We’ve all experienced the heartbreak that comes with letting go of a swimsuit that’s enjoyed one too many days in the sun. The loose threads, discoloration, sagging elastic, and warped padding don’t make for a good look. But—thanks to saltwater, chlorine, sunscreen, and repeated wear—it happens to even the best, most high-end suits. It makes you wonder: Is a nice one-piece really worth the price if you know, without question, it’ll succumb to wear and tear?

All swimsuits have to be retired eventually since most do lose shape over time, but there are ways to stretch the lifespan of your favorite bikini or one-piece. Ahead, swimwear experts give you seven game-changing hacks to ensure you really get the most out of your summer suit.

1. Read the fine print—really. When shopping for a new swimsuit, consider the fabric makeup of whatever style you’re eyeing. Andrea Jagaric, senior vice president of design at Aerie, suggests “a fabrication that has some sort of spandex in it—[it] will last more than one season.” Spandex and materials like it hold their shape for the longest amount of time, meaning you don’t have to worry about sagging. (Lori Coulter, CEO and cofounder of Summersalt, recommends Xtra Life Lycra.) Also, if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the pool, make sure your suit is made with chlorine-resistant materials.

Lately we’ve been seeing a trend toward alternative fabrics in swim, with more and more styles being rendered in crochet, terry, and even velvet. But be extra cautious when wearing these suits: According to Megan Balch and Jaime Barker, the designers of Flagpole, those fabrics don’t have as much elastic as traditional swimwear materials, and they’re more susceptible to wear and tear. Same goes for embellishments: “Some accessories and hardware, if not well made, can represent potential friction points,” explains Paula Fernandez, founder and designer at Valimare, noting how thin metal loops can stress fabric or even break after a lot of wear.

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2. As cumbersome as it may seem: Wash your swimsuits by hand. After spending an afternoon poolside, it’s important to clean your suit in a timely fashion, especially if it’s been in chlorine or saltwater, according to Ookioh founder Vivek Agarwal. Gwen Whiting, co-founder of luxe laundry service The Laundress, recommends a specific regimen for cleaning your swim gear: “Use the targeted precision of a hard bar of laundry soap (try the Laundress Wash & Stain bar, $6, The Laundress to scrub the waistband, straps, and underwire—areas prone to sweat buildup or sunscreen that could cause yellowing; then soak for 30 minutes in cool or warm water with a bleach-free detergent.” Alternatively, like, say, if you’re traveling, “shower gel can work in a pinch,” she says.

And if you must, must, must use the washing machine, make sure it’s set on cold water.

3. And always, always, always air-dry. Sure, dryers get the job done quickly, but Whiting explains that the dryer’s heat wreaks havoc on swimsuits: “The heat kills elasticity and causes fabric to shrink, not to mention the fact that rubbing up against other items in a load induces pilling,” she says. Agarwal adds that “while throwing your new swimsuit in the washer and dryer won’t immediately ruin a swimsuit, it will shorten it’s lifespan dramatically.”

A straightforward way to dry your swimsuit that every designer agrees on: Lay swimsuits flat to dry. However, don’t wring out the suit—it’ll stress the fibers, and you’ll run the risk if your suit losing its shape, according to Fernandez. You also shouldn’t leave it in direct sunlight, as you might run the risk of having the colors fade.

Sewn-in padding is safe during hand washing and flat drying, says Whiting; removable inserts, however, should be washed separately from the suit, and then reinserted when dry.

4. Attend to sunscreen and deodorant marks on the spot. An extra glob of sunscreen or a little deodorant smudge might not seem like a big deal, but if not dealt with in the moment, it could turn into a permanent stain, so, as soon as you spot it, “try a stain remover stick and rinse as soon as possible,” says Jagaric says. No Tide-to-Go handy? There’s some MacGyver hacks you can use back at home to treat tough stains: Fernandez recommends baking soda and vinegar. “Leave the soda on the stain for at least 30 minutes and then rinse in cold water,” she says. “When used as a dilution in water—three parts water to one part white vinegar works well—you can soak out a sunscreen stain. You can also apply white vinegar directly to small stains, but just make sure that you use it very conservatively.” A little bit of water mixed with laundry detergent works as well, according to Balch and Barker.

5. Fix loose stitches immediately. If you notice a thread here or there loosen up, the suit can still be salvaged: “If a stitch accidentally gets pulled, you can gently stretch the seam to work the thread back in evenly,” Balch and Barker advise. Just make sure to do so as soon as you notice.

6. Unpack as soon as you get back from vacation. When you’re returning from a trip, the pool, or the beach, throwing a wet swimsuit into a plastic bag may seem like the straightforward packing solution, as long as it’s the first thing you take out of your bag when you get home. Resist the urge to leave your suit crumpled up in your luggage—not only does leaving your suit in a ball ruin its shape, but “it damages fibers and causes mildew,” according to Fernandez.

7. Store your suits correctly during the off-season. “It’s tempting to vacuum-pack suits away for the winter,” Balch and Barker explain, “but you should avoid keeping anything with high elasticity in sealed plastic.” Instead, keep them in a drawer or in your closet.

A version of this story appears in our May 2018 print issue.

Determine the true value of that product you’re eyeing with Glamour’s new Cost-Per-Wear Calculator:

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