Ultimate Guide to Swimwear Care

bikini hammock

Humans, by nature, want to get the most bang for our buck out of our purchases. That’s why we shake the hose when filling up our gas tanks to get out every last drop and scrape the bottom of the ice cream container. So when we buy a swim suit, we hope it’ll last more than the one season that designers say it’s made for. Since so much swimwear is made from Lycra and spandex which breaks down over time, you’ll want to do whatever you can to slow that process. Here are a few ideas in our ultimate guide to swimwear care.

Buy Smart

When going to buy a suit for the season, make sure you pick a reputable company with a well-made product if you want it to last you a while. Designers have remarked that swimming suits are typically made to last through 30 wears but you can stretch out its lifespan if you care for it properly. If you’re planning on being in the pool a lot, consider finding a suit that is chlorine resistant. Planning on soaking in the sun in your suit? See if you can find one you like that is UV/UVA protected.

Take Time to Prep a New Suit

If you want to help keep your suit’s life as long as possible, consider pre-soaking in a water and vinegar mixture. One tablespoon of white vinegar added to a quart of cool water will help keep any dye-rich fabrics from bleeding. Leave in the water for thirty minutes and then rinse.

Put It On the Correct Way

This especially applies to female swimmers wearing a one-piece: if you pull the whole suit on by its straps, you’re going to stretch the suit and probably destroy some of the fibers in the meantime. This breaks down its defenses and makes it more susceptible to damage in the water. Instead, pull your suit on by one section at a time to avoid unnecessary stretching. This applies to taking it off, too.


Check Your Levels

If you have your own pool and spa, make sure your chlorine levels are where they should be. A chemical imbalance, particularly high chlorine levels, will wreak havoc on not on your swim suit, but the bikinis of your guests. That’s not being a gracious host, is it? Chlorine in excess can break down the spandex in swimwear which will ruin the shape of a swimming suit. Too much chlorine can also accelerate fabric fading.

Mind Your Seat

When you’re wearing your swimsuit, be careful of where you choose to sit. Wooden benches and rough pool surroundings can snag the material and wear it more rapidly. If you’re wanting to hang around the pool and not worry about wearing down your fabric, wear a sarong while you lounge or bring a towel along with you to sit on.

Be Careful In the Hot Tub

Hot tubs are notorious for wearing out swimming suits in record time. They’ve been known to deteriorate fabric in a single use because of the high levels of chlorine and bromine. Heat is also really bad for swimwear as it affects shape in a negative way. If you love your spa, consider having a separate suit specifically for your hot tub to help sustain the life of your favorite beach wear.

Rinse ASAP

As soon as you’ve left the pool or your poolside lounger, make sure you rinse off your suit ASAP. If you’ve been in chlorinated or salt water, it’s imperative to get that off before it begins wearing on the fibers of the suit. If you’ve been just hanging out in the sun, you’ll still need to rinse your bikini. Sweat, body oils, and sunscreen residue is also damaging to swimsuit fabric and will need to be cleaned off. Oils can alter the elasticity of the fibers making them stretch more than they should.

To rinse, leave your suit in a sink filled with cool to lukewarm water (never hot!) for thirty minutes, if you can. If you don’t have the time to thoroughly wash your swimsuit, a freshwater bath is better than doing nothing at all.

Wash Thoroughly

You want to wash your swimming suit off as soon as possible so that bacteria has less time to set in. Experts suggest using either a mild hand soap or a detergent meant for delicates in the sink after a good rinse. Make sure you empty the sink after a soak and then add new water with the detergent (liquid, not powder). Rinse your suit in this fresh water until it runs clear so that you know all of the soap is out of the fabric.

Some suggest wearing it into the shower is probably your quickest option and any soap that is mild enough for your skin will be mild enough on the swimming suit fibers.

You can also use a cleaner meant specifically for swimming suits like this kind made by Speedo. It is a gentle cleaner that removes chlorine and stains from all kinds of fabric and keeps suits looking new.

TIP: Wash newer suits on their own for the first few launderings so that the dye doesn’t bleed onto any other swimwear in the same water.

Washing machine

Hand Wash Only

It may be tempting to throw a wet or dirty swimming suit straight into the wash after use and justify it by using the gentle cycle. Don’t make this mistake! Washing machines are too harsh on the delicate nature of swimming suits, even on the most gentle of cycles. Machines agitate all the delicate parts: cups, ties, padding. All the movement can damage a suit, make things bunch, stretch, or lose their shape.

Dry Properly

After rinsing and washing, resist the urge to ring out your suits! This will stretch and strain the fibers in your fabric. Instead, roll them up in a towel and apply pressure to try and get out as much excess moisture as possible.

You’ll also want to avoid hanging up your swimming suit to dry, especially by the strings. This can cause stretching as the water pools. Instead, lay them flat on a chair or towel until they dry.

Always dry your suits completely before putting them away. If you tuck it into a bag and forget about it, the more likely it’ll be to develop mildew which is both gross and damaging to suits containing Lycra. Let it dry in a well-ventilated area away from the sun (to avoid color fading) until it’s completely dry before storing it.

Again, heat is bad for swimming suit material so don’t toss it in the dryer hoping for a quick fix. The heat will harm your suit and the tumbling isn’t good for it, either. You’ll end up with a dry swimsuit, yes, but that will most likely lose any semblance of the shape it had before you tossed it in.


Rotate Suits

The spandex that is in a lot of swimwear is a memory fabric which needs a full 24 hours to snap back to its original form. If you’re on vacation or wearing your suits often, it’s important to have more than one to ease up on the wear. This is also important if you want to have a washed and dried suit to wear each day.

A few extra tips!

  • Never iron your swimsuits. Remember? Heat=bad. And I thought people who ironed their jeans were weird…
  • Don’t send your swimsuit to the dry cleaners. It’s unnecessary, potentially damaging, and silly.
  • I’m not sure why you would, but don’t use bleach when washing your suit.

There you have it! Our ultimate guide to swimwear care. Did you learn anything you might not have otherwise known? Are you going to change your post-swim routine?

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