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, 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

'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)

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Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

In 2018 Anna moved into the world of interiors from academic research in the field of literature and urban space and joined as Staff Writer. She has a longterm interest in space-making and the evolution of interior style. She can also be found looking for the latest innovations in sustainable homewares or buying yet more bedding.