When it comes to laundry, some people are the sort-by-color, use-the-right-settings type, while others are the toss-it-all-in-and-press-start type. But whichever category you fall into, you may be making a huge laundry faux pas at drying time. If you typically put your underwear into the dryer, you might enjoy the short-lived pleasure of having all your wash done at the same time. But this could quickly be canceled out by the annoyance of ending up with panties that you wouldn’t want to wear even on your grungiest days. 

There’s a reason why dryers have all those different settings: Each one is designed to dry specific types and weights of clothes and linens in the most efficient, least damaging way possible. As Real Simple explains, most dryers have settings such as “heavy duty,” a high-heat option for items like jeans and towels that absorb a lot of moisture and take longer to dry, and “permanent press,” a lower-heat setting that helps prevent wrinkles in both synthetic-fabric clothes and natural-fabric clothing that wrinkles easily (per Whirlpool). 

But when it comes to your lacy undergarments, the rules are totally different. 

Fresh-air drying is best for underwear

The same machines that keep the rest of your clothing clean and dry can do a major number on your most intimate items. Dryers, in particular, wreak havoc on the elastic of underwear and bras. “Not only does the heat shrink things, it literally breaks down the fabrics and bends wires out of shape,” Wolford brand expert Jenny Altman tells Women’s Health. The last thing you want is to have your thong sliding down your hips because the elastic waistband is shot. 

If you absolutely have to dry your panties in a hurry, it’s okay to occasionally toss them in the dryer on the cool or “dry fluff” setting, according to Underwear Expert. In general, though, it’s best to let underwear air-dry. If you don’t have an outdoor clothesline, the next best thing is a drying rack (like this one, available for $20 on Amazon).

For maximum longevity, wash your bras and panties by hand, preferably in a sink with a detergent formulated for delicate fabrics. The energetic soaking and spinning produced by a washing machine can bend bra hooks and snag lace (per underwear manufacturer Lively). Don’t have time for a sink dunk? Then a mesh lingerie bag is a must, according to experts who spoke to New York Magazine. They also recommend not washing underwear along with heavy denim or terrycloth items, which can rub against the flimsier fabric and wear it down. 

A little extra time and effort will keep your underwear looking great.

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