How to wash underwear

white underwear hanging on an outdoor washing line.

Making sure your undies are clean is important for your personal hygiene. Different rules for different fabrics can make it confusing, though - it can be hard to know how to wash underwear properly. Should you wash your smalls on their own, or with the rest of the laundry? Should you machine wash underwear at all? Should you wash men’s underwear the same as women’s underwear?   

To make it easier for you, we’ve answered a range of questions on the topic of washing undies. We've covered which methods are best to what temperature to use to what can go together in loads of washing. So keep reading to learn some tips, tricks, and techniques for washing your underwear. 

Should you handwash underwear?

Some people prefer to hand wash their smalls, and others prefer to put them in the washing machine. So what’s the right thing to do? Well, for most underwear, washing it in the machine is fine. However, some materials must be hand washed only. These include silk and lace for lingerie, but it's always best to check the garment care label if you're unsure.   

Hand washing underwear is easy, and it doesn’t have to be time consuming. Fill a washing bowl or sink with cool, soapy water. Specially-formulated detergents can be used for delicates, but regular detergent should be fine as well. Let your undies soak for a few minutes, then give them a good swish around in the water. You may also want to gently scrub the gusset. An old toothbrush or your fingertips would be ideal for this.   

Next, roll them up in a towel to dry off the excess moisture. Some detergents require rinsing, others don’t - check what the label says to be sure. Underwear can then be hung out or laid flat on a towel to dry, and that’s it. Hand washing can take as little as five minutes!

How to wash underwear in a washing machine

If your underwear can be machine washed, it will say so on the garment care tag. This will give you more information about drying, ironing and washing temperatures, too. It's always best to refer to the garment care label to help your underwear last as long as possible. 

What temperature should you wash underwear at?

There’s a lot of debate about what temperature you should wash underwear at. Many people are concerned about bacteria and germs in their underwear and the washing machine. Some suggest that 60°C is best for keeping your underwear hygienic - but is that true?   

The truth is, the temperature you wash your underwear at is up to personal preference. A hotter wash can kill off more germs than a colder one - but most detergents do this as well, so the extra heat may not be needed. Often our clothes just need cleaning, rather than sterilising completely. 

However, soiled underwear must be put through on a hot wash to make sure it's sterile. If in doubt, it's best to go with the temperature specified on your garment care label.

Should you wash underwear separately?

Another point of concern when it comes to washing underwear is how to keep it in good condition. Machine washing can put your bras and underwear at risk of damage such as fraying and loss of elasticity from tumbling around with the rest of the load. So should you wash underwear on its own?   

Well, it’s always an option, and if you’re hand washing your underwear, it may be best. After all, hand washing your smalls is one thing, but doing larger items as well could take a lot longer. If you’re washing your underwear in a machine, you may like to separate your underwear from the rest of your laundry and put it through on a delicate wash. However, you could also wash your underwear with everything else. Putting your underwear in a pillowcase or laundry bag will help to prevent damage and keep your undies in tip top condition.

Can you wash socks with underwear?

Some people worry about cross-contamination when it comes to washing underwear and socks together. Is it really necessary to separate them, though? The short answer is, no. As long as you’re using an effective detergent, there shouldn’t be any reason to worry about germs or bacteria in your laundry. If you’re really concerned, you could always wash your clothes at a higher temperature to be safe - but this will cost more to run your machine.   

One situation where you might need to take extra measures would be if you had a fungal infection. In this case, you’d want to run any potentially contaminated clothing on a hot wash to make sure it’s sterile before wearing it again. Otherwise, you could risk spreading the infection. In this case, however, you should take advice from a medical professional who can tell you how best to keep yourself safe and healthy.  


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