If you care about your fancy bras and underwear at all, you should be hand-washing them — or so the story goes. In reality, who has the time? I am a professional costume designer (shameless plug), paid to know how to take care of clothes — but even I toss my bras and underwear directly into the washing machine. While it’s not ideal, it’s also not as bad as you think — because I do take the time to pack them in a nifty zip-top, mesh lingerie bag first. I always knew those mesh washing bags (called “lingerie bags” because they’re used to launder sexy undergarments) were a good idea, but never used them religiously until there was an episode with a pair of tights and my washing machine that was so bad, scissors and a repairman had to get involved.
After that experience, I now put everything that might need protection from an aggressive washing machine into the bags: tights, bras, underwear, stockings, leggings, slips, and swimsuits — basically anything delicate, prone to snagging, or silky. Even inexpensive polyester dresses from chain stores, linen pieces, and vintage items that may have fragile seams will benefit from the protection a mesh wash bag gives. They are also a good way to make sure your socks don’t get lost in the washer or dryer, if you are a person who cares about wearing matching socks. I even put my dog leashes in one when they need a good wash, in order to keep them from clanging around in the wash and getting tied up in knots.
But not all mesh lingerie bags are created equal — I’ve owned a dozen different styles that stunk. They either ripped open in the middle of a wash cycle, had holes so large that bra straps could sneak out and hang themselves on other things I was washing them with, or featured zippers that either rusted (leaving brown spots on my fancy lingerie) or got bent out of shape and snagged the very items I was trying to protect. That’s why my new go-to set of lingerie wash bags is made of a superfine net material that allows soap and water in easily, but keeps all items safely inside. They feature a plastic zipper that obviously won’t rust, and even have a flap that covers the zipper to keep it from catching, unzipping, or clinking against the inside of the machine annoyingly. The biggest ones are perfect for expensive gym clothes that need a little TLC, and the smallest size fits one bra nicely. They will change your laundry life for the better, forever. Just try not to think of all the ruined items you could have salvaged over the years by simply investing eight bucks in a set of these.
Writer Chris Cohen calls Fels-Naptha the best soap for workout clothes: “Once I’m done with my normal post-run rinse-off, I give the clothes a quick scrub with the soap, roll everything around for a few seconds, then hold them up to the shower head to wash the suds out. The whole process takes less than a minute, and the next day, I have dry, sweat-stink-free clothes ready to go.”
Maxine Builder quickly follows her stains with a Spray ‘n Wash Pre-Treat Stain Stick: “Immediately after a stain happens, I rub the product onto the spot and the fabric, and let it sit for as long as possible. Before I go to sleep, I’ll wash the product out in the sink with cold water, wring it out, and let it dry. When I wake up, the stain has lifted and the clothing is ready to wear again, with no one the wiser.”
If you’d still prefer to hand-wash delicates, try this Japanese washbasin recommended by Sadie Stein: “I like to put my unmentionables to soak with a little Woolite, or Forever New; soak them overnight; and then give them a good swish and rinse. And its washboard, of course, is for cleaning underpants (or as some men like to call them, ‘panties’). I imagine if you were wanting to wash up any evidence of a murder, it would be very useful, too.”
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