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How to Care for Your Swimsuits

Swimsuits and beach wear hanging to dry

Many of us dread shopping for a bathing suit. It's not unusual to try on dozens before you find one that's flattering. But when you do eventually find the perfect suit, you want to wear it more than one season. Proper swimsuit storage is critical towards this goal. Learn how to care for your swimsuits so that they last for years.

Congratulations! You've finally found that elusive swimsuit that actually flatters your physique rather than emphasizing every flaw. Now you want it to last for multiple wearings. After all, it was hard to find and probably expensive. Swimsuits need special care to ensure they don't fade, rip, wear-out in the seat, or lose their elasticity. If you want to know how to care for your Spandex or other stretchy swimsuits, pay special attention to how they are washed and dried. Try not to wear the same suit multiple days in a row and pay particular attention to your off-season swimsuit storage. These eight tips should get you started on caring for your swimsuits so that you can count on wearing them for several seasons.

Best Practices for Swimsuit Storage & Care

  1. Alternate your swimwear: Don't wear the same suit every day. Otherwise your suit could become stretched out, sag, and bag in inappropriate ways. Because most swimsuits are made of Spandex or some sort of Spandex blend, each suit requires a full 24 hours after wear to snap back to its original position. That means if you are on vacation, you probably need to pack more than one suit. Ditto if you are at home and plan to swim or sunbathe multiple days in a row.
    Suitcase packed with swimsuits
  2. Careful where you sit: You need to care for your swimsuit while you are wearing it. Never sit directly on sand if you can help it. It's too abrasive (i.e. think sandpaper) and will, in time, wear the fabric of your bathing suit thin. Same for the concrete deck of a pool because pool decks are usually textured with an anti-skid surface for safety. Always sit on a chair or towel. That way your swimsuit is protected. You'll be a lot more comfortable as well.
    Woman wearing swimsuit and sitting in chair at beach
  3. Water temperature: Swimsuits last longer when they aren't subjected to excessive heat. High temperatures will fade and damage the stretchy swimsuit material. This doesn't mean you need to limit yourself to the polar bear plunge. Most beach and pool temperatures should be okay. But if the water seems as warm as a bath, beware. That means you shouldn't wear your favorite bathing suit while in the hot tub. The heat and harsh chemicals are certain to shorten its lifespan. Pick a suit you don't care about as much or are prepared to replace frequently. And when you wash your swimwear, always use cold water.
  4. Rinse immediately and hand wash: Rinse out your swimsuit with cool water as soon as you take it off. Even if you were only sunbathing and didn't go into the water, you should try to rinse away body oils, perspiration, and any suntan lotion. Chlorine and harsh chemicals from the pool need to be removed as well. A full washing is recommended after approximately every third wearing. But take special care when washing your swimwear. The best way to wash swimsuits is by hand in cool/cold water. If you simply can't bear the thought of washing by hand, some washing machines have controls that allow for a delicate cycle with an extra-slow agitator speed and no spin cycle. But not all washing machine models have settings that are acceptable so be sure to check yours out in advance. Swimwear made from fabric blends containing some polyester and nylon hold up a little better when washed in a machine than 100% Spandex, so read the labels on your swimsuit before deciding on whether to use a machine. Never use the sanitize cycle on a washing machine. If you've lent out your swimsuit and want extra sanitization, put a little white vinegar in the rinse water instead of hot water or bleach to kill bacteria. (FYI, the vinegar can also be used to set the colors and prevent them from bleeding out on a new swimsuit — use 1 tablespoon vinegar per quart of water and soak for 30 minutes). Make sure to use a very gentle detergent made specifically for delicates in your washer. Go with baking soda or a liquid body soap if you are hand washing. Take care to remove all the soap after washing. You shouldn't see any suds in the rinse water.
    Hand wash to care for swimsuits
  5. Hang to dry: Swimsuits should be line dried. Never put your swimwear in the clothes dryer because the heat will ruin the elasticity of the fabric. But you don't need to hang them up dripping wet either. Instead, place your bathing suit on a bath towel that's been folded in half and roll the towel tightly with the swimsuit inside. This will gently squeeze out excess water. You can then hang your suit to dry over a drying rack, clothesline, or even the bar of a pants hanger. Avoid letting a wet suit dangle by the straps from a hook as this could permanently stretch out the straps before the suit is dry. Leave the hook for your towel. It's best to be gentle when drying a swimsuit, so just drape it over the drying rod or line. Avoid contact with metal as some ferrous materials can leave a rust mark on the fabric. Dry your swimwear indoors or in the shade. Too much hot sun can fade the colors and contribute to premature aging of the material. Lastly, make sure every last bit of the swimsuit is completely dry before putting it away.
    Swimsuits drying on a clothes line in laundry room
  6. Deal with Repairs Right Away: Repair any small rips or damage before putting your swimsuit away. Spandex and Lycra can be difficult to sew but minor repairs like a broken strap can be handled by the average person. Repair small holes, straps, or snags using a thin sewing needle and polyester thread. Try and match the color of the thread to the swimsuit so that the repair won't be noticeable. Don't use cotton thread. Although easier to find and available in every color under the sun, it won't hold up to the chlorine in swimming pools. Polyester thread is more durable, and it works better with the synthetic materials used in swimsuits.
  7. Women's swimsuits belong folded in a drawer: Women's swimsuits should be stored like lingerie. Fold and store them in a drawer. You can also put them in a cloth bag first if you don't plan to use them for a long while. Preferred folding techniques will vary by swimsuit. The best way to fold them depends on how the bust of the suit is constructed. Many swimsuits can simply be folded flat and that will work fine. However, other lady's swimwear offers firmer support and will have underwire or shaped cups like a bra. Fold this type just like a bra — one cup into the other. If it's a bikini, the straps can also be folded into the cups. Fold the bikini bottom and place it so it lies flat under the bathing suit top. Material from a one-piece can be folded so that the cups rest on top of the suit, one inside the other. Don't let the shaped cups get squashed. Store the folded suit in a drawer like any piece of lingerie. A drawer with dividers works well to protect the individual swimsuits and keep them organized. A paper liner on the bottom of the drawer can discourage snagging in a wooden drawer box. Use the unscented paper variety if you choose to use a drawer liner. Never place your swimsuit in a plastic bag or sealed plastic bin during long-term storage. If you do, you are asking for moisture damage.
    Swimsuits folded in drawer with lingerie organizer.
    These swimsuits are folded and organized using an acrylic lingerie divider in a wooden closet drawer. The divider features individual compartments that are sized to fit a bra cup while the slick acrylic material prevents snagging.
  8. Options when storing men's swim trunks: There are more options when storing men's swimwear. If the bathing suit is made from a stretchy Spandex material like a Speedo, follow the same storage techniques as for a woman's suit as outlined above. However, if the swimsuit is more of a boxer style like shorts with a mesh lining, you have more options. This type of swimwear can be stored like a nice pair of shorts. Fold and place them in a dresser drawer or leave the swim trunks in a neat stack on a closet shelf or hang them up using pant hangers in the closet. Any of these techniques will keep men's swimsuits organized and in good shape assuming the suit is clean and dry when you put it away.
    Swim trunks hung on pant rack in closet.
    This closet pant rack is being used to store a collection of men's shorts and swim trunks. The rack slides conveniently forward when the owner want to remove an item. See the entire closet here.

Feeling confident about how to care for your swimsuits?

Swimsuit care and storage doesn't have to be hard. If you take a little extra time to wash carefully and put things away when you're finished, you are well on your way to proper care and storage of swim attire. Follow these eight tips and you should be able to enjoy your swimwear for many seasons to come.