How to Care for Your Sports Bra

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the back of someone wearing a sports bra

Just like running shoes or other activity equipment, your sports bra is a crucial piece of gear that can last longer with proper care. A few simple laundering tips can help you extend the life of your bra, saving you money and supporting you through many more runs, workout sessions or other activities.

 

How to Wash Your Sports Bra

Ideally, wash your sports bras after each use. This is especially true if you live in a warm climate or tend to sweat heavily in general. Frequent washing will help eliminate the bacteria that transfers from your body to clothes, remove odors and prolong the life of the bra. 

Sports bras can easily be washed in the washing machine or washed by hand.

 

the dials and settings on a washing machine

 

To wash your sports bra in a washing machine:

  1. Fasten all clasps. Use a mesh lingerie bag, if you have one. This ensures that the bra won’t get caught on or tangled with other clothing in the same wash.
  2. Follow the care instructions on your product tag. Typically, you will use either a delicate or normal wash setting. Use regular detergent or detergent designed for performance fabrics. Avoid fabric softener, which impairs the breathability of the fabric.
 

Can I put my sports bra in the dryer?

Do not put it in the dryer or use dryer sheets. Hang the bra or lay it flat to dry. Dryer heat degrades the elastic and fabric of the bra and—over time—the bra will lose support.

 

someone handwashing a sports bra in their sink

 

To wash your sports bra by hand:

You can hand wash your sports bra in your sink or a bucket. Or you can take it into the shower with you after your run or workout. It helps to keep a little bit of laundry detergent in your shower for this purpose.

  1. Follow the care instructions on your product tag. Use regular detergent or detergent designed for performance fabrics.
  2. Thoroughly rinse out the detergent.
  3. Hang the bra or lay it flat to dry. Do not put the sports bra in the dryer. Dryer heat degrades the elastic and fabric of the bra. Over time your bra will lose support and not last as long.

For more information, read How Can I Clean Workout Clothes That Stink?

 

Rotate Between Sports Bras

a trio of bras on a table top

Having more than one sports bra makes it easier to rotate between activities and workouts. If you are active three days a week or more, for example, it’s ideal to have three sports bras: one that you use, one in the laundry and one in the drawer ready to go for the next workout.  

You may also decide to own different styles of sports bras for low-impact (yoga), medium-impact (hiking) or high-impact activities (trail running). If you’re not able to have an assortment of bras, buy a sports bra with the highest support and use it for low- or medium-impact activities as well. If the bra has adjustable straps, loosen the straps for comfort while doing lower-impact activities; or tighten it for better support.

 

When to Replace Your Sports Bra

a sports bra that's been mended due to excessive wear

Over time with extended use, your sports bra will stretch and not hold you in as well as it once did. Like other gear, your sports bra, too, has a shelf life. Here are some signs that you need to replace your bra:

  • If your breasts are moving and the bra is not as supportive as it was when new
  • If the band and/or straps become rough against your skin and chafing occurs that didn’t happen when the bra was new
  • If the bra is stained or smells, even after washing

Tip: If your high-impact bra has lost support for high-impact activities, consider using it for low-impact activities rather than throwing it away.

 

How long should I keep a sports bra?

The life of a sports bra will be determined by how often you exercise, how well you care for it and how many you own (to rotate through). As a guideline, a sports bra should not be used for longer than a year if worn regularly. If you use three bras and mountain bike three days a week, for example, consider using the bras for one year or no more than two years. (This is where proper washing and drying is critical.)

 

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Contributing Experts

Paige Frederick-Pape

A former marathoner and triathlete, Paige has been wearing and fitting women in sports bras since becoming fit-trained by Moving Comfort in 2010. She continues to test new bras on trails around Austin, Texas, with her dog in tow.