How to Wash and Care for Lingerie and Shapewear

Lingerie and shapewear are intimate apparel that require special care to keep them in good condition. Properly washing and caring for lingerie and shapewear will extend their lifespan so you get the most out of your investment. This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about washing, drying, storing, and caring for your delicate lingerie and shapewear.

Preparing Lingerie and Shapewear for Washing

Before tossing your bras, underwear, corsets, girdles, and slips into the washing machine, take a few preparatory steps:

Check Labels and Fabric Content

  • Always check clothing labels for care instructions. Follow any special washing directions from the manufacturer.
  • Lingerie is often made of delicate fabrics like silk, lace, or lycra that require gentle cleaning.
  • Shapewear contains spandex, nylon, or latex that can be damaged by heat or rough treatment.

Fasten Hooks and Zippers

  • Fasten any hooks, zippers, or clasps on bras, garter belts, corsets, etc. This prevents tangling and snagging during the wash.
  • Zip up slips and close hooks on girdles.

Use a Lingerie Bag

  • Place bras, panties, slips, etc inside a mesh lingerie bag. This protects delicate fabrics from twisting and friction.
  • A lingerie bag keeps all your small items together in the wash.

Avoid Washing by Hand

  • Handwashing lingerie can damage lace, silk, or sheer fabrics. Machine washing with a lingerie bag is gentler.
  • The agitation of a washing machine cleans better than handwashing.

Choosing the Right Washing Method

Selecting the proper washing method helps keep lingerie and shapewear in good condition. Follow these tips:

Wash Separately

  • Always wash lingerie and shapewear separate from regular clothing.
  • Lingerie should not be washed with towels, jeans, or other heavy fabrics.
  • Washing separately prevents pilling, snagging, color transfer, and shrinkage.

Use a Gentle Cycle

  • Wash lingerie and shapewear in cold water on the delicate or gentle cycle.
  • Hot water can fade colors, melt elastic, and damage fabrics.
  • The gentle cycle has lower agitation to prevent tearing delicate materials.

Skip the Dryer

  • Air drying allows lingerie to maintain its shape and preserves elastic.
  • The heat of electric or gas dryers can damage spandex, lace, and lycra.
  • Lay flat or hang lingerie to dry. Never wring or twist fabrics.

Wash Less Frequently

  • Lingerie and shapewear do not need washing after every wear.
  • Underwear, slips, etc can often be freshened up with spot cleaning.
  • Frequent washing breaks down elastic and fades delicate materials.

Washing Different Types of Lingerie and Shapewear

Use these specialized techniques when washing specific lingerie and shapewear items:


  • Fasten hooks and zip bras into a lingerie bag for washing.
  • Use a gentle cycle with mild detergent and cold water.
  • Never wash wire bras with other items that could snag.
  • Reshape cups while damp and lay flat to dry, away from direct sunlight.


  • Place panties, thongs, etc inside a lingerie bag before machine washing.
  • Choose a delicate cycle and wash with similar colors to avoid dye transfer.
  • Lay flat or hang delicates to dry to avoid stretching the waistbands.


  • Zip slips up and wash them in cold water on gentle cycle in a bag.
  • To preserve shape, lay flat on a towel or hang to dry.
  • If slipping occurs, spray inner thighs with static guard before wear.


  • Never submerge corsets in water. Spot clean stains gently with a damp cloth.
  • Use a fabric liner inside corsets to absorb sweat and oils. Remove and wash the liner.
  • Steam corsets to freshen instead of washing. Keep away from heat to avoid damage to boning.


  • Hand wash shapewear or use a lingerie bag on delicate cycle in cold water.
  • Lay flat or hang to dry. Avoid direct heat that can damage latex or spandex fabrics.
  • Spot clean perspiration marks. Frequent washing weakens elasticity.

Lace Lingerie

  • Delicate lace should only be hand washed or placed in a lingerie bag on gentle cycle.
  • Wash lace in cold water with mild soap or detergent formulated for delicates.
  • Reshape and lay flat on a towel to dry, avoiding direct sunlight to prevent fading.

Silk Lingerie

  • Hand wash or use a lingerie bag and delicate cycle to wash silk underwear or slips.
  • Only use soap made for washing silks, which are pH neutral. Avoid detergents.
  • Roll in a towel to absorb moisture. Lay flat or hang away from heat to dry.

Drying Lingerie and Shapewear

Proper drying is key to keeping lingerie and shapewear in good condition. Follow these drying methods:

Lay Flat to Dry

  • Lay bras, underwear, slips, etc flat on a clean towel to air dry.
  • Reshape cups, straps, or waistbands before drying so they hold their form.
  • Avoid hanging lingerie near heat sources that can damage elastic and fabrics.

Hang to Dry

  • Hang lingerie using plastic or wooden hangers. Wire hangers can snag delicate fabrics.
  • Padded hangers keep bra cups in shape as they dry.
  • For garters and stockings, lay flat or loop around hanger rungs to dry.

Block to Dry

  • Stuff bra cups with acid-free tissue paper to retain their shape while drying.
  • Blocking on a lingerie drying rack also works well for air drying without misshaping cups.
  • Never wring out bras or panties before drying. This can tear fabrics.

Dry Natural

  • Line dry indoors or in the shade if possible. Avoid direct sunlight to prevent fading colors.
  • Natural air drying preserves fabrics and prevents heat damage from dryers.
  • Dry away from any direct sources of heat like radiators or vents.

Storing and Organizing Lingerie

Keep your lingerie and shapewear neatly stored and organized using these tips:

Use Lingerie Bags

  • Store bras in mesh laundry bags to prevent straps from tangling with each other.
  • Place panties and loose shapewear pieces in a bag when not in use.

Invest in Drawers

  • Dedicate dresser drawers just for lingerie to keep delicates separate and organized.
  • Opt for breathable natural fibers like bamboo or cedar for lingerie drawers.

Hang Bras Properly

  • Use bra hangers or loops to hang bras upright, keeping cups in shape. Improper hanging can warp cups.
  • Never fold or bunch bras into a drawer. Hanging preserves their form.

Designate Shelves

  • A shelf in your closet just for lingerie storage keeps pieces visible and accessible.
  • Fold slips, shapewear, and lingerie pieces in half lengthwise before stacking.

Store by Color

  • Organize lingerie and shapewear by color so matching pieces are easy to find.
  • Separate lights, darks, neutrals, prints, and bold colors onto different shelves or drawers.
  • Arrange lingerie within color groups from light to dark shades.

Caring for Lingerie and Shapewear

Beyond washing, certain care techniques will extend the wear of your lingerie and shapewear investment:

Hand Wash When Needed

  • While the washing machine works for most lingerie, very delicate pieces like silk or lace underwear may require gentle hand washing.
  • Use a mild soap or detergent made for delicates and cold water. Rinse thoroughly.

Spot Treat Stains

  • Pretreat stubborn odor or stain spots on lingerie using a paste of dish soap, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide. Lightly rub paste in and rinse.
  • Avoid harsh spot stain removers that may damage delicate fabrics.

Use Fabric Liners

  • Liners or shields inside slips, shapewear, and dresses absorb sweat and oils to keep them clean longer between washes.

Clean Washing Machines

  • Run empty washing cycles monthly using hot water and bleach or vinegar to disinfect the machine and prevent buildup of lingerie fibers.
  • Wipe the rim, drain the filter, and leave the door open between uses to dry out moisture.
  • Replace old washing machines that may have rough agitators damaging to delicates. Newer models have gentler settings.

Air Out

  • Occasionally air out lingerie drawers and hang lingerie in open air to prevent musty odors from developing.
  • Sunlight naturally disinfects without fading if lingerie is not left in direct light too long.

Inspect Condition

  • Inspect lingerie and shapewear frequently for signs of wear, holes, broken hooks or zippers, pilling, loss of elasticity etc.
  • Repair or replace damaged pieces so you always have properly functioning lingerie essentials on hand.

Use Garment Bags

  • Store out-of-season lingerie in breathable cotton garment bags to protect from dust, bugs, and light while in storage bins or boxes.
  • Hang garment bags in closets instead of folding delicate lingerie when not in use.

Washing Tips for Common Fabrics

  • Silk: Hand wash or use lingerie bag. Wash with cool water and silk detergent. Never use bleach or fabric softener. Dry flat away from direct sunlight.
  • Lace: Hand wash or use lingerie bag. Wash with mild detergent in cool water. Dry flat or hanging. Avoid wringing and high heat.
  • Cotton: Machine wash in lingerie bag using a gentle cycle with warm water. Machine dry on low or hang to dry. Avoid overdrying cotton which can yellow.
  • Nylon/Polyester: Use lingerie bag and gentle cycle in cool water. Lay flat or hang to dry. Heat can damage synthetic fibers.
  • Spandex/Lycra: Wash using a delicate cycle in cold water. Line dry or lay flat. Prevent heat exposure which weakens elasticity.
  • Rayon: Wash in lingerie bag using a delicate cycle in cold water. Do not wring or twist. Lay flat to dry away from direct sunlight.

Washing Do’s and Don’ts


  • Fasten all hooks, zippers, and closures before washing.
  • Use a mesh lingerie bag for all machine washing.
  • Wash delicates separately from regular laundry.
  • Choose a delicate or gentle cycle.
  • Wash with mild laundry detergent or soap formulated for delicates in cold water.
  • Lay flat or hang to dry, reshaping items first.


  • Wash lace, silk, or very delicate lingerie by handwashing. Use a bag.
  • Wash delicates in hot water, on regular cycle, or with harsh detergent.
  • Overload the washing machine. Lingerie needs room to move freely.
  • Dry lingerie or shapewear in electric or gas dryers. Use air drying instead.
  • Leave lingerie or shapewear bunched up wet for long periods before drying.

General Questions

How often should you wash bras, shapewear, and lingerie?

  • Bras: After every 2-3 wears. More frequently with sweat.
  • Underwear: After every 1-2 wears depending on the material. Cotton more often than synthetics.
  • Slips: After every 3-4 wears unless heavily soiled. Spot clean as needed between wears.
  • Corsets: Every few months. Use liners and spot clean between washes.
  • Shapewear: Every 2-4 wears depending on sweat and odor. Spot clean with damp cloth between full washes.

Can you put bras in the dryer?

No, heat from dryers, even on low settings, can damage bras and underwear. Air drying is best. Lay flat or hang bras upside down to dry to maintain the shape of cups.

How do you wash sticky bras?

Adhere to delicate washing instructions since sticky bras have an adhesive silicone backing. Wash by hand or in a lingerie bag using a gentle cycle in cool water and mild detergent. Air dry fully before re-wearing so adhesive restores its stickiness.

How do you wash corsets?

Fully submerging or soaking corsets in water can damage boning and seams. Spot clean gently using a damp soft cloth. You can also use a dry paintbrush to dust off a corset. Use linen inserts to absorb sweat and oils between occasional cleanings. Steam corsets using a handheld garment steamer or hang in steamy bathroom to freshen.

What is the best way to wash silk lingerie?

Hand wash or use a lingerie bag and wash on delicate cycle using cold water and a detergent made specifically for washing silk fabrics. Rinse thoroughly with cool water. Do not wring or twist silks when wet. Roll items in a towel to absorb moisture then lay flat on a drying rack or towel away from direct sunlight to dry fully.

How do you clean white lingerie?

  • Check labels and wash whites separately from colors on hot cycle with bleach alternative or non-chlorine bleach.
  • Lay flat to air dry to prevent yellowing from heat.
  • For stains on white lace or silk, spot clean gently with diluted hydrogen peroxide before washing.
  • For yellowed whites, soak in oxygen bleach solution before washing.

In Conclusion

Caring for delicate lingerie and shapewear requires gentler washing, drying, and storage methods than regular garments. Always follow fabric care instructions and wash in mesh bags using a delicate cycle, mild detergent, and cold water. Reshape and lay flat or hang items to air dry away from direct heat or sunlight. Store lingerie folded or hung in breathable containers like wood, bamboo, or cotton. With proper care taken during laundering and storage, your lingerie essentials will remain beautiful lasting pieces in your wardrobe for many years to come.