how to get mildew smell out of bras

Lingerie isn’t all glamour. Sometimes it’s dirty laundry. Our bodies can do gross things to even the prettiest pieces. It’s okay! And it’s mostly preventable or easily fixed. So if your bra smells bad and you don’t know what to do, or if you’re worried you’re stuck with that weird stain, don’t panic! We’re here to help.


Washing your bras frequently and giving them a day or two of rest between wears will help prevent odours. If you find you’re particularly sweaty, air out your bra before putting in the hamper so that it has a chance to dry. And be sure to let your bras dry completely after washing – don’t put them away or wear them if they’re still kind of damp.

If you have a bra that’s already a little funky, there are things you can do to neutralize the odour. You can try spritzing smelly spots with vodka or diluted vinegar, and then letting the bra air-dry. If that doesn’t do the trick, cleaning expert Jolie Kerr (of Ask A Clean Person fame) recommends Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap for nixing really stubborn smells. You can find it at most health food stores, and even at some regular grocery stores. And – good news for us sensitive types! – Jolie’s field research determined that the unscented version works just as well as the scented ones. One caution: this is a concentrated soap, so go easy on it and be sure to rinse your bra thoroughly.


The most common bra stains are pit-based: sweat and deodorant. Sweat stains tend to be more of an issue with lighter coloured fabrics, while you probably notice deodorant build-up more on darker colours. Let’s start with sweat!

Sweat stains are protein stains. (This goes for blood, vomit, and breastmilk, too. Also I’m sorry for bringing up vomit. Twice.) The key thing to know about protein stains is that you must not use heat on them. It only makes them stronger and more tenacious! Use cool water instead, and try a stain remover like oxygen bleach (not chlorine bleach) or borax. If you’re worried about colour loss, do a little patch test first on a less visible part of the bra. A Broad favourite for stain removal is this stain stick. It smells good, is colour safe, and works like a charm.

Deodorant build-up and staining can often be prevented by frequent and thorough laundering. If it’s a regular problem for you, get into the habit of gently scrubbing the underarm areas of your bra on wash day. You can use your fingers for this, or a very soft brush like an old toothbrush. It’s important to note here that your personal body chemistry will impact how persistent or tough these stains are. Some people’s sweat is more acidic, or more basic, and the way that interacts with your deodorant can make staining more or less likely.

It’s easy to feel like these kinds of things don’t happen to anyone else, as though your body is especially weird or gross. But that’s basically never true! We’re all just fancy animals. So be kind to yourself and ask for help when you need it. That’s what bra fitters, and the internet, are for.

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