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How to Not Ruin Your Bathing Suits This Summer

Ariella Elovic

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Buying bathing suits is a horrible ordeal—they can be awfully pricey, and then there's the whole dressing-room-of-horrors nature of trying the things on. We should all just wear burlap to the beach.

But that would be really uncomfortable. Luckily, your friendly neighborhood cleaning expert (that's me) is here to tell you all the stuff you need to know to make the swimsuits you've got last a long, long time.

General Care: What You Need To Know

The absolute best thing you can do for the health of your bathing suit is to always—always, always, always!—rinse it out after you've taken a dip, regardless of whether you do your swimming in fresh, salt or chlorinated water. To make up for the very hard line I'm taking by insisting that you always (always, always, always!) rinse your suit, post-swim, here's a super easy way to do so: bring the suit right into the shower with you. I know! So simple.

The rinse rule also applies to suits you've worn only to sun yourself—rinsing is still ideal to wash away sunscreen, sweat and your own natural oils, which can cause the fibers to become stained or broken down over time.

When it comes to laundering swimwear, hand washing is the best thing for your suit but machine washing is also fine, and a more realistic option for most people. If you choose to launder in the machine, follow these rules and your suit will live a long and happy life:

  • Put the suit into one of those protective mesh bags, which will help to keep it from getting tangled up with bulkier items of clothing and getting stretched out.
  • Use a gentle detergent designed for use on delicates.
  • Choose the gentlest cycle available on your machine and opt for cold water.
  • Never use bleach on a bathing suit.
  • Either air or tumble dry (no heat) your bathing suits.
  • If you air dry the suit, lay it flat (either on a towel or across a few rungs of a drying rack) to keep it from stretching out. And never wring the suit to extrude water from it, which will twist and stretch the fibers; instead, press down on the suit to push excess water out.

Keeping dark suits from fading

Unfortunately, darker bathing suits are going to suffer from fading over time—sunshine will do its thing and, if you're a pool gal, the chlorine will take a toll as well. But there are a few things you can do to stave off fading. The first is to be religious about the post-wear rinse. I know I'm really banging on about this one, but it's such a simple thing that will go a hugely long way in preserving your favorite bikini.

The other thing that's great to know about are detergents that are formulated especially for use on dark clothing. Woolite Darks is one, Cheer For Darks is another. Bonus: They're also great from keeping jeans from fading in the wash.

Keeping light suits from yellowing

On the flip side of things, you may notice that, over time, your white or lighter colored suits begin to suffer from yellowing. That's due to a combination of chlorine damage and a buildup of skin, body oil and sweat. If yellowing is a thing that you notice is happening to your swimwear, dissolve a half cup of baking soda in about a gallon of cold water, soak the suit for 1-2 hours, then rinse well and air dry.

Treating pilling and sunscreen stains

Pilling is a common problem with bathing suits, but a lint shaver, like this KnitPicks number, is all you need to get rid of those ugly pills.

We talked about sunscreen stains in our discussion of keeping summer whites white white white, and those instructions—using lemon juice and salt or White Brite—also apply to bathing suits. The White Brite will also help to restore suits that have yellowed so badly that the baking soda method isn't powerful enough.

And with that, get out there and splish splash to your heart's content, knowing that you have all the tools you need to keep your bathing suits looking great for years to come.