Here's how to know when it's time to replace your bra—it's probably sooner than you think.

By Sharon Feiereisen
June 27, 2019
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Let’s be real: when was the last time you shopped for a new bra? If the answer is more than six months ago, there’s a good chance your bra has worn out its welcome. In fact, experts recommend replacing bras every six months—or after about 180 wears.

“If you have a large selection of bras in rotation, you can go longer than six months before replacing your bras if you’re caring for those bras properly,” says Ali Cudby, author of Busted and Fit My Bras, and founder of Fab Foundations. “Putting your bras in the dryer breaks down the elastic much more quickly, so save your bras from an untimely death by letting them air dry and hand wash them when possible.”

No matter how many bras you own or how well you care for them, every bra has an expiration date, thanks to weight fluctuations and natural wear and tear. Here’s how to know when it’s time to buy a new bra, according to experts.

1
The Back Is Stretched Out

The back of a bra naturally stretches out over time. “When this happens, the hook system allows you to close your bra on a tighter position to get back the snug feeling of a band that fits your chest properly,” says Josie-Anne Le Diouron, a bra expert at Empreinte. “However, when the band is so stretched out that it feels too loose even on the tightest hook, that’s a red flag that it’s time for a new bra.”

2
Cups Are Stretched Out or Too Big

According to Le Diouron when you start noticing a significant gap between the bra cups and your breast, it means that either the cups are stretched out or the volume of the breasts have decreased, which can happen due to weight loss. “As a result, the breast is not supported and the shape of the bra shows through your clothes instead of offering smooth curves,” she says.

Related: How to Measure Your Bra Size

3
Cups Are Too Small

Body changes occur at every stage of life. “If the breast is spilling from the cup on a regular basis and not only during that time of the month, it’s best to receive a proper bra fitting and probably go up a cup size,” says Le Diouron. “An adjustment of cup size will guarantee a better support and make your clothes fit better as well.”

4
Straps Are Loose

There are few things as annoying as constantly having to adjust a bra strap that keeps sliding down your shoulder—if this is happening, it’s a clear sign that it’s time for a change. “The strap is the bridge between the cup and the back of the bra. It helps support the weight of the breast while ensuring that the cups hug it smoothly,” says Le Diouron.

5
Painful Underwire

We all know there’s nothing quite like the pain of an underwire poking out and digging into sensitive skin. “Even if you try to put it back in and sew the area shut, that’s a temporary fix and it will likely come out again. Get rid of it!” says Laetitia Lecigne, creative director at Jockey.

6
Fabric Breakdown

“Fabric has a lifespan depending on your wearing and washing cycle,” says Lecigne. “If you notice that the fabric is breaking down, such as the spandex peeling off, or the overall fabric is losing its stretch, your bra is dead and is no longer performing.”

7
Your Bra Has Hair

“If you’ve ever seen little hair-like threads of elastic popping out of your bra, you’re too late—that bra is toast,” says Cudby. Those hairs mean the elastic in your bra has broken. “Since 80 percent of your bra’s support comes from a band that’s firmly anchored on your body, a bra without elastic can’t give you sufficient support,” she says. “It’s hard enough for a small bit of fabric to do its job! If you take away the elastic, a bra won’t have the needed structure to lift your breasts.”

8
The Color Is Faded or Dingy

If your light-colored bra has started to look a bit dingy or dirty, or the dark color is fading, it’s time to head to the lingerie store, stat.

9
Your Taste Has Changed

Sometimes a bra can get dull over time or your style changes. “While bras normally get covered up, it’s always important to choose one that makes you feel happy, comfortable, and even empowered,” says Jaclinne Cheng, founder and CEO of Spicy Lingerie.

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