How to Wash and Care for Your Swimsuit

Follow these tips, and it'll keep its shape and color well past Labor Day.

bikini on sand
Photo: Getty

Bearing the brunt of chlorine, salt, sweat, and sun, swimsuits face a tidal wave of potential fabric-destroyers every summer. And since they're made to fit like a glove, even a little bit of loosening can leave them all but unwearable. Stay ahead of damage and learn how to wash swimsuits by heeding a few expert care tips from Pamela Spencer, founder and designer of UK-based swimwear line Bahimi beachwear.

Neutralize It

The stretchy fabrics commonly used in swimwear—like nylon and spandex—can lose their elasticity and become pilled with extended exposure to chlorine or salt. To combat this effect, find the nearest shower and take a quick rinse right after exiting the ocean or pool. "This helps neutralize the suit's material and maintain its quality, particularly when you won't have a chance to fully clean it until a few hours later," says Spencer.

Hand Wash It

Like delicate undergarments, swimsuits should generally be hand washed, Spencer says. That way, you can control the temperature of the water and ensure delicate parts like straps aren't ripped or snagged. And contrary to popular belief, you should clean a suit after every wear—even if you didn't go swimming. UV rays, sweat, and certain SPF products can degrade its fabric and cause discoloration over time. Use tepid water and a mild detergent, then rinse thoroughly. "Avoid soaking or wringing the suit to keep its shape intact, and always lay flat to dry, as opposed to line- or machine-drying," says Spencer.

Know When to Replace It

Variation in outside factors plays a role in durability, too. "The level of humidity in your area and the percentage of chlorine or salt in the water you swim in can actually affect how long your suit lasts," Spencer says. After a couple seasons, it will likely show signs of wear and tear (and it may be time to give it its final dip). But according to Spencer, most women grow bored of a swimsuit after wearing it an average of six times anyway—and with proper maintenance (frequent rinses and careful washing by hand), yours can easily last that long, or longer.

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