How to Wash and Care for a Bathing Suit

Protect your investment

How to Wash a Swim Suit

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Whether you use your swimsuit daily or just once in a while when vacationing, the fabric can take a beating from pool chemicals, sand, high temperatures, and sunscreen lotions. Bathing suits for women can be expensive, so it's worth your while to learn how to keep them looking great all season.

And if you plan to wear a swimsuit during boating activities, take the time to care for life jackets just as regularly.

How to Wash a Bathing Suit

Whether you swim every day or just enjoy sunbathing in the backyard, it's important to clean your bathing suit carefully. These tips will keep your suit looking great.

  1. Your swimsuit should be rinsed as soon as possible in cool, tap water after each time you wear it. If you have time to allow the suit to soak in cool water for 30 minutes, that is even better for the fabric. The soak will remove most of the chemicals, salt, sand, and body oil that can damage the fabric.
  2. Perspiration and body oils react with the elastic fibers causing them to stretch, so removing them as soon as possible is important to help a swimsuit keep its shape. Almost every swimsuit contains spandex or Lycra, so prompt cleaning is important. The chlorine in pools and hot tubs can harm a swimsuit's elasticity and cause the fabric to change color. White swimsuits are particularly susceptible to chlorine and will turn yellow because chlorine eats away the white fibers surrounding the inner yellow core of synthetic fibers.
  3. After rinsing out the suit, hand wash correctly. Plain water does not remove all of the salt or chlorine. Refill the sink with cool water and add just a tablespoon or less of liquid laundry detergent. Don't use powders because they may not dissolve completely or rinse away well; never use chlorine bleach to whiten or remove stains. If you are in a pinch, you can use just a dab of shampoo to wash your suit but skip any combination products that contain hair conditioners.
  1. Turn your swimsuit inside out and submerge it in the solution. Swish for several minutes and then rinse well. Gently squeeze, but don't wring the water out of the fabric. Spread your suit flat to 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. Never use an automatic clothes dryer.

Tips to Make Your Bathing Suit Last Longer

These simple tips will help you make the most of your bathing suit investment.

  1. Alternate swimsuits. Giving your suit 24 hours of rest between wearings will help the Lycra/spandex yarn regain its memory shape.
  2. Find a shower. Before you head home with your swimsuit, find a shower or sink to rinse out the sand, salt, and chlorine from your suit. Keep a large plastic zip-top bag in your beach tote to hold the suit until you get home and can wash it properly.
  3. Watch where you sit. Most pool sides and decks are rough so that you won't slip while walking on the edge. Even if the surface doesn't seem too rough, it can damage your bathing suit, so always sit or lie on a towel. Be careful when rising from an inside pool or hot tub bench. Once a swimsuit is snagged it cannot be repaired.
  4. Sunbathe first, then swim. If you plan to sunbathe after swimming, change into a dry suit. The combination of chlorine from the pool, body perspiration, and suntanning lotions are the most damaging to the fabric of a swimsuit.
  5. Skip the hot tub. Hot tubs offer a double whammy of excessive chemicals and high heat which will fade and stretch a suit out very quickly. If possible, wear an older suit in a hot tub. Or, rinse out your suit as quickly as possible. For frequent hot tub use, choose a suit that is 100 percent polyester or chlorine resistant. Cotton and natural fibers will not hold up in the chlorinated water.
  1. Think function. If you only wear a swimsuit to sunbathe or go to the beach once per year, you may be fine with a less expensive suit that will last only a season. If you are a frequent swimmer and live in a suit, choose a well-made, more expensive suit that will fit your level of activity and comfort.