Mesh lingerie bags protect their contents from snagging, stretching and general beating in the washing machine – but despite the name, they’re not just intended for lingerie. When used correctly, mesh bags keep a wide variety of delicate items of clothing in top shape for years. Here’s how to use it.

Choose the right clothes

If you hate Hand wash clothesYou might be tempted to use lingerie bags as a substitute. This can work, but some clothes are too fragile to go through a spin cycle no matter what. For best results, choose clothes that are on the fragility scale between “hand wash only” and “throw in the machine”: nice blouses and shirts, most underwear, any type of tech or performance fabric, wool socks, Silk pads or even old t-shirts that you are emotionally attached to and want to wear for as long as possible.

Zip (or button) ’em up

Hooks, buttons, zippers and other fasteners can easily get caught on other clothing during a wash cycle – even inside a mesh bag. Always close them before washing to prevent them from causing damage. If there are an annoying number of fasteners, just close a few to keep the package flat while washing.

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Don’t overcrowd

The main disadvantage of lingerie bags is that they can easily become overfilled, which prevents the clothes from being properly cleaned and rinsed. Most bags are designed for a single item that is roughly the same size and shape as the bag itself. You can get away with stuffing several smaller items (think socks and underwear) in one bag, as long as they can move easily – but if in doubt, go wrong on the underfill side.

Wash cold and skip the dryer

Lingerie bags are not magical, damage-repellent force fields. So don’t expect them to protect your delicate clothing from hot water – or worse, the heat of the dryer. Stick to short, cold wash cycles and air drying. In addition to extending the life of your clothing, you use less energy, lower your operating costs and reduce your overall environmental impact.