Can't boil it, can't bleach it - how should I de-cootie-fy my swimsuit?
December 29, 2009 9:07 PM   Subscribe

I bought a second-hand swimsuit. I know, ew, but I'm on a budget and this suit fits much, much better than anything I could afford to buy new. It looks and smells clean and seems very lightly worn. What's the best way to to wash/sterilise it so as to a) not catch anything gross and b) not feel so squicky about putting it on?

In case it's relevant, the label says:

82% Polyamide/Nylon
18% Elastane
30 degrees C machine wash
Do not use bleach
Do not iron
Do not dry clean
Do not tumble dry.
posted by embrangled to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total)
If you've already tried it on, hasn't the ship already sailed on this one?
posted by cali59 at 9:09 PM on December 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

Sounds like a hand wash with rubbing alcohol would be fine.
posted by Rubbstone at 9:10 PM on December 29, 2009

Best answer: I doubt anything viral or bacterial is going to survive in soapy water. If you're worried, try some hand sanitiser as well. The chlorine in the pool is also going to kill most germs.

Bear in mind, if you wash the swimsuit, it's going to be cleaner than most of the air you breathe, and most of the doorknobs you open. So keep things in perspective.
posted by musofire at 9:13 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: If you've already tried it on, hasn't the ship already sailed on this one?

Well, I wore underwear while trying it on. I buy a lot of my clothing second-hand, but usually I stick to clothes that don't touch personal bits of my body. I know that this is partly a health issue and partly a matter of irrational squickiness, and I'd still like to get it as clean as possible.
posted by embrangled at 9:17 PM on December 29, 2009

I too think that a regular trip through the washing machine is probably enough. But I am also a germophobe, so if it were mine, I would give it a good soak in a 50/50 mix of tap water and white vinegar.

White vinegar's acidity will kill any creepies, without (I'm pretty sure) damaging your suit. YMMV, IANATailor, I have no idea what "elastane" is, etc etc etc.
posted by ErikaB at 9:17 PM on December 29, 2009

For a less wiseass answer, I don't think you have anything to worry about. STDs generally don't live long outside the body, so the person selling the suit must have

a) had some kind of infection
b) got fluids on the suit
c) not washed the suit themselves before donating it

and d) the suit itself must have only been on the rack for, something like under a day worst case scenario seeing as how it's a dry environment. Probably minutes is more likely.

And assuming you tried it on with underwear on in the first place, you're going to machine wash it before wearing it for real.

I think it would take a miracle for you to catch something.
posted by cali59 at 9:21 PM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

How about a dilute solution of rubbing alcohol? Hang it outside to dry afterward.
posted by amtho at 9:24 PM on December 29, 2009

i might use a capful of bleach while washing it in the machine on the delicates cycle and cold water. with soap too of course.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:32 PM on December 29, 2009

maybe this is a stupid/flammable idea, but when i want to sterilize a yucky sponge i get it really wet and stick it in the microwave for a minute or 2 (it gets really hot). alternate solution: stick it in a pot of boiling water for a little bit.
posted by acidic at 9:35 PM on December 29, 2009

I wouldnt worry about it. Ive been around a lot more crotches than that swimsuit has, and I'm ok. Yeah it's another wise-ass answer, but I mean it.

If washing it isnt enough, however, I would go with boiling.
Boiling cleans everything.
posted by Palerale at 10:06 PM on December 29, 2009

After you clean it, I would make sure to rinse it really well. An allergic reaction or chemical burn from excessive soap residue would be unfortunate.
posted by at the crossroads at 10:30 PM on December 29, 2009

Wash it. With soap.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 10:52 PM on December 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The cooties problem is interesting. The worst cooties are those that arise from "magical thinking": Disgust can cause seemingly irrational reactions. (See also the contagion heuristic.) Your best bet might be to believe/assume/imagine that the suit was previously owned by a beautiful, clean, healthy, athlete.
posted by Dave 9 at 10:53 PM on December 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

1/4 - 1/2 cup white vinegar in the wash, small load (cold water) with just the suit (and detergent) will kill any potential germs, help retain the spandex (elastane) fabric's stretchiness, and also help with color retention. Air dry. Heat ruins spandex.

Never ever use any amount of bleach to wash anything containing spandex.

Though I'd be surprised if there were any germs on it. If regular washing didn't kill the germs in the crotches of swimsuits, we'd all have nasty swimsuit crotches eventually.
posted by Orb at 11:18 PM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you have any friends with a very nice washing machine, many of the higher-end machines have an anti-bacterial setting which washes the garments in extremely hot water for a long time. Ask around.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:32 PM on December 29, 2009

Best answer: A chlorinated swimming pool would be a great place to wash this suit! Make sure to agitate well, using long, alternating arm strokes. About 30 minutes should do the trick.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:40 AM on December 30, 2009 [8 favorites]

Putting it in the freezer (presumably in a freezer bag) for 12+ hours will kill...most things that could be crawling on it. I'm not sure how well elastic would stand up to this vs. heat (I know the washing machine is evil for bathing suits because of the heat).
posted by anaelith at 2:38 AM on December 30, 2009

You don't need sterilization, you need a cleanliness ritual. A hot water wash with a bit of bleach, vinegar, and/or antibacterial soap should do nicely. Savor the ritual -- the smell of the wash water, and all that beautiful, cleansing agitation. Use the double-rinse cycle to be sure the cooties are all swept far, far away. When you're done, just put on a smile, put on the suit and take it for a few laps of the pool. You'll be fine. Enjoy your swim!
posted by jon1270 at 3:02 AM on December 30, 2009

Do you sew? Late to the party, but wanted to add that you could neutralize the psychological (and that's what it is, at this point) "ick" factor by replacing the suit's crotch panel.
posted by applemeat at 6:07 AM on December 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

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