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Leggings are basically a way of life. They’re your go-to for Netflix and Chill; they’re your go-to for a sweat session at the gym; they’re your go-to for errands; you may even have found a way to sneak them into your work wardrobe.
When you depend on one article of clothing so much, care is extra important. Washing your leggings incorrectly can dramatically shorten their lifespan, and a real misstep can ruin your favorite pair in an instant. And when premium pairs, like SPANX or MICHI, cost upwards of $75, well, that’s a mistake you simply can’t afford to make.
Here, the biggest mistakes you’re making with your leggings, and how to ensure your favorite pair can go the distance.
1. You’re not washing your leggings often enough
You probably think you’re doing a good thing by wearing your clothes more than once, but there’s evidence to the contrary: The longer you wear something, the more you sweat without even realizing it, and this grime can eat away at the fibers, Elaine Cella, P&G fabric care fiber scientist, tells SELF.
2. You’re washing your leggings with hot water
Hot water rules supreme when it comes to washing clothes, right? Not so fast. According to Gizmodo, hot water can cause shrinkage. In addition to helping maintain the shape of your leggings, cooler water protects the color of the clothes and is more effective at eliminating certain stains, like blood.
3. You’re not turning your leggings inside out
Because the “teeth” of a laundry machine compromise fabric over time, turning leggings inside out protects any decorative elements from wear and tear, Fred Holzhauer, Green Chef of Method, tells TODAY. Plus, when it comes to leggings, the inside, which is exposed to skin and sweat, is often dirtier than the outside.
4. You’re using the wrong detergent
Because synthetics—what most leggings are made out of—are hydrophobic, they’re breathable and moisture-wicking. But it’s these same properties that make them hard to wash. When we tested the best laundry detergents, Persil removed stains most efficiently, which is perfect for synthetics and activewear.
5. You aren’t putting your leggings in a garment bag
Bras aren't the only thing that should be washed in a mesh bag. If you wash your leggings along with other clothes, be sure to use a garment bag to prevent snags, holes, and pills. According to Racked, sturdier duds with buttons and zippers can stretch and rip more delicate items. A garment bag will keep your leggings protected while still allowing soap and water to effectively clean them.
6. You’re using fabric softener or dryer sheets
According to the Environmental Working Group, fabric softeners work by coating individual fibers with chemicals that make a garment feel silkier. While this may feel nice, it actually reduces the breathability and moisture-wicking properties of fabric—two things you definitely don’t want for your leggings.
7. You’re putting your leggings in the dryer
There are some things you should never put in the dryer. According to Who What Wear, the high heat of the dryer can destroy the individual strands of fiber, causing tears or holes. This can also distort the shape and flexibility of the fabric, which affects the way your leggings fit. Always air dry your leggings. If you’re in a pinch, use the lowest temperature setting on your dryer.