Who washed Washington’s White Woolen Underwear?

When Washington’s Washerwoman, went West?

That’s the eternal question. Who washes their unmentionables – and also how, with what, and how often.

We’re tackling a big topic here today: lingerie care, and are lucky to have some input from Katie and Lauren – two garment care pros on our staff.

laundry care

First off: how often should you launder your lingerie?

K: I wash every couple of wears (3-4 on the outside, usually 2-3).  I wash my bottoms after every wear.

L: Depends on the item. With panties, its always after every use.  Bras, I try to wash after 3 to 5 uses.  It depends on the time of year (Summer I was more frequent than Winter due to sweat & heat). With kimono, robes, nighties, etc, I do on a case by case basis.  I try to balance the need for clean with washing as little as possible.

Big topic: Handwash vs Machine (delicate cycle). Where do you stand?

K: Hand wash – no contest.  The delicate cycle on your machine isn’t smart enough to know when your bra gets tangled, and still utilizes more aggressive and longer agitation than your lingerie needs! I’ve actually found hand washing to me more efficient and convenient that laundering in the washing machine.  I rarely spend more than 5 minutes on a “load” of handwashing.

L: Handwash handwash handwash!!! The only things I will put in lingerie bags in the delicate cycle are panties that are not silk or lace. But I pre-treat & scrub everything prior. I also have been known to pay the extra $$ and dry clean pieces like kimonos & silk or synthetic robes that have lace. I have a cream silk robe that has black lace trim, and because of the fear of dye transfer, I always dry clean it once or twice a year.  Handwash is so important, particularly with lace.  I knew someone who made the huge mistake of machine washing a 1930s silk & lace gown as well as a Carine Gilson camisole.  Lets just say it didn’t go well.

What products can make doing the dreaded handwash easier?

L: Handwashing shouldn’t be dreaded. To be quite honest, its easier and once you get the hang of it, you will never do a machine wash again. I pick one day a week (a day I am not working). Buy a good detergent (the laundress and soak are great. I use both as well as Le Blanc fragrance free). Just like when washing in the machine, separate darks and lights. Don’t mix reds and whites. Fill the tub up with cool water & detergent per the makers instructions. Then let lingerie soak! The trick is developing a system and “assembly line”. Once that is developed, then it’s easy.

K: Use something you like!  If you’re thinking that handwashing is a terrible chore (which it is not), then pick a wash you love the scent of or find a beautiful bowl to soak in.  I bounce around on the specific products I use but always choose a lightly scented, biodegradable detergent.  Soak is a great option as it is safe for the environment and doesn’t require extra rinsing – there’s even a fragrance free version for very sensitive skin.

Is hand-washing really better for the environment? Do things really get clean?

K: Yes and Yes!

In order for a washing machine to clean effectively you need LOTS of water, and in a delicates load even more so.   I estimate in a average hand washing I use about 5 gallons of water and wash a weeks worth of undies, 2 bras, a few pads, and sometimes wool socks etc. Running the washer for these items would use more like 30-40 gallons.

It’s important to feel like your underthings are clean.  To make sure mine are always a joy to put on I soak everything in the detergent/cool water solution for…until I forget they’re in there and remember again…but at least 15 minutes, then agitate with my hand for a minute or so, pulling out any stained items and treating them individually.  Finally, I dump the water, and refill with fresh giving everything a final rinse and hang over a towel rod to dry.

L: Yes, it is better for the environment and yes, it cleans things well. And, if someone really wants to do the environment a bigger service, find detergents that are fragrance free. Its one less chemical added to the world. As well, it consumes less water.

Panties – different guidelines?

K: They go right in my sink! I have been known to toss them in the washer in a pinch as my panties fall in the *very* utilitarian category (use a delicates bag PLEASE). But I truly find handwashing more convenient so that is often what I do – just the same as my bras.  If your undies are lace, mesh, embroidered or embellished they should always be hand washed.

L: Yes. I pre-treat all my panties. As time consuming as this may seem, I pre-treat and gently scrub the cotton crotch area before soaking. Even in the machine, this area doesn’t clean as well without the pre treat. Its another reason why hand wash gets it just as clean, if not more so than a machine.

Stains – My favorite bra is now discolored – can I do anything about it?

L: If it is a white/cream/pale tan bra that has darkened, I would suggest a detergent like “Restoration” that has the benefit of Oxyclean but without the actual harsh detergents. I suggest using it only once. It works great though. If it is an issue with the bra lightening, I would suggest having a little fun and finding a textile dye and dying it another color.  As long as it is structurally sound, you should not throw it away.

I use those reusable pads (or panties built for periods) – what’s the best way to maximize their lifespan so I really get my money’s worth out of them?

K: Yay! Saving the world one period at a time!  I treat my pads in much the same way as described above with more major exception – a pre soak.  For pads that are heavily blood stained rinse thoroughly in COLD water and soak over night in an “oxyclean” type solution.  Then you can hand wash as normal. It can be a big deal to be that up close and personal with your body,  but you’ll get used to it and maybe even find some joy in the process – and no, it doesn’t smell.

Extra Tip: If you are using pads or period panties for incontinence swap a vinegar and gentle detergent solution for the “oxyclean” and I don’t find a presoak is required.

Any other hot tips for how to get the most out of my lingerie collection?

L: Treat it kindly as you would the best items in your outerwear wardrobe. They are just as important as the dress or outfit you are wearing over that lingerie. Also, if you are buying a matching set, buy 2 sets of the panties, if possible.

K: Honestly, just love on it! Treat your lingerie with the same care you do other treasured items and they will return the favor by fitting well and feeling beautiful for longer.

Thanks for your help ladies! Hope this makes laundry less a chore, and more an investment into your future (and current) lingerie happiness level.


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