It’s our next instalment in our ‘How To Care For’ series and we’ve come round to swimwear. Great aftercare for your swimwear can help increase its lifespan, stop colour runs and keep it looking pool & beach ready for longer.
Whilst a swimsuit may look simple to care for (and they often are), there are some easy traps that we can fall into. Ever had a swimsuit that’s gone saggy, yellow or bobbly? This is often due to incorrect aftercare causing this irreversible damage. Fortunately, a little bit of BLANC know-how can help to stand you in good stead and avoid some very classic mistakes.
What is swimwear made out of?
Let’s start with the basics of the fabric. Swimwear fabrics have traditionally been composed out of 100% man-made fibres such as Nylon, Spandex and Polyester. These fabrics have always been front runners for swimsuit manufacturing due to their water wicking properties, ability to stretch across the body and reduce friction in the water - making you streamlined when submerged. Not to mention, they also dry fast.
A standard swimming suit will have a composition of Nylon, from 80% - 90%, but also have a significant amount of Lycra or spandex, averaging 10% - 20%. Natural fibres have traditionally been shunned for swimwear, largely due to their absorbent and delicate properties. However, more and more brands start using organic cotton and hemp for swimwear with some new technologies. Cotton and hemp swimwear differ in many ways from their synthetic counterparts but the use of these fabrics plus a small percentage of elastane for stretch is starting to be perceived as the healthier environmental alternative.
Swimwear & the environment
Here comes the bad news... traditional swimwear is not safe for the environment. As these synthetic fabrics are derived from both coal and petroleum, the actual process to create these virgin fabrics is both water and energy-intensive. This process includes the creation and release of nitrous oxide, which is known to be far more potent for the planet and health than carbon dioxide.
On top of this, microfibres are a true plague of swimwear. Not only does swimwear release microfibres while being washed in the washing machine as for any synthetic textiles, but extended use at the pool or the beach will result in the introduction of microplastic fibres directly into the water too. These particles can end up oceans, lakes and rivers, and are ingested by sea and water animals, before ending up in our food chain.
The end process of biodegradability is also minimal and traditionally swimwear can take decades to break down in landfills, as it possesses the same qualities as plastic and does not biodegrade quickly.
So what are the alternatives? For swimwear, it’s mainly recycled nylon, cotton or hemp. Recently, Econyl has stepped on the scene to minimise the impact of swimwear. Econyl is a regenerated material, which generally consists of both pre and post-consumer waste, such as fishing nets and ocean plastic. Whilst it’s not totally out of the woods on the environmental front, it does prove better for it. This allows for waste to be diverted away from landfills - which is far better than virgin Nylon creation. However, microplastics will still occur with the fabric, so using a Guppyfriend bag when washing is still essential.
Natural fibres, such as cotton and hemp are making inroads into the swimwear market too. The fabric is still absorbent, so it won’t dry as quickly, plus additional elements (zips, built-in bras, pockets, embellishments...) can’t be included as they can cause the suit to sag and lose its shape. However, when you are in the water, they still perform well and these natural options steer clear of the heavy microplastic creation that you get with the synthetic options.
So, it’s evident that sustainable swimwear is essential, as we all want to keep swimming - here’s our guide to care for your swimwear and make it last, plus our round-up of the best sustainable swimwear and the brands that are doing good!
How often to clean a swimsuit
In short - after every wear and as quickly as possible! Spandex which is a key material in swimsuits can start to break down and lose elasticity when exposed to salt, sun, chlorine, and perspiration, so removing these is essential to help keep your suit in shape and minimise the breaking of fibres.
The chemicals in pools and jacuzzis can also cause the fabric to change colour. Ever had a beautiful white swimsuit turn yellow? White is especially reactive and hypersensitive to chlorine (and some chemicals in sunscreen) which will turn the suit yellow as it strips away the white fibres surrounding the inner yellow core of synthetic fibres.
How to wash swimwear
Washing swimwear is super quick and easy - this should ideally also be done by hand. Rinse your swimsuit using cool water straight after each time you wear it to remove chemicals from the pool or salt and debris from the ocean or lakes. Ideally, it is best to allow the suit to soak in some cool water for 30 minutes. This will allow the chemicals, salt, suncream and sand to be removed more thoroughly.
Turn your swimsuit inside out, and submerge it in cool water and leave submerged and soak for 30 minutes. Swish for several minutes, to loosen debris (you can just do this step if you don’t have a lot of time) and proceed to rinse well. Avoid scrubbing as this could affect the material and permanently alter the colour.
If you really feel like it needs to go in the machine, we recommend using a Guppyfriend bag to protect your swimsuit and filter microplastics. Pick a low heat, (always avoid high heat with swimwear and activewear) delicate washing cycle and use a very gentle or mild detergent - do not use fabric softener.
How to remove stains on swimwear
From food and drink stains to sunscreen white marks, it’s easy to get stains on your swimsuit but it is important to be careful when trying to remove a stain.
The best method is to rub the stain gently during the hand washing process, but make sure not to get too rough with the material as rubbing too vigorously might cause permanent damage. If you are stuck with a deep-set stain, or simply don’t trust yourself to do it at home, it’s best to look for a professional eco-cleaner. Our Store Consultants will be happy to help you and we’ll make our best effort to deliver your swimwear looking like new!
How to dry swimwear
Whether you’ve been washing your bathing suit by hand or in the machine, take it out and gently squeeze the water out of the fabric, making sure not to wring the suit to avoid any damage.
Air dry your swimwear by laying it out, ideally on a flat surface or clothes dryer, away from direct sunlight. UV light and any excessive heat can damage the fibres, whilst fading the colour of your swimwear. Do not tumble dry your swimwear! This would risk melting the fibres and decreasing its elasticity, plus due to the fast-drying properties of your suit, it is really not needed!
How to store swimwear
Avoid hanging your swimwear, as the suit can stretch and change shape. Ensure the swimwear is completely dry - as it can grow mould and smell bad if stowed damp - and store flat, in a drawer (no need to fold)!
If you’re in the market for something new, here are our favourite sustainable swimwear brands to get you started.
Through using regenerated fabrics, employing sustainability practices across the board and implementing circularity initiatives, these brands are helping minimise the impact of swimwear on the environment. As always, we highly recommend investing in one quality piece and use it for years to come!
These guys walk the talk when it comes to sustainability and you can honestly tell they love and are passionate about what they do and the planet. Stay Wild Swim are weaving sustainability into everything they do. Designed and created in London, take a look here for sleek and flattering designs that will suit everyone.
Davy J’s is ‘built for the wild’. Whilst their designs are perfect for those who want to hang out poolside, these are made to survive diving, cliff jumping and waterfall swimming. They put their emphasis on circularity, advising customers to return their suits when they come to the end of life, so Davy J can re-purpose them and offer 20% off your new piece.
A small brand based down in Newquay in Cornwall (the UK’s home of surfing!), they create their suits out of lycra, which is made from 100% regenerated nylon from ghost fishing nets, as well as other post-consumer plastic waste. They also give a breakdown of what they’re using for packaging, labels, tags and bikini bags are made from - it’s clear transparency is important to the brand.
When it comes to sustainability we feel as though little to no introduction is needed here! Patagonia takes it seriously and was built for the outdoors, so they understand we need to respect the environment and use recycled nylon to build their swimwear lines.
For very chic male resort wear, take a look here! The Swim shorts are made from 100% Recycled Nylon, regenerated from waste yarns and fabric scraps. They are still relatively new and do have some sustainability progression to make, but off to a great start.
Ocean backwards, NAECO offers swimwear and outerwear made and designed in the UK. What struck us about this brand is that all of their products come with a 5-year warranty, so they seriously back themselves on quality - impressive. On further deep dive, they explain how they make their garments and the fabrics they use. To boot, they also pay above the living wage, whilst minimising water and energy usage in their business.