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Nowadays a good pair of men’s underwear can cost upwards of $20, and while a price like that makes sense when you think about the high quality construction and fabric technology used these days, what doesn’t make sense is the disregard guys have for properly washing them. Most guys disregard underwear care labels once they see words like “hand wash” and “delicates cycle,” throwing their underwear in the same load as their jeans and towels and end up with a drawer full of saggy, drab underwear covered in fabric pills with limp elastic waistbands.
You’re busy, we get it. What guy with a full-time job, gym schedule and full social calendar on the weekends also has time to hand wash his underwear? Not these guys, and probably not you, either. So! We’ve detailed the three deadliest underwear care sins to get you on the right track (there’s no way you can say “Hey, I just didn’t know,” anymore) and have broken down directions for the most common underwear fabrics, too.
3 Deadliest Sins of Underwear Care
1. Hot Dryer:
The inside of a dryer can heat up to 175°F, spelling a quick death for elastic and virtually melting microfiber. Plus, when fabrics get that hot, the friction of rubbing against other clothing is like sandpaper, ruining the smooth finishes of your silky microfiber and soft cotton and resulting in lint pills. If you smell burning rubber in your pile of laundry, it’s too hot, obviously. Air drying is the best option, but if you must use the dryer, choose a cool to warm fluffing cycle. It may take a little longer, but each second adds more life to your underwear.
2. Fabric Softener & Bleach:
While it may make your towels and t-shirts as soft as a teddy bear, fabric softener is a nightmare for microfiber fabrics. The strong perfumes and softening agents weaken the knit and can leave dulling deposits. Besides, microfiber is soft and silky on its own, so no need for the extra step. Bleach is some pretty strong stuff that is very aggressive on most fabrics, causing premature breakdown of cotton as well as elastic. If you’re an active guy and need the extra disinfecting action of bleach, try to use it every other wash to keep your underwear around longer.
3. Drying in Direct Sunlight:
The same UVA and UVB rays that turn your skin to leather can cause fabrics to fade and elastics to weaken. Instead, air dry your underwear in a shaded area where the fresh air can get at them without the menacing sunlight.
Now that we’ve got you on track, here are specific care instructions for the most common underwear fabrics.
How to Care for Different Fabrics:
Cotton is a durable fabric, so a basic wash in cold to warm (not hot) water does the job nicely. Air dry in the shade or tumble dry on low.
Stretch cotton is infused with spandex for extra durability and a snugger fit (usually 90% cotton, 10% spandex), so it’s important to keep heat to a minimum. Wash in cold to warm water, don’t use bleach or fabric softener, and air dry in the shade.
Usually comprised of nylon, polyamide and spandex, microfiber fabrics are silky soft, stretchy and quick drying, so there’s no need for any artificial drying here. Besides, a hot dryer can literally melt them into a ball, so wash in cold to warm water on a very basic (or permanent press, if available) and allow to air dry.
Modal, bamboo and other natural fibers:
Natural fibers like modal and bamboo are known for their ultra soft touches and exceptional absorbency, so wash in cool to warm water on the delicates cycle to preserve the softness. Allow to air dry, which won’t take long.
Sheer or mesh fabrics:
The basic rule here is, if you can see through it, it’s delicate, so keep sheer and mesh fabrics as far away from the towels as you can. Wash on the delicates cycle in cold water and air dry.
Photo Credit: erwinadr blogspot, Guess