I love hitting the kiddie pool with my 17-month-old. She toddles into the water with such boundless exuberance and joy, I can't help but feel it too. What's not so magical is coming home with a beach bag full of wet towels and sopping bathing suits. It's one mega-load of laundry but I always find myself wondering if everything can, in fact, go in one load. So how do you properly wash swimsuits so they don't get decimated after one season? It turns out by making a few simple adjustments to your laundry routine, you can extend the life of your suit, and ensure your tot's tankini is in "hand-me-down" shape too.
First of all, if anyone tries to tell you to hand wash your swimsuits, they should be blacklisted. Busy mamas don't have time for that! But one thing you can easily do to protect your family's swimwear is to run the cycle on cold. "If you wash your suit in the machine, do not use hot water," explained Mama's Laundry Talk. "It will ruin the elastic and the general look of the bathing suit. Every 4-5 washes you can use warm water, but do so infrequently."
Another smart move is to invest in a detergent designed for delicates. "Using bleach and certain laundry detergents can wreak havoc on your swimwear and speed up deterioration of the fabric, color, and elastic," explained Swim Outlet.
Since delicate detergents can be a bit pricey, you can go the DIY route instead and use vinegar, or even plain water, advised Real Simple. The important thing is that you're rinsing out chlorine (or salt) and perhaps most of all, the sunscreen. "Sunscreens contain ingredients that can be damaging to the fabric and can lead to the eventual breakdown of the material,” Marysia Reeves, designer of Marysia Swim told Real Simple.
Experts also recommend that you use a mesh bag to separate your swimwear from the rest of the load — and run it on the gentle cycle. "Otherwise, the mechanical action [of the machine] will stretch the fabric and it can get bungled, twisted, and tied up," explained John Mahdessian, owner of Madame Paulette in an interview with Glamour. While it sounds good in theory, actually taking the time to put each one of my family's four suits in its own bag, well, that's never happening. That's why I like this 6-pack of mesh laundry bags that come in multiple sizes. The extra large one is big enough to fit several swimsuits in at once.
SimpleHouseware Mesh Wash Bags (set of 6)
Once the wash cycle is complete, it's easy to want to pop the suits right in the dryer. That's the end goal, right? — dry swimsuits! But it turns out the dryer is a real no-no in terms of preserving the integrity of your swimwear. "Never ever dry your bathing suit in the dryer. It is a sure-fire way to make it look old before its time. It will ruin the elastic and can often make it lose its shape. In just a couple of runs through the dryer it will not fit the same," advised Mama's Laundry Talk.
If you're eyeing up the clothes line as a way to air-dry your suits, think again. It's best to avoid the sun and to skip hanging suits while wet. Instead you'll want to "lay your suit flat on a towel to dry so it doesn't stretch out—and do so in the shade. If you leave your suit out to bake in the sun for more than a couple of hours, it will begin to fade," explained Glamour.
To be honest, with the frequency in which I'm faced with washing a mountain of swimwear, I can't say I'll be doing the towel dry method. I probably will cheat and use my tried and true drying rack. But I'll do so guiltily, knowing there's a better way!