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How to Wash Your Swimsuits, Bikinis, and Board Shorts in 2024

This article explains how to wash your swimsuit, bikini, or board shorts to make them last. It focuses on choosing the best detergent and delivering gentle care, whether hand washing or machine washing. 

Summer is here and – after a long, rainy winter– it’s time to spend some serious time by the water. Whether it’s O’Neill boardshorts, Johnnie-O swim trunks, a performance tank from Jantzen, or a fun, flirty bikini from Princess Polly, your swimsuit is likely getting plenty of use. And sun, sweat, salt, chlorine, and even pristine lakewater can all take a toll on the fabric.

With regular washing and proper care, you can get the most out of your bathing suit in terms of looks and performance. The Heritage Park Laundry Essentials clean team is here with some easy-to-follow care instructions for washing your swimwear to keep it looking great all summer and for seasons to come: 

Smart Strategies to Keep Your Bathing Suit In Top Shape

Most swimwear is made from materials such as polyester, spandex, nylon, elastane, and even cotton or cotton blends. One of the biggest issues with swimsuit longevity is elastic breakdown, also known as “dry rot,” wherein the swimwear fabric loses its elasticity and ability to stretch (particularly at the waistband). This type of disintegration occurs from exposure to chlorine and other chemicals; sunscreen; saltwater; heat; and sunlight. 

Following a few best swimsuit care practices can minimize this type of damage.

  • Launder your swimsuit with detergent after every second or third wear to clean and prevent bacteria and mold from growing. In between washes, rinse your suit well and air dry thoroughly before storing or re-wearing.
  • Rinse your bathing suit thoroughly after each wearing in cool or cold water to remove the chlorine and pool chemicals, salt water, sand, sweat, and sunscreen that can cause discoloration, odor, and loss of elasticity. (In a pinch, you can do this in the shower with lukewarm water). Don’t wring it out to remove excess water; lay it flat to dry on a clean towel.
  • Rotate your bathing suits as much as possible. Switching among several swimsuits will allow each garment to dry and return to its optimal shape.
  • Avoid sitting on/letting your suit come in contact with any rough surface. Be especially mindful of pool edges, wood/wicker furniture, etc. Wear a cover up or use a towel.
  • Store your swimsuits in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Choose the Best Detergent to Wash Your Swimsuit

We recommend washing bathing suits in a gentle, pH-neutral detergent like Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent. This concentrated liquid detergent is made with natural, plant-based ingredients and a powerful blend of laundry enzymes to remove stains. At the same time, it is a mild detergent that contains no harsh chemicals, including dyes, sulfates, phosphates, chlorine, bleach, or brighteners that can damage fabric and irritate skin. For swimsuits our suggestion is the Fragrance-Free All-Purpose formula, which is lab-certified hypoallergenic; pediatrician- and dermatologist-tested; and non-irritating to even the most sensitive skin (perfect for children’s and even infant swimwear as well). You can also opt for one of our lightly fragranced All-Purpose Detergents such as Shore Breeze, Lavender Mist, or Spring Magnolia.


What Do You Need to Wash Your Swimsuit?

To wash your bathing suit, gather the following supplies: 

  1. All-Purpose Laundry Detergent
  2. A sink or utility tub for hand washing (preferred)
  3. A drying rack or lint-free towel
  4. A washing machine with a gentle cycle
  5. Fine mesh laundry bags
All-Purpose Detergent

Steps to Wash Your Bathing Suit (Handwashing is Best)

Handwashing is the preferred method for laundering swimsuits because there is less risk of stretching, pulling, or other types of damage. Follow these easy steps:

Step 1: Rinse your bathing suit with fresh water after each use to remove salt water, sand, sweat, and chlorine.

Hang your suit to dry between wearings; never toss a wet swimsuit in a hamper or ball it up, which can weaken fabric.

Step 2: Fill a tub or sink basin with cool to lukewarm water.

Add a capful of Heritage Park All-Purpose Detergent and swish with your hand to mix. Submerge your suit. Gently massage your suit to remove dirt and stains, paying attention to any soiled areas. Don’t rub.

Step 3: Thoroughly rinse your bathing suit in cool water until all detergent is removed.

Do not wring; gently squeeze to remove excess water. 

Step 4: Air dry only.

Hang your bathing suit to dry away from direct sunlight. NEVER put any type of swimsuit in the dryer, as the heat will break down the fabric’s elasticity.

Step 5: When your suit is completely dry.

Store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to preserve its quality and UPF properties.

How to Machine Wash Your Bathing Suit

While it's generally recommended to hand wash bathing suits to preserve their quality, some swimsuits may be labeled as machine washable. Even in these cases, we say that hand washing is the preferred method. However, You may also choose to wash suits that get very sandy or dirty, particularly children’s swimsuits. 

If you choose to machine wash your bathing suit, wash them alone or in a swimsuit-only load. Use cool water and the most gentle or delicate cycle on your machine. Place the swimsuit in a mesh laundry bag to protect it from damage inside the machine. Use a small amount of Heritage Park All-Purpose Detergent. Never use fabric softener or chlorine bleach, which will damage swimsuit fabric and cause it to fade. When the load is finished d, carefully remove your swimsuit from the mesh bag. If it is still wet, pat it dry. Do NOT wring, which can cause the fabric to stretch. Lay the suit flat to dry on a clean lint-free towel or a drying rack, away from direct sun or heat. As noted above, never put your bathing suit in the dryer.

NOTE: If your bathing suit is particularly delicate or has intricate details, stick with hand washing to ensure its longevity and quality no matter what the care label says.

A Word About Removing Stains and Odors from Bathing Suits

Swimsuits are typically made from synthetic fabrics and should release stains and odors with gentle washing. Always follow the care label and call the manufacturer before using any dedicated stain removal products. To refresh your suit and remove odor, soak your suit in a mild solution of white vinegar and warm water or a solution of baking soda and warm water for 30 minutes.

Heritage Park Laundry Essentials

At Heritage Park, caring for fine fabric is our passion. As lifelong collectors of luxury sheets, towels, and cloths, we found many commercially available "gentle detergents" either damaged our fabrics or didn't get the job done, leaving stains. We knew we could do better. So we developed a formula with the perfect balance of powerful -- yet safe -- ingredients designed to remove tough, set-in stains while remaining gentle on luxury linens. Please connect with us at (800) 977-1841 or visit our store or email us with any product feedback or cleaning questions.

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