Underwear Washing Instructions

Think of how great brand new underwear fits–the colors are bright, the elastic is taut and the fabric feels fresh and soft. But a few washes later, you find the colors fade, the elastic droops and the fabric feels worn and saggy. It’s a classic case of improper washing, and it’s the number one reason men complain about the fit of their underwear.

Most guys are quick to disregard the underwear washing instructions printed on the care labels, blaming busy schedules and no time for bailing on proper underwear care, but investing a few extra minutes comes with a host of benefits, including:

  • Keeping colors bright
  • Preventing elastic from stretching out and drooping
  • Preserving the integrity of the fabric, which prevents sagging
  • Prolonging the life of your underwear which ultimately saves money

We’ve created an easy to follow guide to proper underwear washing instructions that won’t cramp your style. By combining a little care label wisdom with smart short cuts, you’ll always have a drawer full of clean undies that last longer and look better. Follow these simple underwear washing instructions to take the best care of your underwear.

The Three Deadly Sins of Underwear Care:

Hot Dryer: The average home dryer can generate heat up to 180°F, making the inside a virtual oven that bakes your underwear, taking the stretch out of elastic and resulting in saggy fabric and loose waistbands. Also, in that kind of heat, the friction of fabrics rubbing against each other becomes like sandpaper, dulling colors and silky fabrics. If the smell of burning rubber wafts up from your pile of freshly-dried laundry, you know it’s too hot. Air drying is the ideal way to help your underwear look better and last longer, but if you are in a hurry and forced to use a dryer, go for the cool to warm fluffing cycle. It can take a little longer, but think of that as more time for your underwear to look great.

Fabric Softener & Bleach: Fabric softener, while making your t-shirts teddy bear soft, is a nightmare for nylon and polyester based microfiber fabrics. The softening agents and added fragrance wreak havoc on the knit and can leave residue. Since microfiber is already silky soft, there’s no need for this extra step. It’s ok to use on cotton, but only if absolutely necessary. Bleach is best left to heavy duty washes, as it can weaken fabrics over time. If you need the extra disinfecting power of bleach, keep usage to every other wash to keep your underwear in tip-top condition.

Drying in Direct Sunlight: The damaging UVA and UVB rays cause your skin to turn to leather can weaken fabrics and fade colors. Instead of direct sunlight, air dry your underwear in the shade, where they are exposed to fresh air but not the harsh sunlight.

Proper Wash and Care By Fabric:

100% cotton:

Cotton is a durable fabric, and one of the most widely used in underwear thanks to its superior moisture absorption and soft touch.
How to Wash: Separate lights from darks, and wash separately. Machine wash in warm (not hot) water does the job.
How to Dry: Air dry in the shade. If you’re in a hurry, tumble dry on the lowest heat setting and remove as soon as they’re dry.

Stretch cotton:

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 to maintain the stretch factor.
How to Wash: Separate lights from darks, and wash separately. Machine wash in cold to warm water, don’t use bleach or fabric softener.
How to Dry: Air dry in the shade. If you’re in a hurry, tumble dry on the lowest heat setting and remove as soon as they’re dry.

Microfiber:

Usually comprised of nylon, polyamide and spandex, microfiber fabrics are silky soft, stretchy and quick drying, making the need for a dryer unnecessary.
How to Wash: Wash in cold to warm water on a very basic cycle (or permanent press, if available).
How to Dry: Since a too-hot dryer can actually melt the synthetic fabrics, we recommend air-dry only, and in the shade.

Modal, bamboo and other natural fibers:

Natural fibers like modal and bamboo are known for their ultra soft textures, but washing on too harsh a cycle can cause lint pills to develop.
How to Wash: Separate lights from darks, and wash separately. Machine wash in cold to warm water, preferably on the delicates cycle, and don’t use bleach or fabric softener.
How to Dry: Air dry in the shade. If you’re in a hurry, tumble dry on the lowest heat setting and remove as soon as they’re dry.

Sheer or mesh fabrics:

The basic rule here is, if you can see through it, it’s delicate, so avoid washing sheer and mesh fabrics in the same cycle as rough fabrics like towels and jeans.
How to Wash: Wash on the delicates cycle in cold to warm water.
How to Dry: Air dry on a flat surface. Avoid hanging with clothespins to prevent stretching portions of the fabric.

21 thoughts on “Underwear Washing Instructions

  1. Pam Kubik says:

    Just bought 6 pairs of ladies underwear at K-Mart. When washing the first 3 pairs the elastic waist came unraveled. I have bought Joe Boxer before and never had this problem.

  2. Terry says:

    I prefer to hand wash, using an oxygen whitening washing powder on white underwear, warm, not hot water. Then spin dry and hang to final dry indoors. Good comfortable underwear is always worth the extra effort to keep it in good condition.

  3. Jonah says:

    I always hand wash my underwear. This keeps them in great shape. I buy them less often now and save a bunch. Just hang them up inside and they dry quickly.

  4. Dave says:

    I tended to think that drying in direct sunlight was good because it whitens and keeps the fabric taut. Thanks for clarifying this.

  5. rena says:

    i always wash my husbands in warm wash and low tumble dry for about 10 minutes and then hang to finish drying but he always complains about them shrinking any ideas would be helpful. this is an ongoing issue and I have wasted a lot of money on underwear including big and tall which cost me 58 dollars fro 6 pairs which shrunk with the first washing.

  6. Melissa says:

    Seriously. Only backwards people air dry absolutely everything. No, I don’t think so. I’m not going to be exposing my underwear to bugs, and wind, dirt, and all the rest by putting them outside to dry. And you shouldn’t either unless you have no other choice.

    • Robert says:

      Lmao, it didn’t specifically say that you should hang dry outdoors…. we suspended a hanging unit that raises and lowers with the help of pulleys in our laundry room and the everything stays just as fresh as using a dryer unit.

  7. D Hanson says:

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see how warm water will clean the dirtiest underwear….I want my underwear sanitized….I don’t want e coli and other bacteria still in my underwear when I am thru.. I would never dry them outside or inside either…they just don’t feel as soft, etc. I’m also not going to hand wash every single pair!! Don’t have the time….any help??!

    • Anoon says:

      I’ve usually heard (and seen in practice) that cotton underwear can be washed on 60°C without a problem. Our family usually washes them on 40°C due to today’s strength of laundry detergent, and I think it’s fine. Washes everything out.

  8. Anoon says:

    I find it really interesting how people complain here about dirt and bugs and lack of softness when clothes are left to air dry, possibly outside. I think stating people who air dry everything are backwards is rather rude. I know plenty of people who do that without any kind of issues. It saves energy, and it’s not like they’re drying stuff on the floor.
    Besides, I’m not entirely sure why one would need fabric softener for stuff like socks and underwear. Personally, I prefer the harder, more compact feeling to the clothes when they’re freshly washed – esp. with towels, sheets and jeans, but underwear, too. It’s a matter of preference, I guess.

    Bottom line is, one can usually wash clothes on more than the instructions say – especially cotton underwear should probably be washed on warm to hot temperatures to get rid of bacteria. As for drying, I don’t really see a problem of air drying anything. One should be careful about inside air drying if the room the clothes are in gets too humid, and about direct sunlight (esp. with dark clothes) when air drying outside. I mostly see no need for machine drying clothes unless you need them right away. It wears down the fabric, spends energy plus doesn’t allow for that fresh feeling and smell of fabric.

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