How Often Should You Be Washing Your Bras?

Bras may usually stay out of sight, but they're an important part of many women's daily clothing choices. According to Healthline, good-fitting bras support the ligaments in the breasts to maintain their shape and slow down sagging. Additionally, bras may prevent aches and pains. Dr. Andrea Madrigano, a breast surgeon and associate professor of surgery at Rush University Medical Center, told Shape that women with larger breasts may experience muscle strain by going braless, leading to pain in the chest, back, and shoulders.

These benefits are even more pronounced when working out. "When you exercise and play sport, the force going through your breast is increased and so your breasts move more vigorously," Joanna Wakefield-Scurr, a professor in biomechanics and head of the Research Group in Breast Health at Portsmouth University, told Women's Health. She explains that forgoing a sports bra could cause pain and sagging over time.

Clearly, bras play a supportive (no pun intended) role. But considering they stay hidden, they can be easily forgotten about — and you might forget about washing them, too.

Why bras need regular washings

Anyone with a favorite bra knows how hard it can be to part with it on laundry day. However, bras should be washed regularly, just like other undergarments and staple clothing items. According to the BBC, humans shed 500 million skin cells and a liter of sweat every day — and clothing, including bras, traps some of it. Dermatologist Dr. Alok Vij explained to Cleveland Clinic that the dead skin cells and oils on bras can lead to the growth of bacteria and yeast. "Not washing frequently enough can lead to stains and persistent odors on the bra — as well as skin irritation, rashes, or local skin infections from yeast or bacteria," he says.

Sports bras worn while sweating can cause some additional skin problems if not washed. According to Nike, unwashed sports bras can cause back acne or nipple chafing. Clingy sports bras are especially likely to cause rashes and infections such as staph or MRSA, according to Women's Health.

Signs it's time to wash your bra

You may hesitate to wash delicate, lacy bras to avoid damage. But for the sake of your health, frequent washes are vital. Dr. Vij told Cleveland Clinic that a rule of thumb for keeping bras clean is to wash them after every two or three wears. If you sweat in them, such as while wearing a sports bra at the gym, wash even more frequently. How often you wash your bras can also depend on the local weather and climate. Lexie Sachs, senior product analyst in the Textiles Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, told USA Today that if you live in a hot and humid location, launder bras frequently to remove sweat.

If you're still not sure when to wash your bras, there are a few key signs that your bras are dirty, according to Self. Check your bra for an unpleasant odor, white lines, and wet spots or sweat marks. If you notice skin rashes or irritation where the bra sits on the body, this is also a sign that your bra is overdue for washing.