Bathing suits can take a real beating in the summertime — sunshine and sweat and sunscreen and chlorine or saltwater work together to do a number on your favorite suits. But if you know the tricks of proper swimsuit care, you can make your favorite bikini or one-piece last for years.

The Importance of Rinsing

After you’ve worn your suit, whether it was to swim in the ocean, pool or lake, or just to lie in the sun and catch some rays, make a habit of rinsing it out. This doesn’t need to be an overly involved affair — in fact, the best way to rinse your bathing suit is to simply take it into the shower with you.

The reason that rinsing a suit after wearing it is so crucial is that the water will wash away all the sunscreen, sweat, salt or chlorine water that’s built up on the suit and which can cause the material to become stained or stretched out over time.

How to Launder Swimwear

If your suit is especially delicate or has embellishments like beadwork or fringe, you should hand wash it using cool water and a mild detergent. Hand washing is ideal for all suit types, but it’s not always realistic for everyone. If you choose to machine wash a swimsuit, follow these steps for the best results:

  • Choose the gentle cycle, which is a slower cycle that will cause less stretching than faster cycles
  • Wash swimsuits in cold water
  • Use a gentle detergent, such as one of these products designed for use on delicates
  • If you have darker suits, you may want to opt for a detergent that’s formulated for use on dark clothing, like Woolite Darks or Cheer For Darks
  • If you have lighter-colored suits that have become yellowed due to chlorine or sunscreen damage, or just from age, dissolve a half cup of baking soda in a gallon of cold water and soak the suit for 1-2 hours
  • Never use bleach when laundering swimwear; opt instead for a product like White Brite, which will revive white swimwear without harming the delicate fabric
  • A protective mesh washing bag is crucial to ensure that suits don’t get tangled up with bulkier items of clothing, which will cause them to become stretched out

What to Know About Drying Bathing Suits

Most swimsuits are designed to be fast-drying, which is great when it comes to getting them clean. Air drying is ideal, though you can machine dry bathing suits — just stick with the a no-heat tumble dry setting.

If you do choose to air dry your suits, lay them flat rather than hanging them to dry, which will lead to stretching. Another thing that will cause stretching, and therefore should be avoided, is wringing the suit to extrude water from it. If your suit is really sopping, press down to push water out rather than wringing it and distressing the fibers.

And with that, enjoy a summer full of beach outings and pool parties, knowing your bathing suit will be looking its very best!