t smell, you should wash it after every use.
Tossing your sports bra back in the drawer will cause bacteria, fungi and yeast to build up in the bra’s fibers. And the area under the breasts is especially prone to yeast infections. You might also develop a rash, break out with acne, get a bacterial infection, or experience nipple chafing if you don’t wash your sports bras regularly.
So take off your sports bra immediately after your workout, and either wash it right away or hang it up to air dry until laundry day.
2. Wash by Hand or in a Lingerie Bag
Hand washing is the best way to extend the life of your sports bra. It's also more eco-friendly than a machine wash.
Avoid using regular detergent, and instead opt for a gentle hand soap, laundry soap or shampoo. Regular detergent can be difficult to rinse out of clothes when washing by hand, and detergent residue builds up in the fibers of your sports bra and attracts odors.
You’ll want to soak your sports bra in the soapy water for about 20 to 30 minutes and gently scrub the fabric with your hands. When you’re done, drain the sink and refill it with cold water until all the soap is rinsed out.
If you’re washing your sports bra in a washing machine, follow these steps:
- Fasten the clasps on your sports bra.
- If your sports bra has removable pads, remove them and wash them by hand.
- Place your sports bra inside a lingerie bag (or garment bag), especially if you’re machine washing it with other items.
- Follow the care instructions on the tag. If the tag is missing, opt for the delicate cycle with warm or hot water.
- Use a regular detergent or one intended for performance fabrics. Avoid using too much detergent.
Washing your sports bra inside a mesh lingerie bag adds extra protection for the fabric by keeping it separate from other items.
3. Forego Fabric Softener for a Fabric Booster
Synthetic moisture wicking apparel such as Nike Dri-FIT are great for keeping you cool, dry and comfortable, but they’re not conducive to using fabric softener.
Fabric softeners clog the fibers of your sports bra so that sweat and dirt stay trapped instead of washing out. What’s more, they’ll prevent the fabric from serving its intended purpose, which is to breathe and wick away moisture from the skin.
Avoid fabric softener or dryer sheets and instead opt for a fabric booster designed for performance clothing.
4. Lay Flat to Dry
Avoid using a dryer, especially on high heat. A dryer can stretch out the fabric and elastic on your sports bras, making them less supportive and even changing the fit. Luckily, sports bras are designed to dry quickly.
Air dry them on a counter or flat surface by placing them over a towel. Or, drape them over a drying rack.
Try to avoid hanging your sports bra by the straps, which can cause the straps to stretch out.
5. Replace Worn Out Sports Bras
Even with the proper care, your sports bra will wear out over time and be less effective at supporting you when you hit the gym. Watch for signs that it’s time to replace your old sports bra, such as:
- The band is stretched out and doesn’t provide sufficient support.
- The band slides or the bra rides up when you lift your arms.
- There is pilling or the fabric looks worn out in certain areas.
- The band or straps are causing chafing.
- The bra is stained or retains odor after washing.
Care for your sports bras properly, and you can expect them to endure for about a year of regular wear. When it’s time to go shopping for a new one, ensure proper fit and support, and choose materials that will keep you cool and dry.