Aussie summers are synonymous with beach holidays, poolside drinks and soggy togs drying in the scorching sun. Months later, we discover our favourite bikini has faded, pilled and pulled itself out of shape, and we’re off to purchase another pair.
At a time when sustainability is more important than ever – and when styles are leaning relatively classic – getting swimwear to last the distance means not only saving time and money, but saving it from landfill.
Broadsheet asked eight swimwear designers where Aussies are going wrong with their swimwear-care. Here are their hacks for keeping your bathers fresh all summer long, and into the future.
Hand wash only
“The biggest mistake people make is putting their swimwear in the washing machine – particularly on a hot wash – or not rinsing their swimwear in fresh water after use,” says Amelia Mercoulia, director and head of design at Aussie recycled swim label Baaby.
Marilou Dadat, head designer at Kowtow, agrees. “Swimwear only needs a gentle cool hand rinse after wear, not a full cycle in the washing machine. Most swimwear is made from synthetic fibres, and the machine agitation encourages microfibres to break off, which end up in our wastewater and ultimately the oceans.”
A simple solution to save the environment – and your swimmers – is to pop into the beach or pool showers for a fresh-water rinse straight out of the water. It’ll help save your favourite suit before you head home for a more thorough cold rinse.
Avoid chemicals where possible
“Swimming in spas, hot tubs and chlorine pools will really shorten the life of your swimwear. It’s like soaking your swimwear in a mild bucket of bleach,” says Peta Heinsen, co-founder of minimalist Aussie label Matteau. “Always try to avoid hot tubs and highly chlorinated pools. Fabric softeners are also really bad for swimwear.”
Pre-rinse before swimming
“It’s likely that people have heard of rinsing after swimming, but have they heard of rinsing before? We swear by this preservation tactic, especially when swimming in chlorinated water,” says Isobel Campbell, founder of Melbourne swim label Okay Pretty. “By rinsing your swimwear in fresh water prior to pool swims, the fabric fibres will already be saturated, minimising the amount of damaging chlorine being absorbed.”
We’ve all done it. After whipping off your togs, it’s tempting to dry them in the hot summer sun. But Matteau’s Heinsen says that’s a big no-no. “Never leave swimwear rolled up wet in a towel or in a hot car or sitting in direct sun – exposure to prolonged dampness and heat will cause the fibres to disintegrate.”
If your biggest pet peeve is a saggy swim bottom, then this is the tip you’ve been missing: stop wringing out your togs to speed up drying time.
“The biggest mistake we see people make over summer is wringing out their swimwear, then leaving them to dry in the sun,” Okay Pretty’s Campbell says. “[This damages] the structure of the elastic, while leaving them to dry in the sun will fade even the most colourfast swimwear. This is a one-way street to dull swimwear and saggy bottoms.”
Wash your whites differently
If you’ve decided to brave white swimwear this summer, you might have noticed the discolouration that affects almost all white garments over time.
Tahnee McIlwraith, head of design and product at Speedo, who worked on its recent PE Nation swim collab, swears by a pretty standard product: Napisan (or any other stain remover with sodium percarbonate as its active ingredient).
“My personal tip for white swimwear, which can over time be discoloured by sun cream, is to wash it on a cold gentle cycle in a pillow slip to protect from snagging, and add a teaspoon of colour-safe Napisan to brighten whites and also colours. I don’t do this every time I wash my togs, but every now and then, to give them a refresh.”
Choose your fabrics wisely
Just like any wardrobe purchase, choosing swimwear is all in the label – the literal label, we mean. Most of our experts agreed it’s important to check the composition of your bathers before making the all-important purchase.
Casey Eastwell, the founder of Hakea Swim, prefers a mix of recycled nylon and an extra strong style of lycra: “We’ve moved over to using a fabric made from Econyl (nylon regenerated from fishing nets and fabric-mill scraps) and Xtra Life lycra, which is stronger than regular lycra and up to five times more resistant to breakage.”
Campbell also touts the benefits of Xtra Life lycra when it comes to choosing your swimwear. “We recommend investing in swimwear made from better-quality fabrics. This type of Lycra is twice as resistant to chlorine, heat and sunscreen than regular fabrics.”
McIlwraith has access to Speedo’s renowned technical fabric options, so unsurprisingly she suggests you start there. “If you’re after a pair of swimmers for lap swimming that will stand up to the harsh pool and spa environment, go for a chlorine-resistant polyester/PBT fabric without lycra or elastane, such as Speedo’s Endurance+ fabric,” she says. “This will guarantee your suit won’t loose its shape or colour, and you’ll be happy and supported, looking great swim after swim.”
Checking the tag doesn’t just stop at the shell fabric, though.
“Lining is important,” says Mercoulia. “Make sure your swimsuit is fully lined front and back. Give it a tug to make sure it feels sturdy and has a good amount of stretch. I’m a firm believer in ‘you get what you pay for’.”
Deborah Pih, technical manager at Byron Bay’s Spell and the Gypsy Collective, agrees. “Investing in quality swimwear is the best way to ensure you’re getting a product that will last. Try to ensure the lining is made up of a similar composition to the outer fabric.”
Treat your swimwear right
Pih has two final tips for improving the life span of your swimmers.
“[Buy] the correct size for your body measurements,” she says. “Also, try to avoid sitting on rough surfaces where possible. They will catch on the fine fibres and cause the yarn to split and break.”