Whether you use your swimsuit daily or just once in a while when vacationing, the fabric can take a beating from pool chemicals, salt water, sand, high temperatures, and sunscreen. Since bathing suits can be expensive—especially for women—it's well worth your time to learn how to keep them looking great all season.
How Often to Clean a Bathing Suit
Almost every swimsuit contains spandex, which can stretch out and break down if exposed to perspiration and body oils. Therefore, removing those contaminants as soon as possible is important to help a swimsuit keep its shape. The chlorine in pools and hot tubs can harm a swimsuit's elasticity, too, and cause the fabric to change color. White swimsuits are particularly susceptible to chlorine and will turn yellow as it strips away the white fibers surrounding the inner yellow core of synthetic fibers.
Washing a bathing suit is easy, but it should be done by hand. If you absolutely must wash a bathing suit in the washing machine, put it in a mesh bag meant for delicate garments, use an ultra-mild detergent, and choose the delicate cycle.
Equipment / Tools
- Drying rack
- Mild detergent or spandex-specific detergent
- Cold water
|How to Wash a Bathing Suit|
|Detergent||Gentle liquid or spandex-specific|
|Cycle Type||Hand-wash only|
|Drying Cycle Type||Do not machine-dry|
|Special Treatments||Hand-wash only|
|Iron Settings||Do not iron|
Rinse Your Bathing Suit
Rinse your swimsuit as soon as possible in cool tap water after each time you wear it. If you have time, allow the suit to soak in cool water for 30 minutes, which is even better for the fabric. Soaking will remove most of the chemicals, salt, sand, and body oil that can damage the fabric.
Drain and Refill the Sink
Plain water doesn't remove all of the chlorine or salt. Refill the sink with cool water, and add 1 teaspoon or less of a gentle liquid laundry detergent. If you're in a pinch, use just a dab of shampoo to wash your suit, but skip any combination products that contain conditioner.
Whether you dripped ketchup on your suit at a poolside barbecue or got some sunscreen on the fabric, follow stain removal guidelines for the specific stain to remove it from your swimsuit. Self-tanners are particularly difficult to remove, so always wear an older suit when applying them.
Submerge the Suit
Turn your swimsuit inside out, and submerge it in the solution. Swish for several minutes, and then rinse well.
Remove Excess Water
Remove the bathing suit from the water, and then gently squeeze the water out of the fabric. Don’t wring the suit as it can cause damage.
Air-Dry the Bathing Suit
Spread your suit flat to dry in a spot out of direct sunlight. UV rays from the sun can both fade and break down the fibers in your suit.
Storing a Bathing Suit
Don’t hang up your bathing suit because it'll stretch out the fibers. Instead, store the suit flat when it’s completely dry; any moisture may result in the growth of mildew. If you’re putting it away for the season, store the suit in a fabric garment bag. Skip the plastic bags, which can also provide a breeding ground for mildew and bacteria.
A broken strap or small hole isn’t a reason to toss an expensive bathing suit. Use a needle and polyester thread to hand-sew small snags or rips in the fabric. Easily fix a snag by threading a needle with the same color thread, pull it through the middle of the loop of the snag, and knot it so it's tied to the snag. Then, put the needle into the base of the snag to pull it through to the other side. If you need a bigger repair or need to alter a bathing suit, take it to a professional tailor. They’ll be much more adept at sewing finicky spandex or Lycra.
Tips for Washing a Bathing Suit
- Instead of taking off the bathing suit and soaking it in cold water, just wear the suit into your post-swim shower.
- When hand-washing, don't use powdered detergent because it may not dissolve completely or rinse away well. Never use chlorine bleach to whiten or remove stains on suits.
- Distilled white vinegar can be used as an emergency substitute for detergent when washing, as it both deodorizes and reduces bacteria on the fabric.
- If possible, wear an older suit in a hot tub, or rinse out your suit as quickly as possible. Hot tubs offer a double whammy of excessive chemicals and high heat that will fade and stretch a suit out very quickly.
- For frequent hot tub use, choose a suit that is 100 percent polyester and/or chlorine resistant. Cotton and natural fibers won't hold up in chlorinated water.