There is a chance of ruining your bathing suit if you don’t know how to dry it properly. However, there is a 100% chance of ruining your swimsuit if you leave it soaking wet all day. Even if you aren’t sure of the best way to dry your swimsuit, you should still try something, otherwise it will end up being covered in mold and smelly odors in no time.
For most people, the default method is to simply toss their bathing suit into the washing machine and then chuck it into the dryer afterwards. Then they are surprised when they find their swimsuit has shrunk considerably, and that it has also discolored or is starting to deteriorate. Bathing suits are delicate items and you need to wash and dry them in a gentle way.
The main culprits of swimsuit damage while cleaning them are heat and wear and tear caused by all of the spinning and tumbling and rubbing against other clothing. For this reason, the safest option is to hand wash your swimsuit and to let it air dry afterwards; doing everything manually, in other words. Doing things by hand is not much more difficult and it will ensure your swimsuits last much longer.
Since many people seem to mess up the drying part of the cleaning process, this article will focus primarily on that topic. We will discuss why it’s generally not a good idea to use a dryer, why air drying is safer, and other ways to speed up the drying process.
Why you shouldn’t put bathing suits in a dryer
Swimsuit water extractor/dryer
Some swimming pools have a machine mounted on the wall, called a swimsuit water extractor, that you can put your swimsuit in, close the lid, and it extracts the majority of the water from your swimsuit without using any heat. Most people think of dryers as something that applies heat, but technically anything that makes a suit drier is a dryer.
Since heat is a major concern, and this machine does not use any heat, you’d think it’d be perfectly safe to use but there are still some potential issues.
In general, these machines work well. They basically spin really fast and this gets most of the wetness out, leaving a damp swimsuit that you can much more easily dry afterwards. The spinning action is much less damaging than twisting or wringing it, so it should preserve your swimsuit’s lifespan if all goes well.
And here lies the risk: it doesn’t always go well. I’ve seen straps get caught in the machine and get completely ruined. There is a small risk of the extractor snagging or tearing suits, and that alone is enough of a risk for me to not recommend them. You can easily squeeze the water out yourself without resorting to wringing it or using this machine, and I go over how in more detail in another section.
Also, keep in mind that a water extractor is the first step of the process. Your swimsuit is still damp! Don’t leave it in your bag all day, don’t leave it on leather car seats, and basically remember to do the next step: dry it.
The main problem with using a clothes dryer is heat. Heat can shrink your perfectly fitting swimsuit so that it’s now a size or two too small. That said, if you’re willing to risk it, you can also shrink an oversized swimsuit so that it fits you, but your mileage may vary. It’s hard to tell how much it will shrink by and where (it can shrink unevenly), so you’re basically gambling.
Aside from shrinking, heat can also damage the elastic in the straps, the waistband of the suit, and can ruin the fabric if done too often. In other words, heat is too rough on your delicate swimsuit.
Now, you may be able to get away with throwing your swimsuit in the dryer once or twice with your towels, so don’t freak out if you accidentally put your bathing suit in the dryer. Just double check the straps and bands to see if they haven’t shrunk too much.
Some dryers allow you to dry your clothes with outside/room temperature air. That might prevent shrinking, but the tumbling action that occurs inside a dryer may wear down or stretch out your swimsuit, so it’s not a perfect solution either.
Some people who may not own a clothes dryer or who are in the middle of a week-long vacation with not enough swimsuits may resort to using a blow dryer to speed up how quickly their bathing suit dries.
This can work but there are many risks involved. First off, you will need to set it on the lowest heat setting to avoid shrinking. Second, you must make sure not to blow dry one spot for too long, otherwise it may get too hot and cause that area to shrink.
Essentially, you may get a swimsuit that is unevenly dried, and may even be tighter in some areas if the material shrinks. It is also a time consuming process that may cause your blow dryer to overheat.
Blow drying your swimsuit is incredibly inefficient and has a high risk of damaging your swimsuit, so it’s not a great idea.
Best practices to safely dry your bathing suit
The only truly safe way to dry your swimsuit is to squeeze out the water in a specific way and then leave it to air dry. All other methods introduce a level of risk that can cause your swimsuit to shrink or wear down really quickly. If you want your bathing suit(s) to last more than one summer, I recommend you follow the advice below.
Roll or press out water
After hand washing your swimsuit, you may feel the urge to twist or wring it as you would a wet towel, but DON’T do that. Wringing or twisting your swimsuit can damage the fabric and stretch it out. The safest way to extract the water is to roll the water out or press it out. Let me explain.
Rolling or pressing the towel is much gentler on the swimsuit and will not cause wrinkles or stretching. To roll the water out, simply lay your swimsuit on a dry towel and then roll the towel up with the swimsuit in it.
To press the water out, lay the swimsuit flat between two dry towels on the floor. Then you can literally just step all over your swimsuit through the towels, and allow gravity plus your body weight to easily squeeze the water out. A less efficient alternative is to squeeze the water out by pressing it between the palms of your hands.
Lay your swimsuit flat
When you’re leaving your swimsuit out to air dry, ideally you should lay it flat on a dry towel or place it on a drying rack.
You could hang it on a hanger or drape it over a railing or something, but that can potentially stretch out the swimsuit when all of the water pools along the bottom and gravity puts a lot of strain on the section of fabric that is holding up the rest of the swimsuit.
Increase air flow
Bathing suits will dry faster if there is a lot of airflow. Thus, if you’re drying your bathing suit indoors, make sure to open the window up wide and keep the door open. You can speed up the process even more by placing your swimsuit in front of a fan.
If you’re drying the swimsuit outdoors, there are some things to be wary of. Having a gentle breeze is nice, but if the wind picks up, your swimsuit might end up getting blown away. Pay close attention to the weather; tropical climates are known to be very humid and can have sudden downpours. You must also avoid direct sunlight which can damage your swimsuit.
The safest option is to dry your swimsuits indoors since there are a lot of risks leaving them outside.
Rotate your bathing suit
There is a tendency for one side to dry faster than the other (the side facing up) so turn it around after a while. If you’re drying lots of swimsuits and one swimsuit is closer to a source of wind and is drying much faster, then swap places with a more damp swimsuit.
Keep it out of sunlight
If you’ve ever left something exposed to sunlight for a prolonged period of time, be it furniture, clothing, or your skin, you should have an idea of how damaging it is. UV radiation from the sun is extremely damaging and will easily discolor your swimsuit and wear down the fabric. It doesn’t matter if your swimsuit is UV resistant; don’t leave anything out to dry in the sun.
Always dry your clothing in the shade. Even when you’re indoors, be very careful about how the sunlight moves across the room where you’re drying your bathing suit. What was once in the shade might end up in direct sunlight as the sun rises or sets.
By following the best practices laid out in this article and avoiding dryers, you can drastically increase the longevity of your bathing suits. You might get away with putting your swimsuit in a dryer once or twice, but don’t make it a habit if you want your swimsuit to continue fitting you.