What Happens To Your Bras When You Only Wash Them Once In A Blue Moon?

Going braless is de rigueur these days.

But for the bigger breasted folk among us, throwing our boob hoists out the window just isn’t an option. Free-balling would result in an almost offensive display of brazen areola, and a sore back.
As an active and devoted member of The Big Titty Committee, I wear a bra most days. I only have two, because bra shopping is tedious and always ends in a frustrated trip to Krispy Kreme to drown my sorrows about how there are no cute but comfortable bras for people with large baps
Course, since I’ve only got two on rotation, I don’t get around to washing them all that often. I actually don’t remember the last time I washed either of them.
I’m obviously a grot and need to sort my life and laundry habits out. But, for those among us who believe hygiene to be paramount, how often should you wash your bra?
The internet is largely divided. Some people swear washing your bra after every wear is imperative. Others are in the ‘after 2 – 3 washes’ camp. It turns out I’m not alone in my lazy washing habits – quite a few people think washing their over the shoulder boulder holder monthly is acceptable.
We spoke to Dr Jennifer Robson, Spokesperson for the Royal College of Pathologists (RCPA), about what kinds of bacteria your bra’s harbouring.

What kind of germs would be present in a bra after wearing 2 – 3 times? 

I wouldn’t refer to them as “germs.” The bacteria present on the bra reflects the normal flora of the skin that the bra is in contact with. Outside the gastrointestinal tract the moist armpits (axillae) are areas of or body that are most heavily colonised with our normal flora. This diverse zoo of microorganisms known as the microbiota are generally harmless and even beneficial for human health. 

They keep us healthy and protecting us from disease. They include Staphylococcus epidermidis and other coagulase negative Staphylococci, Corynebacteria (diphtheroids), Micrococci and less frequently occasionally Gram negative organisms. In healthy individuals these are generally not harmful.
Would this bacteria change / multiply rapidly after 10 wears without washing?
With the build-up of human sweat and skin oils the amount of bacteria may increase and impact the skin microbiome. Some of the less protective fast growing bacteria such as gram negative organisms may have a growth advantage and predominate. Lots different of factors may contribute to this build up at different rates – [such as] presence of skin conditions. My daughter suggested boob size! She is well endowed. Others include the presence of skin conditions such as eczema, hormones, and antibiotics.

For reference, here’s a pic of a 24 hour culture from a bra worn for three days, showing part of the normal flora – a coagulase negative Staphylococcus (Staphylococcus epidermis). No other organisms were cultured on this occasion:

Is this bacteria harmful? 

Generally speaking they would not be harmful unless broken skin was present.
How often should you wash your bra if you wear it everyday? 
Level of hygiene is just one factor that can affect the skin microbiome. Climate is another. Processing of sweat by staphylococci and corynebacteria result in the malodour [stinky smell] characteristically associated with sweat in humans and for me this would determine how often the bra should be washed – hot humid conditions much more frequently than cool dry environments. 
So, how often you wash your bra all depends on your lifestyle, really.
It’s common sense: If you’re a sweaty operator who starts to start dripping while taking a short stroll in the sun, you might want to wash your bra after every couple of wears to ensure you don’t smell bad.
But as far as ‘harmful germs’ go, your bra isn’t harbouring nasties that’ll make you sick by just being there. They can only really hurt you if you have an open sore of broken skin where the flora can infiltrate. For example, the Staphylococcus epidermidis Dr Robson refers to is normal human flora and most folks’ have it on their person. But, if it gets into your system through an open sore, it can lead to a nasty Staph infection.

How, and how often, should you wash your bra for your bra’s sake, though? To keep it in it’s best shape?
If you can be arsed, hand wash in cold water. Throw them in there, let them soak for a bit before rolling in a towel to absorb the excess water and hang to dry.
If you’re more into using a washing machine, a handy hint is to hook the clasps before washing – this way, the little hooks won’t grab onto other items and you’ll avoid a tangle. Washing your delicates in a lingerie laundry bag is another way to minimise the damage a spin wash might do to your bra.
Photo: This Is 40.