Your swimsuit might make the trip from pool to lake to spa to ocean a couple dozen times in a busy summer, and while the clean scent of chlorine might not bother you at first, there will probably come a day that you wish that your suit was a little fresher. But the sleek fabric that makes up your favorite swimwear is quite a bit different than your beach towels or cover-up. Is it safe to toss the bathing suit in the washing machine with the rest after a long day swimming? Here’s how to make sure your suit is looking its best all summer long.
Most women’s bathing suits will tell you right on the label how they should be washed for best results. Unfortunately, most of them will tell you to hand wash, as washing machines tend to stretch out the material and cause some discoloration. If you’re caught in a tight patch, however, it can be done. First thing to remember, though, is that your suit doesn’t need to be washed every time you take it for a swim. Your bathing suit is made of gentle fibers that keep it flexible and prevent irritation and washing too often with harsh chemicals can cause damage. If you’re sticking to the local pool, you can probably wait three or four trips between washes, fewer if you’re spending most of your time in the lake. If you think you can get away with a rinse, try that.
Though hand washing is best, you can throw your swimsuit into the machine washer in an emergency or time crunch. When you do, make sure that you set your machine to the coldest temperature it has and that you’re using a non-chlorine detergent if possible and the mildest soap you have available if not. If your washer has a delicate setting, use that to keep stretch and damage to a minimum. You can also try slipping the suit into a mesh laundry bag to keep the straps from getting caught on the rest of the load.
The best way to keep your swimming suit in tip top shape is to wash it by hand whenever it needs cleaning. First, fill your sink, tub, or a large bowl with cold water and add some mild hand soap. This will be much gentler on your suit’s bright colors than regular laundry detergent. Next, let your swimwear soak for about fifteen minutes, gently massaging the soap into the fabric to get out any dirt or chemicals that might be lingering post-swim. Once your bathing suit is clean, drain the water and rinse out the cloth as best you can. Then, roll – don’t wring! – your swim suit on a bath towel to remove any extra water and lay the pieces out to dry. Hanging it up may seem like a good way to get any remaining drips out, but pooling water might cause permanent stretching. Don’t risk it!
The best defense against stains is to let your skin soak up the sunblock before you don your suit, but it’s hard to plan ahead when you’re wrangling kids and friends. If you do end the day with a couple of sunscreen spots on your swimwear, don’t panic! You probably have the solution in your kitchen right now. Search your cupboards; if you find baking soda, sprinkle a generous amount onto the stains and let it soak for a couple of hours before washing. If you find vinegar, soak the stained cloth in a solution of one part vinegar and three parts water before washing. You can also apply white vinegar directly to the stains for a spot clean.
Most men’s swimsuits aren’t made out of the same stretchy, flexible material that ladies’ are and can handle the force of a regular machine wash. Don’t be afraid to throw your men’s suits and boy’s trunks in with the rest of your beach day clothes. Be sure to watch the colors though, you want your gear to shine just as bright at the next pool party!