How to wash underwear in a washing machine

It may seem simple to just throw underwear in the washing machine but specific materials need special care! Read on for tips on how to wash underwear.

Updated 7 June 2022


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time5 minutes

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how to wash underwear in a washing machine

Key Points:

  • How often to wash underwear? Although boxers, briefs and knickers should be washed after each wear, you don’t need to wash bras as often. Bras can be washed after about 3-4 wears, unless you can clearly tell they’re very dirty or smelly – for example, you may need to wash sports bras more regularly.

  • What about delicates? If your delicate bras and underwear are machine washable, laundry bags can provide extra protection for them during the wash cycle. Just pop them into the bag and put them into the wash as usual, following the instructions on the item care labels.

Clean underwear is one of those essentials in life – and some of us don’t get around to doing laundry until we’re out of clean knickers. But there’s a correct and an incorrect way to washing your underwear in the washing machine. Careless washing will wear out your underwear’s elasticity, colour, and durability. Follow our tips below on washing your undergarments, and you’ll no longer have to ask: “How do you wash underwear?”

As underwear comes in direct contact with our skin (in particular, our most private parts!), it’s good to opt for a gentle detergent when washing underwear.

Washing Underwear In the Washing Machine: Basic Steps

Different kinds of underwear require different kinds of washing cycles, but here is a general outline of steps to follow, regardless of your underwear’s fabric. Please also refer to our specific suggestions later on in this article, for washing and drying your different kinds of underwear.

  1. 1

    Read the garment care tag. This will indicate how your underwear should be washed. If your underwear has no garment care tag, sort your underwear according to the categories listed in the second half of this article, and follow our specific suggestions for those categories. Some delicate underwear should only be washed by hand, and this will be indicated on the garment care tags.

  2. 2

    Pre-treat any stains immediately. Apply a commercial stain remover or liquid laundry detergent and rub this into the stained fabric. Read our article on treating stains for more information. Do not wring or twist your underwear, as this can stretch or mis-shape it. Instead squeeze any excess water out.

  3. 3

    Turn your underwear inside out. Delicate garments like lingerie and some bras should be zipped into a mesh bag for protection.

  4. 4

    Wash with similar items. You don’t want to include heavily soiled outerwear, rough fabrics like jeans, or garments with many studs and zippers. These can all damage your underwear during the cycle.

  5. 5

    Set the machine to the correct cycle and water temperature setting. Follow the garment care tag instructions, and our specific suggestions below.

  6. 6

    Choose a mild detergent. For underwear, a detergent that is gentle on fabrics and skin, like Neutral 0%, works best.

  7. 7

    Remove your washed clothes immediately. This will prevent any mildew growth or smell.

How to Wash Underwear in the Washing Machine: Specific Suggestions

Be sure to know the correct way to wash your different kinds of underwear. For example, our suggestions on how to wash everyday underwear are quite different from our tips on washing frilly lingerie.

1. Cotton Underwear — Separate into dark colours and white/light colours, and wash separately. Machine wash warm (not hot), and ideally hang dry. If you must, tumble dry at a low heat. Otherwise, hang dry in the shade.

2. Stretch Cotton Underwear — Follow the same suggestions for 100% cotton, but machine wash in cool to warm water.

3. Microfibre and Other Synthetic Fabrics — Any synthetic fabrics made of nylon, polyamide, and spandex are stretchy and quick-drying, but can melt in the heat. Wash in cold to warm water, on a basic cycle (or permanent press). Do not tumble-dry. Only air-dry in the shade.

4. Bras — Read the garment care tags to see if your bra can be machine-washed. Many bras should only be washed on the delicate cycle. You may want to zip up any delicate bras in a mesh bag for protection. Hook your bras closed before washing, so they don’t snag on anything else. Bras should always be hung dry, as the heat and action from a tumble-dryer can permanently misshape most bras. You can read our article about how to wash bras for more information.

5. Delicates: Lingerie, Sheer, or Mesh Undergarments — Again, you may be better off hand washing these items, especially anything silk or particularly lacy or frilly. If the garment care tags say it’s ok, machine wash only on the most delicate cycle. Zip up in a protective bag, and wash these in cold to warm water. Dry flat. We have an article about the best ways to wash lingerie – check it out!

If you choose to hand-wash any underwear, remember not to wring or twist them items dry, as that will damage them. Instead, squeeze or press the water out.

With our handy guide, machine-washing underwear should be a snap. You should no longer dread the steps you need to go through to get clean underwear!

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