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How-to: Basic Swimwear Care and Maintenance

It can take a lot of effort to find your perfect swimsuit. Once you’ve invested the time—and braved the harsh light of the fitting room—to hunt down your holy grail bathing suit, it’s wise to care for it properly so it can last you through as many summers as possible. Here are a few tips to keep that bikini, tankini or one-piece looking as good as new.

1. Post-swim rinse

If you don’t have time to wash your suit immediately after swimming, rinse it thoroughly with fresh water and lay it flat to dry. You can also drape it over a clothesline or shower curtain rod, but never hang the suit by its straps; you’ll risk stretching them out. If you’re traveling and have to throw the suit in a plastic bag, at least poke a few holes in the bag for ventilation—and be sure to lay it out to dry as soon as you get home.

2. Treat stains

Sunscreen oils can stain your suit. Instead of going without sun protection, try to apply sunscreen and give it 15 minutes to absorb into your skin before putting on your suit. If you do get a stain, treat it with baking soda or white vinegar, both of which will clean and deodorize without damaging the material. Pour either substance directly on the stain and let it sit for an hour before hand washing. You can also create a solution of three parts water and one part white vinegar; soak your suit briefly in the solution before washing.

3. Hand wash

One of the most important things you can do to prolong the life of your suit is to vow never to put it in the washing machine. Even if you use the gentlest soap and the most delicate cycle, your suit can still get damaged from the agitation inside the machine. Invest in some Woolite (standard detergent can be too harsh for swimsuit material), and wash the suit gently in the sink by hand. Always follow the instructions on your suit’s care tag.

4. Dry the suit—gently

Once your suit is clean, don’t throw it in the dryer. The high heat can damage the material and reduce the springiness of the elastic. Also, never wring or twist a swimsuit; doing so can stretch out the material and affect the way it wears. Instead, take the clean, wet suit and roll it in a towel, gently pressing down to release any excess water. Once it’s no longer dripping, follow the hanging instructions in point #1, above.

5. Swap out your suits

The Spandex in your swimsuit needs up to a full day to spring back into shape. Try to avoid wearing the same suit multiple days in a row. If you swim daily, it’s best to have two suits: one to wear, and one that’s on a “rest day.” You’ll prolong the life of both suits by trading them out.

If you take the time to properly care for your swimsuit, it will last you for many seasons to come—meaning you won’t have to brave that fitting room at the mall again for a very long time.