It’s a certain smell of summer, just like hot dogs on the grill or Coppertone’s coconut-scented sunscreen: chlorine. But while the chemical can keep the water at your backyard or community pool free from germs and bacteria, it can also do a number on your brand new bathing suit. According to the website Daily Finance, the average bikini costs $22.55; the stat-gathering website Statistic Brain quotes an NPD Group survey that puts the average cost of a woman’s bathing suit at $24.26 and a man’s suit at $15.62. A competition swimsuit from a company like Speedo or TYR can set you back $50, $100, even $200 or more for a cutting-edge style or drag-reducing fabric. If you’re swimming in a pool treated with chlorine – or its slightly less-offensive cousin, bromine – even the best suit will degrade over time when exposed to these chemicals.
So what’s a budget-minded swimmer to do?
Making A Responsible Purchase
Extending the life of your new swimsuit starts before you ever buy it. Finding a bathing suit that fits properly will not only make it more comfortable to wear, but it will also keep your suit from stretching out overtime. Also look for suits that have been pre-treated to battle the affects of sun and water. If you’ll be wearing your suit outdoors, look for one that is UV-resistant – a trait especially popular with children’s swimsuits – making it less likely to fade over time, while protecting your skin from the sun’s rays. If you’ll be wearing your suit primarily indoors, skip the UV treatment and instead opt for a suit that is designed to ward off the affects of chlorine. Chlorine resistant bathing suits are treated with chemicals to reduce the fading caused by chlorine; many are also use specially-designed synthetic fibers that are less vulnerable to chlorine. One online swimsuit retailer claims chlorine resistant suits can last up to 25 times longer than average bathing suits.
Wearing Your Suit The Right Way
You may think that if you avoid the pool, you’ll avoid damaging your suit – and extend its lifespan. But that’s not always the case. Why? Because chlorine isn’t the only thing that can damage your suit. While UV rays from the sun can lead to fading colors, chemicals found in sunscreens and the oils on our skins can also degrade the integrity of a suit’s fabric. Your best bet to ensure your suit stays in good shape is to rinse the suit before you even put it on. When you rinse your suit with clean water first, it won’t be able to absorb as much of the oils and chemicals that erode the fabric.
Another tip: watch where you sit while in your suit. Even the best swimsuit material may pick, pull, or pill when it rubs up against an abrasive surface like a concrete pool deck. Sit on a towel to protect the bottom of your suit from this kind of damage.
Even the order of your poolside activities can have an impact on the lifespan of your bathing suit. While chlorine and UV rays on their own can do a number on your suit, together they are an especially destructive combination. Whenever possible, try to sunbathe before you swim; otherwise, the UV rays will interact with the chlorine on your suit to speed up the degradation process.
After Your Swim
Hands down, the most important part of caring for your swimsuit happens after you’ve hit the surf or sand. Whether you’ve been swimming in a pool, lake, or ocean, immediately rinse your suit with cool water. This will help get all the salt or chemicals out of your suit. It’s unnecessary to run your suit through the washing machine; in fact, washing bathing suits should be done by hand with a gentle cleanser, like Woolite. You can also clean it with specially-designed swim suit cleaner, like this product by Speedo, but regular rinsing and hand-washing can be just as effective.
After you finish washing your suit, resist the temptation to run it through the dryer. Just as the washing machine is too rough on bathing suits, so is the dryer; same goes for those centrifuge-style dryers found in many pool locker rooms, which can prematurely stretch out any suit. Instead, squeeze – don’t wring – the water out of your suit, then allow it to air dry by hanging it upside down, away from the sun’s damaging rays. Make sure to give your suit time to dry completely, otherwise odor-causing bacteria and mold can proliferate in the wet fibers.
Reader, what steps do you follow to prolong the life of your new swimsuit?