How often do you change your bra?
November 4, 2010 3:38 PM   Subscribe

Women of MF, how often do you change your bra?

Ok, I'm just curious. I don't sweat much, and it just doesn't smell... I've worn a bra up to a week, and it's still never smelled. Hell, potentially over a week - it's not like I've ever kept careful track. Is this totally an anomaly? Heh. I may one day be embarrassed to have done this not anonymously, but whatever. I change my underwear daily, if that's a follow-up ;).
posted by namesarehard to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (84 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Ideally I like to switch to a new one every 3 days to a week.

In reality? Probably every two weeks.
posted by patronuscharms at 3:42 PM on November 4, 2010 [9 favorites]

I have about 5-6 bras that I keep in my rotation. I've probably worn the same one 2-3 days in a row, but after that it feels a bit grody. I probably sweat a bit more than you do, though. If you're concerned that it does smell, and you don't realize it, employ a close friend or significant other to do a sniff check. Otherwise, carry on.
posted by rachaelfaith at 3:43 PM on November 4, 2010

Do you not take it off at night? I have 6 bras, but not all are in regular rotation. The nude ones are worn more frequently than black or red, for example.

I rotate each day, so I never wear the same bra two days in a row (they stretch out very quickly if they're worn day after day). And I never sleep in a bra - in fact, I remove it as soon as possible in the evening.

I know I should wash them every two weeks or so, but it's more like every two months.
posted by peep at 3:44 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I usually keep two "in action" and rotate between them for a week or two. And now I am also going to regret ever posting this non-anonymously. SHAME!

(I see it thusly: the thing only comes in contact with me when I'm freshly showered, deodoranted and working in an office. If I was scaling mountains in it, I'd change it more often.)
posted by julthumbscrew at 3:44 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure what you mean by "change". Do you mean switch to a different bra? Please tell me you don't sleep in your bra...

Anyway. I rotate between four or five bras. I never sleep in my bra. I always hang my bra when I'm finished wearing it (to air it out and allow the elastic to relax), and I try not to wear the same bra every day, though I sometimes do. I normally wash my bras when I do my hand wash laundry, which is about once a month or so.
posted by two lights above the sea at 3:46 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

i probably wash my bras as often as jeans, which is to say, not very often. i have a handful of identical except color and pattern bras and pick up which ever catches my fancy. they hit the washer when they smell (only in the summer) or get weirdly stretched.
posted by nadawi at 3:48 PM on November 4, 2010

I have 20+ bras but only regularly wear 10 of them. Of those ten, five are black and five are nude and I wear them once every 10 days and wash after 3 wears according to Real Simple. I do this mostly because I'm lazy and prefer to wash them all at once, once a month.
posted by Siena at 3:49 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have about 8 bras that I keep in rotation and rarely wear the same one on consecutive days. Every time I do laundry (about once a week) a throw in one or two of them. I don't think they ever smell but the do look better after a washing.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:51 PM on November 4, 2010

Response by poster: Hmm... I DO sleep in bras (I don't know, not comfortable sans one). Is that somehow bad for me? It wouldn't seem like it. You're right - sniff test is probably a good idea.
posted by namesarehard at 3:51 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wear mine around 3 times or so. But I got some largeish lady humps so there's sometimes underboob mist going on. Even if they're not really dirty or smelly or anything, I try and wash them after a few wears to help them last longer, not stretch out, etc.
posted by raztaj at 3:52 PM on November 4, 2010

I had this EXACT conversation with a bunch of my girlfriends the other day.

I have about a dozen bras of various colors and types that I wear 2-3 times before washing. But I rarely wear the same one multiple times in a row. Of our group of 5, was the one who washed her bras the MOST.

Other friends were wearing them for 10-15 wears between washes if they didn't smell.

Sports bras are a whole different game - I wear mine for a week (an hour a day for a week, and I only wear them at the gym where I don't particularly care if I smell).

I don't sleep in them but I wear them at almost all other times.

Also, hang-dry! Don't put them through the dryer.
posted by citywolf at 3:52 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ooh, rotation system... Thanks for the Real Simple guide.
posted by namesarehard at 3:53 PM on November 4, 2010

If I get sweaty, it goes in the wash even if it's the first day. If I'm not sweaty and it's not stinky, I'll wear it for a work week then switch. On the other hand, I currently have three preferred bras and will switch them up for some outfits, so I won't wear one bra all week necessarily, but it does seem to work out to about a week per.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 3:55 PM on November 4, 2010

I rotate three main ones for daily wear, and try not to wear the same one two days in a row. (They get very slightly sweaty and don't have time to dry out otherwise.) Then there are a few that I rotate in as needed, and a few older, worn-out ones I wear only to sleep. I hope that helps!
posted by limeonaire at 3:55 PM on November 4, 2010

Sleeping in a bra is like sleeping in jeans pulled from the dryer 15 minutes too soon. Different courses for different horses. Apparently, it doesn't give you cancer (as my mother swore it did).
posted by Siena at 3:56 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ideally, I'd wear a bra once or twice (except a sports bra, which gets one wearing and then instant washing because I am a Sweaty Betty).

In practice, probably three or four times. And washing bras in a bra bag or bra form and hanging them to dry is the way to extend the life of your bras.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:56 PM on November 4, 2010

Oh, and since I rotate, I usually only wash 'em all about once a month.
posted by limeonaire at 3:56 PM on November 4, 2010

There's nothing wrong with sleeping in a bra, if you dig that. But they do make "sleep bras" so you might look into those, just as a way to rest your daytime bras.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:57 PM on November 4, 2010

I wear 2-3 times before washing. But I rarely wear the same one multiple times in a row.

This. Except I never wear the same one two days in a row.

Sports bras? I wash after every use.
posted by Aleen at 3:58 PM on November 4, 2010 [4 favorites]

I wear them until they start feeling loose or saggy (the bra, not the breasts). Usually a few days to a week, depending on bra. The ones that have no real cups or underwires but are basically very small tank-tops go faster than my one underwire bra, which I can wear for two or three weeks before it gets stretched out.
posted by Sara C. at 3:58 PM on November 4, 2010

I only wash them when they actually smell too 'lived in'. So sometimes its weeks or a month between washes. I usually have 2 in rotation and I also hang them to air out after a day of wearing.

When I do wash them i notice how good/better they feel against my skin.
posted by MT at 4:01 PM on November 4, 2010

I go about a week before changing it if it doesn't smell. But I'm like you and don't sweat much.

I cannot not sleep in a bra, but I have super comfy sports bras for that reason.
posted by royalsong at 4:01 PM on November 4, 2010

This annual Dear Prudence round-up (and the letter linked there) might be of interest.
posted by palliser at 4:03 PM on November 4, 2010

I wear different bras with different clothes, so it would be difficult to keep track even if I wanted to.

Basically? I wear them until they seem like they need to be washed. I don't sweat very much, so those washes can be pretty infrequent.

None of my gentleman callers have ever complained, nor even commented, so I don't really worry about it.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 4:05 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh! And I wash mine every 2-3 wears, but I'm definitely a Lady Who Sweats.
posted by palliser at 4:06 PM on November 4, 2010

Huh. I put on a fresh one every day. I'm surprised that's not more the norm.
posted by orange swan at 4:12 PM on November 4, 2010 [18 favorites]

i wear a different one every day and i wash them every week in cold water
posted by lakersfan1222 at 4:14 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I sleep in sometimes, as well. Just feels nicer. And switch them out based on how they go with my clothing/cleavage needs. Generally wash after 5 or so wears, whenever they stink or have been sweated in or look dingy.
posted by Night_owl at 4:15 PM on November 4, 2010

There was an article about this in the Dutch news a while ago. The gist was "Dutch women wear dirty bras".

According to this research 9% of Dutch women wear a clean bra every day. 59% wear a bra 2 to 3 days. 18% wears it 4 to 5 days. 4% wear a bra longer than a week.
posted by davar at 4:16 PM on November 4, 2010

A clean bra every day, over here. The previous day's bra often gets worn to the gym without being washed, but then it immediately goes in the washing machine. And sometimes even the dryer, if I don't catch it in time. It's a reckless, reckless life I lead.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:20 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

*Coughs* Every week or two.

However, if I've been wearing it for a few days, as a normal bra and not a sporty option, and someone at my work offhandedly comments "Is someone wearing perfume in here? Dog, are you wearing perfume?" and I'm actually not, I change it ASAP. Just in case.....
posted by DisreputableDog at 4:23 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Huh. I put on a fresh one every day. I'm surprised that's not more the norm.

Washing bras too often, even hand washing, wears them out more quickly. That said, I have a friend who works at a fancy lingerie shop who gets into the shower with her bra and skivvies on every night.
posted by Siena at 4:24 PM on November 4, 2010

Because my job allows it...

I wear a sports-bra like bra as much as possible.

That doesn't mean I'm getting sweaty.

But regardless of what type... I usually am wearing them about 3-5 days before I switch.

But only once if I've gotten sweaty in it. Then it goes into the wash.
posted by mittenbex at 4:27 PM on November 4, 2010

I have 4 bras I try to keep in rotation, but frequently end up wearing the same two over and over because I like them better. I'll maybe toss them in the laundry every other week.

But I only wear bras outside/around non-family. As soon as I walk in the door, boom, the bra comes off.

I am shocked--absolutely shocked--that people wear those things to bed. WTF.
posted by phunniemee at 4:31 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think mine average once in two or three sometime four weeks, and I have about 5 that get rotated regularly. I am not terribly sweaty. It is better for bras to not be frequently washed as the chemicals in the soap can degrade the materials faster and the spin cycle can wind up stretching them.

I don't think there is anything wrong with sleeping in bras (although personally, it is very uncomfortable). If your bras have underwires, they might get bent if you are sleeping in them, but that is the only thing I could think of.
posted by HMSSM at 4:41 PM on November 4, 2010

phunniemee: I am shocked--absolutely shocked--that people wear those things to bed. WTF

If I'm having a really bad bout of PMS and my boobs are really aching and hurting, I do. This is definitely an anomaly though, as I work from home and often don't even wear a bar. As a low-use consumer, I own two. They rotate on their infrequent wearings and I wash them every two weeks or so.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:41 PM on November 4, 2010

Usually I wear them twice before washing (which is why I buy 2 pair of matching bottoms whenever I buy a bra). The exception to that is my favorite nude one, which I wear with almost everything. I've been known to wear that one 3-4 times before washing it, but that's only because bras in my size average around $70 each and building up an inventory gets really expensive.

As for sleeping in a bra, yeah I've done it. The bigger your boobs, the less comfortable you are without one, even while sleeping.
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 4:54 PM on November 4, 2010

I wear 'em once and then they go in the wash (in a lingerie bag, on cold, hang to dry--they don't seem to wear out too fast.) Orange swan, you are not the only one.

I've got big ol' hooters and can be prone to yucky skin rashes under my breasts, particularly in hot weather, so my once-and-in-the-laundry practice is as much about preventing skin problems as it is about how fresh my bra is.
posted by Sublimity at 5:11 PM on November 4, 2010

Huh. I put on a fresh one every day. I'm surprised that's not more the norm.

I'm surprised it's not more the norm too. I was wondering if I should be embarrassed to admit that I wear mine 2-3 times before washing, but apparently that's a bit on the cleanly side.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:11 PM on November 4, 2010

I have 6 that I rotate through, a different one each day. After wearing one, I'll hang it from the drawer knob (I'm klassy!) to air out for a day, then it goes back into the drawer. They all get washed about every fourth week. In the summer they get washed every other week.

If I fall asleep in one by accident, it gets pulled out of rotation because I have some mental thing about wearing the same one for almost 24 hours straight.
posted by ladygypsy at 5:12 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I worked:
- cool weather - 2-3 wears before washing
- hot weather - 1-2 wears before washing

- I rarely wear a bra because I rarely leave the house. If I do wear one it's usually for two or three hours. I'll wear one bra 4-6 times before washing (depends on when I remember to throw it into the hamper).
posted by deborah at 5:13 PM on November 4, 2010

The bigger your boobs, the less comfortable you are without one, even while sleeping.

I guess your boobage may vary. Mine are decently ginormous (36DDD before pregnancy) and the first thing I do when I get home is take off my bra.

As for washing... erm... normally (as in when I'm not wearing maternity bras) I have six bras that rotate so I'm not wearing the same bra two days in a row and I hand wash 'em when they stink. When a decent bra in your size costs $65, you learn to take damn good care of 'em. ;) Right now? Let us not speak of it. By week 7 of pregnancy my bras didn't fit and we're on week 22 over here.

I still have yet to sleep in a bra (REALLY?! Oh gourd, the very thought of it hurts!), but for those of you who do or would want to - they do indeed make sleep bras. These are designed for nursing/pregnant ladies, so I'm sure they're extra comfy. Come to think of it, my maternity bras are comfy enough that I've accidentally fallen asleep wearing them a few times.
posted by sonika at 5:16 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

A bra needs to be washed after about three wearings. The best way to wash it is to soak it overnight in a tub of water with some shampoo.
posted by tel3path at 5:18 PM on November 4, 2010

Every one or two days here. On the extremely rare occasion I manage to be so lazy that NONE of them qualify under this standard, I will wear one a third time, while I'm washing the others.

And here I was, castigating my slovenly ways.
posted by SMPA at 5:27 PM on November 4, 2010

I was getting nervous until Orange Swan and sublimity came long . . . I change mine every day no matter what, and I'm shocked that's the norm. It certainly is where I come from. And bras have to match panties, too. Plus be the appropriate color with one's outfit.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:38 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

I currently own 5 that I rotate through in no particular order. Come to think of it, I'm not really sure how many times I wear them, I just don't pay that much attention. They are each a different colour, so some part of me knows that I wore the light green one with that shirt the other day, the pink one wants a wash now, and I haven't had the turquoise one on this week yet. I do a wash once a week and there are usually two bras in the wash, so I think I must rotate between 2-3 every week.

But now that you've asked I'm going to have to keep better track!

I have never had a smelly bra, though. How much does it take before a bra gets smelly? I wash them just based on whether its been in rotation this week.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:40 PM on November 4, 2010

i am not sure how many i own (8, maybe?) and i put on a new one every day. they all get washed every two weeks, more or less, along with the towels (but not in the same load).
posted by janepanic at 5:54 PM on November 4, 2010

The day to day bras are a rotation between 4-5 nearly identical ones that are washed every 2-3 weeks in the winter and every 10 days in the summer. The sports bras are a rotation between 3 and are washed every week. The sleepytime comfy bra is, uh. I do not actually recall the last time I washed it. Ew.
posted by elizardbits at 6:13 PM on November 4, 2010

On the sub-topic of what to wash it with -- I love this stuff. The scents are awesome (Aquae is a particular favorite of mine), and it's a no-rinse formula, so you don't have to go crazy rinsing it if it's a particularly delicate piece of lace/etc.
posted by at 6:39 PM on November 4, 2010

I keep two or three in rotation at a time, airing them between wearings, but sub out any that seem ready for the hamper with a new contestant. When it's time to do laundry, all the bras that have been worn go into the lingerie bag.

In the cooler months, bras get washed less often because every other load of wash, the lingerie bag is instead filled with tights and pantyhose. In the summer, they get the more frequent washing that they need because I do more laundry and don't have tights and stockings to wash.

Sports bras get washed with regular clothes after every wearing.
posted by desuetude at 6:53 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have 3 good everyday bras. I rotate between two of the three for anywhere between 2-4 weeks, or until they no longer pass the "sniff test," hanging them up on a hook on the back of the closet door each night to air out. On wash day, I put the nice clean third one on while I handwash and air dry the other two. Then one goes in the drawer for a rest, the other goes back into rotation.
posted by platinum at 6:58 PM on November 4, 2010

I have 5 regular bras and 6 sports bras, and they get washed every time I wear them. Yes, I do a lot of laundry, and yes, they fall apart. I have no particular cleanliness thing; it's just that I hate bras and rip them off my body as soon as possible after I get home and shove them in my laundry basket so I don't have to look at them anymore. YMMV.
posted by yarly at 6:58 PM on November 4, 2010

Two consecutive days, then down the laundry chute it flies.
Always hang to dry!
Sleeping in a bra feels akin to sleeping in corduroy trousers; or worse yet, panties.
Oh, and I wear the same pair of jeans five or six days in a row, unless they get dog poo on the hems. Top that, MeFites.
posted by BostonTerrier at 7:07 PM on November 4, 2010

I have several bras - I'm actually a little afraid to go count them, but ALWAYS a fresh one every day. If it's the weekend and I get up early and need to run to the store for something or if there's early, grody yard work to do outside, I'll put on yesterday's, but it doesn't last the day. As soon as I shower I put on a clean one.
posted by ersatzkat at 7:11 PM on November 4, 2010

These days? Maybe once a week-- I'm breastfeeding and have one super-awesome nursing bra that I love more than all the others so I only trade it out for laundry day. I keep meaning to buy another one, but they're so damn expensive. I'm not terribly sweaty, and now that I have the ol' milk factory under control (no more new mom milk-scent!), my bra stays pretty damn clean. Sometimes I'm amazed at how fresh it can smell after a few days of daytime-wear.

Normally, I probably swap out 2-3 bras over the course of a laundry-period (1-2 weeks?).

That said, I have a friend who works at a fancy lingerie shop who gets into the shower with her bra and skivvies on every night.

Wow, now that's a fun way to hand wash my lingerie! I think there might be hope for teaching my husband how to do laundry after all!
posted by sunshinesky at 7:16 PM on November 4, 2010

I have 4 good bras that are in regular rotation, plus this (durable and lacey yet horrible) hemi-demi-semi-cup thing that I have to use with certain lower-cut tops, and then I have a sixth one that's sort of worn out and cruddy, that I use only when the four main good ones are in the washing machine or dripping dry.

I wear the good ones in arbitrary order-- I hang them up at night, and I don't really keep track of which ones I've worn on given days, though I do give 'em the sniff test at intervals, and anything stinky gets put in the laundry basket. (As with others above, detectable rankness is very rare.) Regardless of stink, the 4 primary bras get washed any time I do a a load of delicate laundry, which averages about once every 2.5 weeks.

The quasi-cup nightmare and the laundry day bra get washed a few times a year, maybe.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 7:20 PM on November 4, 2010

this probably actually has a lot to do with the size of your boobs, i think. because that dictates what type of bra you are likely to wear, and different bras stand up to washing differently. mine are average-to-small and i have a lot of bras with padding and underwires. that stuff does not hold up so well in the wash (well, to be fair, i guess the dryer. i don't know why i didn't take Hedwig's advice about not putting a bra in the dryer.) anyway, if all i had were no wire/no padding ones, i'd wash them more, but in the interest of making them last longer i don't. in general, they don't get smelly. if i think i might get sweaty, i use baby powder. but if i do decide one smells, it goes into the laundry bag. also my laundry situation is, well, it's not in my apartment. and i'm really too lazy to wash them downstairs, then carry them up four flights of stairs wet and find a place for them to hang. (and again, letting something with padding air dry seems gross because it would take a long time.) overall though it's just sporadic. if i am sorting through my stuff to do laundry, and i come across them, i'll throw them in. (due to the inconvenience of my laundry situation, i do like 4 loads at a time every several weeks rather than washing clothes every few days.)

i'm glad someone linked to that dear prudence article, because i immediately thought of it but had forgotten where i'd read it. actually, i thought it was a previous askme. good thing i didn't try to find it.
posted by lblair at 7:34 PM on November 4, 2010

i wear a different one every day and i wash them every week in cold water also. i regard bras as underwear and treat it as such.
posted by eatdonuts at 8:06 PM on November 4, 2010

God, I wear bras forever. I have lots and lots of bras but only have two bras I actually like. (They are nursing bras. I looked for more like the ones I liked, never found them. Now I'm not nursing and none of my bras from before I was nursing fit and I haven't had time to look for new regular bras. The old regular ones don't fit anymore in a really strange way.) Anyway, I hate all bras but the two I like, so I wear one of them for way too long until I remember to do the laundry with the other one and then I wear bra number two for way too long. And I totally put them in the dryer. The two magical nursing bras lived through two years of nursing and being put in the dryer. (And I lost weight and took in the bras' bands so they're not too loose. I also don't know why it never occurred to me until now that I could sew bra straps to the length that I want them instead of readjusting the straps every time I put them on. Also, I've cut the straps on the bras and moved the straps' ends closer together in the back and now they DON'T SLIP OFF MY SHOULDERS! Bliss. Perhaps I should go for one of those bra fittings that women recommend and stop altering the cheap ancient bras I own.)

I do have three sports bras that are only for exercising and I wash those after one wearing. Hopefully the fact that I can tell that those are gross means that I can tell when the every day ones are gross before other people can.
posted by artychoke at 8:13 PM on November 4, 2010

From the snaps and hooks of my bras I spit defiance at gravity. I wear mine to bed. Yep, 'cause when someone rolls over one of yours as they are tossing and a turning you decide, quickly, to keep them out of harm's way with a corral of cloth.
posted by jadepearl at 8:13 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

There are four I rotate through the week, washing them maybe on every third or fourth wearing. Then I have my "weekend bra" which is strictly for comfort.
posted by contessa at 8:29 PM on November 4, 2010

Maybe about 3-4 times. I don't pay much attention, whenever I do the laundry I just toss in any I've been wearing a lot recently (usually the black and nude ones.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:22 PM on November 4, 2010

Three to five days for me, I rotate them based on what I'm wearing too.

I am shocked--absolutely shocked--that people wear those things to bed. WTF.

Some of us were raised to believe the way to avoid national geographic breasts was to wear a brassier even at bedtime, whether its true, or not, is something else entirely.
posted by squeak at 9:59 PM on November 4, 2010

Squeak - not only is that not (likely) true, but even the notion that wearing a bra prevents sagging in general is debatable at best.

The best you can really say wrt bras and breast sagging is that a properly fittted bra will prevent your breasts from sagging while you have it on.
posted by Sara C. at 10:30 PM on November 4, 2010

I have two I wear regularly and my usual M.O. is wear one for 1-2 weeks until I do laundry, then wear the other one, repeat. I don't tend to sweat, and even when I do I haven't really noticed it stinking up my bras.

As far as sleeping (and hanging around at home) goes, I wear tank tops with a built-in/shelf bra, since leaving them "flying free" can be uncomfortable, but so can wearing a bra.
posted by you zombitch at 10:48 PM on November 4, 2010

I change mine once a day, and wash them in cold water. Drip dry. I used to change them less. but the sisters need a lot of support.
posted by annsunny at 10:49 PM on November 4, 2010

Ummm...I have bad bra hygiene. I wear it for a week or two, then switch it out. I always sleep in it - I've always felt more comfortable that way (and we're talking padded push up underwire here).

I also wear underwire bras for sports - I hate sports bras, so I just wear gross old Target bras. I feel perfectly comfortable and unrestrained in them :)

I've never understood why people find underwire bras so uncomfortable. I find sports bras (and their compression) far more restraining.

I'm also 3@A, so...

I don't find they really get smelly, but my white bras' straps end up not so white after a while. I do have a bad habit of putting my bras in the dryer. I have ruined two total that way (in the same load!) but I've done it TONS of times so whatever, I don't care that much.

Eh, I get em for $5, either in H&M sale section or Target girls'. So I don't really care all that much.
posted by R a c h e l at 10:51 PM on November 4, 2010

I wear bras from Decent Exposures, which are super comfortable even for my monster hooters. I only wear them to bed when not doing so is painful or messy, like in early pregnancy (ow) or when nursing. (I leak.) But I can and do sleep in them. They're cotton/spandex, no underwire, and I switch them out every fourth day or so or when they start getting a little whiffy.
posted by KathrynT at 11:21 PM on November 4, 2010

Three in rotation, new bra every day, washed every weekend (so, after two or three wearings). Not worn overnight (unless I am exhausted, in which case it immediately goes in the hamper) or for exercise.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:06 AM on November 5, 2010

I have maybe seven regular bras. I don't rotate them strictly in order, but I try not to wear the same one twice in a row. I wash them when I realize I haven't washed them in a while, maybe once a month.

I always thought it was weird to wear bras a few times between washings, even though that's what I do, because you don't wear undies more than once. On the other hand, bras are the least likely garment to get stinky or spilled on. So it makes sense.

I also have five high-impact sports bras for running and a few lower impact ones for yoga/weights. I don't wash them after every wear, but I wash them more often than my regular bras and don't wear them two days in a row.

I hand-wash regular bras in Soak. Sports bras go in the washer with all my workout clothes. The ones with hooks get air-dried, the pullover ones go in the dryer.

And I occasionally wear a light-support sports bra to sleep (cotton ones are especially nice), especially if I'm an overnight guest somewhere. Or I'll put a bra on in the evening or morning, in the interim between being in bed and changing into/out of day clothes. Wearing a bra makes me feel more dressed and awake.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:25 AM on November 5, 2010

I'm nursing, so I wear a bra for a day (and overnight), then it gets washed and dried on hot. I have 4 identical-except-for-color bras that I rotate through. This is not the prescribed way to care for your bras, of course, but I'm trying to avoid thrush, and if I need to replace my bras more often as a result, then so be it. That said, nine months of hard use and they're all still like new and super-comfy, and I'd probably still wear them after I wean. No wires!

In my prior, non-mommied life, I wore a bra about twice before washing, and took more care with them (washed on delicate, in cold, hung to dry).
posted by shrieking violet at 6:52 AM on November 5, 2010

3 - 5 days. I wash bras (and panties, tights and socks) with regular laundry, cool water, and never put them in the dryer. Heat kills the elastic.
posted by theora55 at 8:30 AM on November 5, 2010

I used to wear a bra for two days before washing (I think this is a carry over from my mother telling me to switch my underpants every day but my undershirt every other day when I was about 6). Then I read the liberating Dear Prudence column referenced above and I switched to washing about every 4 or 5 days. They definitely last longer now (because I don't handwash, although I do hang to dry most times).
posted by Sukey Says at 8:34 AM on November 5, 2010

I go by mood (I like colorful bras and varied fabrics and cuts) and outfit (the plunge is necessary for this dress I'm wearing today, this shirt is white so I need to switch from my default preference for black, lace will give me cottage cheese boob under this sleek t-shirt, or since this top has a wide neck I need a bra with pretty straps in case they wind up visible during the day, etc.). As long as whatever I'm still wearing one morning (yes, sometimes I sleep in a bra, I like it) is appropriate still for the new day's outfit, I'll just keep it going after showering. I do laundry at least once a week, and on laundry day whichever bras that week did the most duty I'll carefully wash. Rinse, repeat. A couple of the bras that seem to work best/be most versatile have been known to be worn something like 3 or 4 days in a row, but after that I get a little antsy--don't like when bras get that discolored scruff on the inside of the band, try to avoid it. I don't sweat much though--if I did I'd probably make a point to switch bras near-daily as a rule, not just an optional thing depending on circumstance.

Exercising regularly has thrown a wrench in this recently, but I'm about to get some (properly fitted! Thanks Mefi!) sports bras to remedy that issue.
posted by ifjuly at 9:27 AM on November 5, 2010

I have everyday bras (M&S or Freya Rio) and I change when they feel like they need it. Usually every five days or so. I actually stocked up on general everyday bras during an M&S sale to avoid having to wear one too often, because bras are very expensive. I wash these in the machine, on a delicate wash, with a delicates detergent.

I see it as something that doesn't go near sweat/ladyparts so the criteria are different than with socks and knickers.

even the notion that wearing a bra prevents sagging in general is debatable at best.

Mine significantly changed shape and form out of bra when I got a fitting for the first time (aged 19) and realised I was three cup sizes bigger than I thought. They looked a LOT less saggy with proper daily support - however, I may have still been growing then.
posted by mippy at 10:07 AM on November 5, 2010

i thought the going logic was the the more you wear a bra, the weaker your muscles that hold your boobs up get - so wearing a bra constantly actually creates saggier breasts over your lifetime.
posted by nadawi at 12:01 PM on November 5, 2010

I think how often you change your bra can also depend on the size of your boobs.

Hear me out - ladies that fit into "common" sizes can buy lots and lots of cheap bras at Target, Walmart, VS, etc. and amass nice, big collections of suitable bras and can then manage to switch them out every day or every other day.

Those of us who live in the "uncommon" ranges (F-K cups) are forced to spend upwards of $65 PER BRA (the one that currently fits me best is $75) and can only afford to amass a collection of, say, two. So then you are forced to go back and forth between the two for a few weeks until they get smelly and then you wash them after you take them off at night and hope that they are dry before you have to go to work in the morning so you don't have damp boobs. Or maybe this is just me.

Either way, the bigger your boobs, the more expensive your bras get, so you can afford to own less of them and have to go longer between "changes."
posted by meggan at 1:22 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

meggan - I'm in your boat, though not quite an F cup (yet...though I'm also not done being pregnant yet, they could STILL GROW MOAR), it's pretty much impossible to find anything decent bigger than DD off the rack in chain stores. Nordstrom's is the best bet for me to find something in my size and they're certainly not cheap.
posted by sonika at 1:25 PM on November 5, 2010

36G here, and yes, I do go longer than I would like between washings simply because they're REALLY expensive and don't have enough of them to wash them out in the sink every time I wear them. And yes, they go in the sink, not the washer. When they cost that much, you do everything you can to make them last as long as possible. I can't imagine what it's like to buy a bra for under $20....
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 2:47 PM on November 5, 2010

This thread has made me feel so much better about my habits! I go pretty long between washings, so long as they smell fine. Probably a week or two. I just don't tend to sweat from the chest, and good bras are more expensive than underwear by a long shot, so I just don't own that many.

Sports bras are a different matter entirely, and get thrown into the laundry immediately after a single wearing.
posted by Eshkol at 7:14 PM on November 5, 2010

I am an FF and I sometimes get bras from discount bra websites that sell past-season bras - if you know which brands/shapes fit and your size you can save a LOT of money. I use in the UK, and eBay can be good too - but the brands I wear I think are manufactured here or in Europe so it may vary in the US.
posted by mippy at 5:19 AM on November 6, 2010

We are lucky in that big department stores like Debenhams and Marks and Spencer do have own-brand ranges - these are about £16 - £25 per DD+ bra. Is this not the case in Macy's or Bloomingdales or whatever the local equivalent is?

There's also Bravissimo which is a chain specialising in larger bras and swimwear and, yes, shirts that are designed to fit a larger chest.
posted by mippy at 5:21 AM on November 6, 2010

i thought the going logic was the the more you wear a bra, the weaker your muscles that hold your boobs up get - so wearing a bra constantly actually creates saggier breasts over your lifetime.

There's a French study that claims women who went without wearing them for a year had perkier boobs. It isn't the pectoral muscles that holds breasts up, but something called Copper's Ligaments.
posted by squeak at 7:39 AM on November 6, 2010

I was told in a good bra shop that one should not wear a bra more than 2x (2 days) before washing it; ideally not more than once. The sweat and oils will case the bra fabric to break down faster.

And this isn't just good sales technique - since I started only wearing bras 2x, they have lasted longer and felt better (helps that they were also better bras). I handwash in Soak, which is awesome for the lazy, and very gentle on the bra.

I hear the frustrations of the larger sized; I'm a 34DD or 32E. I used to only have 2 bras that looked good. But I've been building up my collection by looking online for cheap good bras (figleaves.comin the states - good bras for $50), and sales at my favorite shop. If you can get your bras to last 4-5 years, you can get 2 a year and have a collection of 4-5 to switch around.
posted by jb at 8:16 AM on December 5, 2010

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