Swimwear can be an annoying investment for something most of us really only get to wear a couple of times a year—some high-end labels sell suits for upwards of $200—and they’re constantly exposed to things like chlorine, sun, sand, sweat, and SPF, making the delicate fibers susceptible to serious wear and tear. Yet, when it comes to understanding how to wash a bathing suit, there seems to be a great deal of mystery and mixed information.
In the interest of effectively prolonging the life of your swimsuit—whether it’s a $300 or a $20 one—we’ve compiled six must-know tips that our editors swear by.
1. Rinse it out with tap water every single time.
While your swimsuit doesn’t need to be washed with detergent each time you wear it, it should be rinsed in cool tap water every single time you take it off after swimming or sunning. This removes most of the sunscreen, dirt, sweat, and chlorine.
2. Add detergent only after a few wears.
You’ll want to add a little detergent after a few wears, so turn your bathing suit inside out and add a tablespoon or less of liquid detergent to a filled sink. Swish for a few minutes and then rinse well.
3. Don’t wring it out like a madwoman.
Never wring out or twist your swimsuits! Gently squeeze the water from the suit, and lay it flat to dry.
4. Don’t lay them in the sun.
Contrary to popular belief (or, at least, habit) laying bathing suits in the sun to dry can actually fade the fabric and break down the delicate fibers in your swimsuit, so dry it indoors or in the shade.
5. Remove stains with baking soda or vinegar.
The best trick is to apply your SPF before you shimmy into your suit and let it dry, but if you happen to get sunscreen, food, or strawberry daiquiri stains on your swimsuit, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda directly onto the stain, and let it to sit for one to two hours before washing gently as directed above. You can also soak the bathing suit in one part distilled white vinegar and three parts warm water before washing.
6. Use the machine at the end of the season only
Swimwear designer Shoshanna Gruss shared this tip, and we’ve run with it ever since: “Never put your swimwear in the washing machine, and always hand dry. The machine will damage the suit and it will lose its elasticity. The only exception: At the end of the summer or vacation, wash your swimwear in lingerie washing bags on the gentle cycle with a bit if Drift or Woolite. But only after many wears.” One exception: If your bathing suit has any type of sewn-on embellishments, skip the machine altogether.