How to Clean and Care for Competition Swimsuits and Jammers

Swimsuit next to plastic bu with cleaning solution, clothing pins and detergent

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 2 - 3 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0

Competition swimsuits and jammers are specially constructed with thin, manmade fibers woven with a high thread count to reduce friction in the water and give racers a competitive edge. And like any specialty garment, they need proper care. To keep them performing their best, they should be hand-washed as soon as possible after each use. Pre-rinsing immediately after use is critical, and they should never be machine-washed or machine-dried, as this can damage and fray the delicate fibers, which increases friction in the water. Nor should you ever iron a competition swimsuit or jammer, which is one of the quickest ways to ruin it.

How to Wash Competition Swimsuits and Jammers
Detergent Mild liquid laundry detergent
 Water Temperature Cool
 Cycle Type Wash by hand
 Drying Cycle Air dry
 Special Treatments Pre-rinsing
 Iron Settings DO NOT iron

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Wash basin or sink
  • Cotton towel


  • Mild laundry detergent
  • Chlorine neutralizer (optional)
  • Cool water


  1. Pre-Rinse Your Swimsuit

    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 fresh water 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.

  2. Prepare the Water

    Fill a sink with cool water and add a small amount (1 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.


    Do not put your swimsuit in a clothes washer, even in a mesh bag. The agitation and spinning are too harsh.

  3. Hand-Wash the Suit

    Turn your swimsuit inside out and completely submerge in the water. Swish the suit through the water for several minutes, then drain the sink.

    Swimsuit hand-washed in plastic bucket with water and mild laundry detergent

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  4. Rinse

    Rinse the swimming suit under cool running water for a full minute. Gently squeeze—don't wring—the water out of the fabric.

    Swimsuit pre-rinsed under running faucet removing chlorine

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  5. Dry the Swimsuit

    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 put any type of swimsuit in a clothes dryer. The high heat causes shrinking and fades colors. And never iron your swimsuit suit. If there are wrinkles, dampen the suit and they will fall out. Be sure your suit is completely dry before storing.

    Swimsuit rolled into white towel for drying

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

What Is a Competition Swimsuit?

Competition swimsuits are tight fitting garments, often with a compression fit, that 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 men's version, with legs that are longer than normal swim trunks, are commonly known as "jammers."

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 in order for the swimsuit to keep its competitive advantage.

Treating Stains on Jammers

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 (such as OxiClean, Clorox 2, Country Save Oxygen Bleach, or Seventh Generation Oxygen Bleach)—and cool water. Mix in water following package directions, then submerge the stained suit and allow it to soak for at least eight hours. 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 standard chlorine bleach on competition swimsuits.

Tips for Making 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 to you, it is to your suit. Always put down a towel before sitting or lying down. Be careful when rising from an inside-pool bench or steps. Once a swimsuit is snagged it cannot be repaired.