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What Happens If You Don't Wash Your Bra for a Month, According to Experts

If you think it can't really get that dirty, think again.

Knowing how often—and maybe even whether—to wash certain things can be tricky. When it comes to washing your face, some experts say once a day is fine. Once a month is the magic number for cleaning out your washing machine (yes, washing machines need to be washed, too!). Fruits and vegetables? Yes, definitely wash before eating—except for pre-washed greens. Meat and poultry? Do not wash before cooking!

Then there are the things we know we should be washing regularly, yet don't—like underwear. Yes, underwear. Recent research showed that one in four men don't wash their underwear after every wearing. But what about bras? Bras can get annoyingly misshapen if they're washed too often, or incorrectly. So what if you skip washing your bra for say… a month? What would happen? Read on to find out.

READ THIS NEXT: What Happens If You Don't Wash Your Hair for a Week, According to Doctors.

Can dirty clothes really get all that dirty?

pile of dirty laundry on a chair
Damian Lugowski / Shutterstock

If you're wondering whether your clothes can really get all that dirty in general, the answer is yes. "Different kinds of microbes will survive in clothing for different amounts of time, and it's difficult to know if people or surfaces you come into contact with are infected with harmful microbes," cautions Healthline.

The site warns that these can include Staphylococcus, and also notes that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an antibiotic-resistant infection, has been found on public transportation. So, yes. Clothes can carry potentially dangerous germs and bacteria, and it's important to wash them.

Your bra could be full of bacteria.

dirty bra with bacteria in the cups
Monning27 / Shutterstock

Since your bra doesn't usually come into contact with surfaces other than your own skin, you might think it's safe from Staphylococcus and other microbes. But in fact, your body doesn't need to be on a city bus to collect bacteria; it produces its own.

"Millions (if not billions) of different types of bacteria can be found all over the world, including in your body," the Cleveland Clinic explains, adding that people have an estimated ten times more bacterial cells than they have human cells. (Your belly button alone contains approximately 67 types of bacteria!)

"When you don't wash your bra for a month [or more]… sweat, oil, and dead skin cells can build up and get trapped under your breasts," says Cami Raymond, the Senior Design Director for shapewear company Ruby Ribbon.

Not washing your bra is bad for your skin—and the bra itself.

Woman putting on bra in front of a mirror.
bymuratdeniz / iStock

You're probably aware that if you wear a blouse to work, perspiration will accumulate, and you'll need to wash it. This happens to your bra as well, even if it's less obvious. The accumulated sweat and dead skin cells can cause "scents, residue, and dinginess," dermatologist Anna H. Chacon, MD and writer at MyPsorasisTeam says. "These nasty things assemble more and more without your knowledge the longer you don't wash your bra, [and] can also cause itchy skin issues like irritation or rash," she tells Best Life.

"Though it's probably 'safe' to wear a bra for a month without washing (although might be gross/smelly!), there is a small risk of bacteria and yeast accumulating and rubbing against skin, particularly in skin folds like underneath the breasts and the armpits," warns dermatologist Leah Ansell, MD. "This could lead to intertrigo—which is inflammation of the skin folds—usually due bacteria, inflammation and/or yeast (or a combo of all three)."

Raymond says all this accumulated ickiness isn't good for your bra, either—but cautions that improper washing can also take a toll on its fabric, wires, and closures. Finding that sweet spot where your bra stays clean, and also remains in good condition for as long as possible, is the trick.

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Here's how to wash your bra.

woman's hands washing light pink women's bra in a blue basin.
FotoDuets / Shutterstock

"Machine washing [your bras] can cause the fibers to disintegrate, leading to wear and tear," advises Elyse Kaye, founder and CEO of Bloom Bras. "Often a good rinse in the sink can solve that." Kaye also notes that bras should be air dried, rather than tossed in the dryer.

"I suggest a machine wash with a mild detergent in cold water, and then line [dry] or lay flat to dry," Raymond says. "Putting [bras] in a mesh laundry bag also protects the product during washing, to avoid losing their shape or cups being moved around."

Raymond suggests washing your bra after two to three wears, while Chacon advises "washing bras at least once a week to help keep them clean and protect your skin."

Luisa Colón
Luisa Colón is a writer, editor, and consultant based in New York City. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, Latina, and many more. Read more
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