The bra washing controversy: Stella McCartney joins the no-wash camp

When should you wash your clothes? Only when you really, really need to, according to the fashion designer

folded laundry
(Image credit: Getty/Poh Kim Yeoh / EyeEm)

Forget that it's Amazon Prime Day with all its amazing deals (live now). The question today is: to wash or not to wash your bras and delicates every day? Does washing ruin delicate fabrics? Who better to ask than a fashion designer. In a recent interview with the Observer (opens in new tab), veteran fashion designer Stella McCartney (who has her own lingerie line) revealed that she's not a big fan of washing, and not just bras:

'I wouldn’t change my bra every day and I don’t just chuck stuff into a washing machine because it’s been worn. I am incredibly hygienic myself, but I’m not a fan of dry cleaning or any cleaning, really.'

This is something she picked up first when studying to be a bespoke tailor on Savile Row. 'The rule on a bespoke suit is you do not clean it. You do not touch it. You let the dirt dry and you brush it off. Basically, in life, rule of thumb: if you don’t absolutely have to clean anything, don’t clean it,' she says in the Observer interview. 

The rationale for not washing clothing is partly to do with preserving expensive fabrics such as silk, and the shape of moulded garments such as bras. But not washing your clothing – especially if it's made from synthetic materials – may also be kinder to the environment, as Laura Diáz Sánchez from the Plastic Soup Foundation advocacy group explains in a commentary for the BBC (opens in new tab)

'Every time we wash our clothes an average of nine million [plastic] microfibres are released into the environment. The way we wash our clothes affects this, as well as the way our clothes are made – but the more we wash our clothes, the more microfibres are released.'

So, should we all stop washing our clothes? Our guess is it'll always be down to personal preference and individual body chemistry. If you feel you can get away with washing your clothes less often, and they don't smell, more power to you. However, if you feel uncomfortable in clothes that don't feel clean, or if you have any skin problem or condition, such as acne or Keratosis Pilaris (those annoying bumps on your arms), do yourself a favour and do wash your clothes, often. 

If you're still concerned about washing ruining your delicates, read our guide on how to do laundry, which includes detailed advice for washing delicates. And if the impact of all that washing on the environment concerns you, we advise putting on fewer loads throughout the week, which can be achieved by wearing all your clothes before putting on a full wash load. If you can't remember what you've got in your wardrobe, it's probably time to declutter (Marie Kondo to the rescue)

Stop microfibres entering the sea with a Guppyfriend washing bag

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Guppyfriend washing bag | £32.98 on Amazon (opens in new tab)

Stop manmade fibres getting into the waterways with one of these. Just pop your clothes in and wash as usual. It is also great for catching hair and preventing your filter getting blocked.


Price: Low to high

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6 bottles of Dettol Antibacterial Laundry Cleanser |  Was £12 now £9.49 (opens in new tab)
This odour-free laundry liquid can kill up to 99.9 per cent of bacteria lingering around your clothes even on a 20°C wash. It also helps remove limescale from your machine and it prevents your clothes smelling of nasty odours.

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75 Calgon 3-in-1 Washing Machine Water Softener Tablets |  £19.99 now £10.99 (opens in new tab)
Prefer to use a tablet rather than liquid? You can get 75 tablets for £10.99 this Prime Day. That works out to be just 15p per tablet.  They're from the UK's number one water softener brand, too. 

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Brabantia Lift-O-Matic Rotary Washing Line | Was £99.88 now £49.99 (opens in new tab)
Prefer to dry your clothes outside in the air rather than to use a tumble dryer? This washing line deal shouldn't be missed this Prime Day as it features a huge 50 per cent off. The washing line is height adjustable to suit you, it features coat hanger holes for delicate items and it has a five year guarantee.

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Bosch WTE84106GB 7kg Condenser Tumble Dryer |  Was £299 now £261 (opens in new tab)
After a tumble dryer deal? Handy for drying things like bed sheets and duvets quickly, they make doing the laundry that little bit easier. Especially if you have children and go through clothes and bed sheets like there's no tomorrow. This Bosch model has a capacity of 7kg, an energy efficiency rating of B and it's a condenser type dryer.

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Bosch WAN28050GB  Washing Machine | Was £389 now £321 (opens in new tab)

Rated A+++ for energy, this washing machine won't cost you much to run. It features an average size 7kg drum capacity, a max spin speed of 1400rpm and it has a huge 15 wash programmes to choose from. Wowza. Currently, it features £68 off. Hurry though, as this deal won't last long.

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Samsung WW90K5413UX Washing Machine | Was £459 now £399 (opens in new tab)

Our favourite thing about this washing machine, apart from the fact it has £60 off for Prime Day, is that you can add to the wash during the wash. Ideal for those who always forget a sock or a top or something *guilty*.  It's also quiet, has a capacity of 9kg which is ideal for families AND it has a compatible smart home app too.


Anna is Content Editor at Real Homes. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. At Real Homes, she covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.