Competition swimsuits are built for racing with a competitive edge and need proper care. Swimming is now serious business from youth league swim teams to college to swimming on an international level. So whether you're another Michael Phelps or just enjoy competition, learn how to care for your competition swim uniform.
Know the Swimsuit Material
Competition swimsuits and jammers are made of man-made fibers like polyester, Lycra, and spandex spun with thin thread and woven at a high thread count to create a smooth surface that glides through the water with minimal friction. The fabrics can be as thin as 1/100 the width of a human hair. All are delicate and must be treated with care in the laundry.
Learn the Pre-Rinse Fundamentals
Pre-rinsing is essential in getting your swimsuit clean. As soon as possible after practice or a meet, rinse the suit in a utility sink with plain cool water to remove as much chlorine and body soil as possible. There are also products like Summer Solutions that neutralize chlorine residue on the fabric. These can be added to a large plastic bag with some freshwater if a sink is not readily available. The key to protecting your swimwear is to remove or neutralize the damaging chlorine as soon as possible.
Wash Your Suit
After rinsing out the suit, you must wash it. Plain water does not remove all the body soil or chlorine. To hand-wash a swimsuit, refill the sink with cool water and add just a tablespoon or less of mild liquid detergent. Don't use powders because they may not dissolve completely or rinse away well. And, never use chlorine bleach even on white suits. The bleach will weaken the fibers and can turn the fabric yellow because it strips off the outer coating and reveals the inner yellow core of the threads.
Turn your swimsuit inside out and completely submerge in the water. Swish the suit through the water for several minutes, drain and then rinse well. Gently squeeze—don't wring—the water out of the fabric.
Do not put your swimsuit in a clothes washer, even in a mesh bag. The agitation and spinning are too harsh.
There are usually few staining issues on competition swimwear. But for sunscreen stains or if you discover that the dye used in your swimsuit has bled or perhaps your towel or jeans bled on a wetsuit, it's time to reach for the oxygen bleach. Mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach—OxiClean, Clorox 2, Country Save Oxygen Bleach, or Seventh Generation Oxygen Bleach are brand names—and cool water. Follow the package directions as to how much product per gallon of water. Submerge the stained suit and allow it to soak for at least eight hours. Check and if the dye stains are gone, hand wash as usual. If they remain, mix a fresh batch of oxygen bleach solution and soak for another eight hours before washing.
Note: Do not use chlorine bleach.
Forget the Heat
Never put any type of swimsuit in a clothes dryer. The high heat causes shrinking and fades colors. Spread your suit flat to dry or hang to drip dry in a spot out of direct sunlight. The UV rays from the sun can both fade and break down the fibers in your suit.
To help your swimsuit dry more quickly, place the freshly washed swimsuit on a clean thick cotton towel. Roll the swimsuit up in the towel and squeeze gently. The towel will absorb much of the moisture. Unroll the towel and allow the swimwear to dry completely.
Never iron your suit. If there are wrinkles, dampen the suit and they will fall out. Be sure your suit is completely dry before storing.
Tips to Make your Competition Swimsuit Last Longer
- Alternate swimsuits. Giving your suit 24 hours of rest between wearing will help the Lycra/spandex yarn regain its memory shape.
- Use practice suits. If possible, wear old suits for practice to prevent wear and tear on competition suits.
- Find a shower. Before you head home with your swimsuit, find a shower or sink to rinse out the body soil and chlorine from your suit.
- Watch where you sit. Most pool sides and decks are rough so that you won't slip when they are wet. Even if it doesn't seem too rough, it is to your suit. Always sit or lay on a towel. Be careful when rising from an inside pool bench or steps. Once a swimsuit is snagged it cannot be repaired.