How long is shapewear supposed to last? This is a great question, but, unfortunately, it’s not an easy one to answer. You see, the general longevity depends on a number of factors.
Quality, for instance. Different brands will have different quality standards for their products. But equally different care requirements. Regardless of your body type and the levels of compression, shapewear girls know that how well you care for your it, is what will keep your body garments effective for longer.
The environment, too. Extreme temperatures can do funny things to fabrics, and they’re often irreversible. Hot water may be used were only warm water was needed, and poof - a delicate garment is gone.
Lastly, use-value; how often you wear (or plan to wear) it, will factor into your piece’s projected lifespan. Your cost per wear and keeping your levels of compressions intact can be extended with using a gentle cycle and mild soap mix. Or, it might be a tad more complex.
A good rule of thumb is to start at a minimum of 3 months and then factor in your situation. General shapewear pieces that are worn every day or almost every day should last between 3 to 6 months with proper care. Shapers that are worn infrequently—i.e., only on special occasions—can last up to a year or more. A piece of shapewear can serve you long enough that it will become one of your style confidants.
But still, these are just the best estimates. An everyday piece can definitely go for up to 9 months (or more), but it’ll take some proper handling (and a lot of TLC) to get it there.
Like underwear, shapewear needs to be regularly replaced. But if you want to make the most out of the pieces you own, while they’re still fresh, you need to know how to baby them.
Here’s a list of tips and techniques for caring for your shapewear.
Tip #1. Always check manufacturing labels and washing instructions.
Even though hand-washing is the preferred choice for cleaning shapewear, most shapewear pieces are machine washable. It still ultimately depends on the style, cut, and material of the shaper, though. So before you toss your shapewear in the washing machine, check the tags. Most manufacturers will include washing instructions or general care guidelines that will explicitly tell you whether or not the item can be machine washed, if it can stand harsh detergents (most don't!), what to do to prevent post wash skin irritation, or weather they belong on the drying rack.
Tip #2. Hand-washing makes shapewear last longer.
Even if your shapewear is machine washable, hand-washing remains the most effective way to ensure longevity. Still, we know nobody’s got the time to do that every single day.
There’s absolutely no shame in popping your shaper in the washing machine and run it through a delicate cycle (so long as the label says it’s alright). But if you can manage to hand-wash your shapewear in warm water with the right type of detergent, every now and then – say, six times out of ten – you can definitely make it last longer.
Tip #3. Mesh, lace, ribbons, and delicate garments mean hand-wash only.
In the very, very slim chance that the shapewear you bought doesn’t come with washing and handling instructions, you’ll have to make a judgment call.
Now, machine washing is generally safe for most styles and fabrics. The only exception is if the piece you own has delicate-looking design details—think mesh panels, lace edges, complicated ribbons, and the like. If your shapewear has any of that sort, stick to strictly hand-washing it. No matter how "too-tight shapewear" of an effect it has while worn, the delicate details won't stand a chance in a machine cycle.
Tip #4. Invest in Wash Bags. A Clean & Care Shapewear Universal Tip.
Wash bags are mesh bags typically used for washing lingerie and delicate clothes. Shapewear just so happens to fall under these categories, too. Invest in several pieces of wash bags to keep your shapers clean without compromising their lifespan.
Tip #5. Do not wash shapewear along with bras (or other undergarments) with hooks or clasps.
Otherwise, you risk tearing, poking, or scratching your shaper. It might not be ever written on the care tags, but it's not a risk worth taking.
Tip #6. Coldwater ONLY.
Whether you’re hand-washing or machine washing your shapewear, always use cold water. The maximum temperature should be 30°C. This is one of those "basic musts" of the care instructions(!)
Lower temperatures can restore—and preserve—the garment’s shape and elasticity. And with clothing items like shapewear, you definitely want to retain the elasticity for as long as possible. Cool water runs in the DNA of the washing guidelines for shapewear.
Tip #7. Use the gentlest washer cycle possible.
The secret to long-lasting shaper garments is to be as gentle with them at all times. If you’ve got to toss them in the washing machine, keep the machine on the delicate clothing cycle—the one you’d use to wash pieces made of silk, pure lace, or cashmere. An active detergent will do the job even with that wash cycle.
Tip #8. Avoid spot washing.
It may be tempting to scrub out a stain, but spot washing shaper garments practically guarantees uneven loosening in the fabric. This, as you can imagine, will affect the piece’s overall elasticity and compression ability. Despite the super powers of your compression wear, spot washing is its Achilles heel.
Tip #9. Always use delicate detergent—or baby shampoo.
Regular laundry detergent is too harsh for shaper garments. Most brands will cause damage and/or discoloration to the fabric. Always use delicate focused soap and gentle detergent to get your shapewear nice and clean without wearing it out. If you don’t have a gentle detergent on hand, here’s a neat laundry hack for you: use baby shampoo! It’s gentle, effective, and fairly easy to find. Just make sure you rinse the shaper out completely before letting it dry. Even a bit of detergent left will not doo well if you sweat in your shapewear. Or, if you have sensitive skin it may still get you some unpleasant skin reactions, due to direct contact with the skin. So, just rinse it well.
Tip #10. Please—Do NOT twist the shapewear to remove excess water.
Don't stress your best-fitting shapewear. We understand the temptation to do this, but stretching the fabric in ways it’s not designed to be stretched - will drastically shorten your shapewear’s shelf-life. Instead, put it on a gentle spin cycle in your washer to minimise dampness and then air dry flat.
Tip #11. Do NOT, under any circumstances, use dryers.
Unlike machine washing versus hand-washing, this is absolutely non-negotiable. Dryers are already highly discouraged for some regular clothing items. Your body garment? Absolutely NOT! If you want to preserve the garment’s fabric, shape, compression, and elasticity, stick to air drying.
Tip #12. Store your shapewear in a cool, dark place.
Avoid exposing your shapewear to heat or light as much as possible. Once it’s been fully air-dried, bring your shaper indoors and store it flat in a drawer for best results. Again, higher temperatures can negatively affect the shape of the garment, so you want to avoid them as much as you can.
Final Thoughts and Bonus Care Tips
Remember that shapewear is still, technically, underwear as well. For the sake of hygiene and longevity, try not to wear the same one more than twice in a row. To avoid a literal wash-and-wear scenario for everyday pieces, have two or three duplicates of the same shapewear.
At the end of the day, if you’re having trouble remembering all these tips, a good tip is to just treat your shapewear like a particularly delicate lingerie set: no harsh chemicals, no harsh treatments, and no excessive force.