A good bra is comfortable to wear, gives your bust the support it needs and helps to give your boobs great shape. As we all know, finding a bra that ticks all these boxes isn't always straightforward, but having a little insider knowledge about how to measure your bra size and how to check for a good fit will help. When you do find a bra you love, you'll want to take care of it and make it last, especially as pretty, good quality lingerie doesn't come cheap.
To help you choose and cherish your bras, we've rounded up the answers to four commonly asked bra-related questions...
How should I wash my bra?
Looking after your bra is essential to make sure that it keeps its shape and that you can wear it for as long as possible.
Firstly, resist the urge to launder it too often. You might think you’re being hygienic, but washing your bras after every wear can cause them to lose their elasticity. We recommend washing every three to four wears.
There’s much debate on whether bras should be handwashed. Katie Mortram, Head of Appliance Testing at GHI, says: 'I’d recommend hand washing over machine washing as it’s less likely to cause damage. This should keep your bras in better condition for longer.'
Paula Skarratt, Technical Manager at Bravissimo agrees: 'Underwired bras should be hand washed in cool water with a hand wash detergent and to avoid damage. Pat them dry before leaving them to drip dry'.
While expert advice shows it’s best to handwash, if you do choose to wash your bra in a washing machine, use a gentle cycle suitable for delicate items - or the handwash cycle if your machine has one - and check the maximum wash temperature given on the care label first. Ideally, wash the bra inside a mesh bag or pillowcase to protect it in the drum. 'There’s no detergent you can or can’t use when washing bras, just go with non-bio if you have sensitive skin,' says Katie Mortram.
When it's time to dry your bra, never tumble dry it. Instead, dry it on a clothes airer or outdoors on a washing line. Don’t hang it by the straps as this can cause them to stretch and become ill-fitting. Instead, hang it from the centre where the two cups meet to air dry.
GHI TIP: Is your white bra turning grey? Try whitening it again using a proprietary whitener such as Vanish or bleach cotton bras as you would other garments, if the care label says it's safe to do so. To stop white bras from yellowing, Paula Skarratt recommends avoiding drying them near a source of direct heat like the radiator, or in direct sunlight.
What’s the best way to store my bra?
It’s important to air your bras after you've worn them, so that sweat or dirt doesn’t fester and cause irritation or smells.
Lay bras out flat or store them on a hanger rather than in a drawer so that they stay fresh. If this isn't an option, Paula Skarratt recommends the following: 'Store your bras in a drawer neatly with space between them as this will help the bras keep their shape in between wearing them and washing them. This will also prevent the eye hooks getting caught on delicate lace or embroidery and snagging, and will stop moulded bras losing their shape or wires bending.'
Remember, don't overwear your bra. We’re all guilty of wearing the same two or three bras on rotation, ignoring dozens of others in our drawers, but this can mean your favourites wear out faster and need laundering more often.
When you need a new bra, recycle your old ones with Breast Cancer UK's Bra Recycling Scheme. For every tonne of bras recycled, Breast Cancer UK receives £700 to fund vital research.
What about sports bras?
If you have an underwired sports bra, launder and dry it as above.
Most non-underwired sports bras can be safely machine washed at a low temperature, but check the care label first. As with all other bras - and sportswear in general - never tumble dry. ‘To prolong the life of a garment, it is best to avoid tumble drying,’ advises Saphia King from the Garment Technology Team at Sweaty Betty. ‘Woven garments should be hung to dry, while knitted garments are best dried flat and away from direct heat.’
How do I measure myself for a bra?
First of all, it’s important to determine whether your bra fits you properly. Laura Franklin, Customer Services Manager at Bravissimo says: 'We’d recommend checking your bra is still fitting and supporting you well after wearing it for around 6 months. Your bra can start to stretch as you wash and wear it and you may find you need to start using the next set of hooks on the back to get the support you’re looking for.'
When checking how well your bra fits, Bravissimo advises you should look at the following things:
- BRA BAND Your back band should be firm but comfortable and shouldn't ride up or dig in.
- UNDERWIRE The underwire in your bra should sit flat on your ribcage, all the way round to your armpits.
- BRA CUPS Your bust should be fully enclosed in the cups, with no wrinkling or bulging.
If the above applies to you, then you’re wearing the correct size bra. If it doesn’t, it's time to measure yourself for a new one.
Having yourself measured in store is usually the best option, as experts are on-hand to help you. However, this isn’t always possible and particularly so at the moment with fitting services closed due to social distancing. If you need to measure yourself at home, M&S has a handy bra measuring tool on its website. The retailer told us that this tool has seen a 468% increase in online traffic as women look to measure themselves from home, assumedly due to lockdown measures. Alternatively, contact Bravissimo. Its fitting experts are trained to provide bra fittings over the phone.
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