When was the last time you gave your swimsuit a thorough wash? It’s a mistake not to wash your swimsuits often, particularly if they are white or light-colored, because it seems everything at the beach or swimming pool can stain it yellow. Whether it’s tanning oils, sunscreens, chlorine, your own sweat and body oils, or our lovely sun, it’s like white swimsuits aren’t allowed to be white for long.
The issue is not that these things can come into contact with a swimsuit, but that if you leave them on there for long enough, they can penetrate deep into the fabric and stain it permanently. The solution is not to wear black swimsuits for the rest of your life, but to rinse your swimsuit with fresh water as soon as possible post-swim.
There are methods you can try to remove the stains from your white swimsuit, but keep in mind some stubborn stains might be there permanently. These methods involve using various detergents like hand soap, swimsuit detergent, white distilled vinegar, and baking soda, mixing them in water to make a cleaning solution, and letting your swimsuit soak it in until the stains have been removed.
If you keep reading on, we will go over how you can wash your discolored or stained swimsuits so that they will be white again, the common causes of stains and how to avoid them, and how to properly dry and store your swimsuit afterwards so you don’t find a moldy surprise when you open your swim bag next summer.
How to keep swimsuits pristine all summer
As mentioned, the things that cause your swimsuit to get stained are most commonly sunscreen, sweat and oil your body produces, tanning oil, chlorine, menstrual fluid, and the sun itself. You cannot avoid them; going outside without sunscreen on a hot summer day is reckless, and no pool is without chlorine. So if you cannot avoid the most common causes of stains, what can you do instead?
The solution is to rinse your swimsuit immediately. As soon as you notice that something has stained your swimsuit, head to a bathroom or shower and rinse it off right away. Be that a globule of sunscreen, food stains, period stains, etc., any stain is worth rinsing off. By rinsing immediately, the stain is less likely to penetrate deep into the fabric and become permanent.
Avoid using spot removers because the chemicals contained in them can potentially damage and discolor your swimsuit further. Just use fresh, cold water and hand soap until you can go home and do a more thorough wash.
The other causes of stains like sweat, body oil, chlorine if you’re in the pool, and the sun are obviously unavoidable and slower to stain your swimsuit, but don’t underestimate them either. Immediately after getting out of the water, we recommend you rinse your swimsuit with cold water. Rinse off all of that lingering chlorine/salt because, in addition to staining your swimsuit, they can also damage it.
To truly keep stains off (and to remove any stains already on it), you must go home and do a more thorough wash using detergent. You might even need to soak your swimsuit in a cleaning solution to treat stubborn stains. We will detail this process in the next section.
How to hand wash your swimsuit
Rinsing your swimsuit is only a stopgap solution to keep stains from penetrating deep into the fabric. That said, some stains are harder to remove and will require a more thorough washing. Whether your swimsuit is stained or not, you should be thoroughly washing your swimsuit at home anyways for hygienic reasons, so learn to be really proficient at it.
To keep your beachwear as white as the day you purchased it, you can wash it at home by following these steps:
- Spot-treat the stained areas. Apply vinegar or baking soda directly onto the stained areas. Let it sit for one or two hours, then wash.
- Fill a sink or wash basin with cool water. Do not use hot water because heat can cause the fabric to shrink, and then you’ll have an even worse problem.
- Add your preferred detergent to the water. Our recommendations are: hand soap, swimsuit detergent, white vinegar, or baking soda. Avoid laundry detergent or bleach, as the chemicals inside can damage your swimsuit. Mix the detergent into the water to create your cleaning solution.
- Soak your swimwear in the cleaning solution. We recommend at least 15-30 minutes. This lets the detergent penetrate into the fabric and clean off any stubborn stains. You can also gently massage the swimsuit to remove any debris and chemicals from it.
- Drain the water and rinse the suds off the swimsuit. You can also give it one last scrub to get any remaining dirt or sand off of it. Rinse until the water dripping from the swimsuit runs clear.
- Roll or press the towel (don’t wring) to remove excess water. To roll the water out, place the swimsuit on a dry towel and roll the towel up with the swimsuit inside. To press the water out, place the swimsuit on a dry towel on the floor, place another dry towel on top of it, and step on the swimsuit over the towels to squeeze the water out. Any wringing or twisting motion causes significant wear on the fabric and should be avoided.
- Lay flat on a dry towel to dry. Hanging your swimsuit can cause the water to pool along the bottom which can stretch the fabric along the shoulder straps. Laying it flat and letting it air dry is the safest option.
How to machine wash your swimsuit
Some people recommend that you only ever hand wash your swimsuits, others say it is fine. The argument is that your swimsuit can suffer significant wear and tear in the washing machine from the agitator (the spinning part in the middle) or from rubbing against other clothes with zippers in the machine, resulting in pilling.
Do not be surprised if your swimsuit doesn’t last as long if you regularly machine wash it. That said, if it is not convenient for you to hand wash your swimsuit and machine washing is your only option, here is how to do so:
- To protect your delicate swimsuit, always put it in a mesh laundry bag.
- Do not use your regular laundry detergent. Use a mild, bleach-free detergent instead. White vinegar or baking soda work well.
- Set the machine to use only cold water and wash on a delicate cycle with other clothes or a couple of towels to prevent over-agitation.
- After the wash cycle has concluded, roll the swimsuit in a towel to get rid of any excess water, then lay it flat on a dry towel to air dry.
If your white swimsuit has started turning yellow or has some other kind of discoloration, you may be able to salvage it.
Follow the steps outlined in this article to turn your stained bathing suit white again. If it doesn’t work the first time, you can repeat the process over and over again until it works.
Keep in mind that swimsuits won’t last forever and eventually they may get stained or deteriorate regardless of what you do. That said, following these tips will help your swimsuit last as long as possible before that happens. The importance of knowing how to care for your swimsuit so that it can last for multiple summers cannot be overstated.