Yay Summer! My Swimsuits Are Yellow and There's Sunscreen EVERYWHERE


Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every other week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.

My lovely white swimsuits are turning yellow! I swim for an hour three times a week at the Y (in what they call an ozone-purified swimming pool) and I rotate between two suits, one that’s white with black polka dots and another that’s mostly blue with white detailing and both of them are slowly yellowing. Right now it’s mostly on the inside around the bust and pits but I’m afraid it’s going to start becoming noticeable! I wash them (like once a month, that’s probably gross I know) in the machine on cold with regular liquid detergent and hang them to dry. What can I do? Should I be washing them some other way? More often?

There are fer sure things you can do, but first: cuuuuute suits. Let’s take a moment to girl out over our favorite swimsuits while we’re here, shall we? (Do you need to cry? Because I will hold you if you need to cry.) I had great luck last year with Boden’s swimsuits and I am entirely made up of middle. So for the other apples out there, maybe check into that? Also: where are the bustier among you finding (especially DD-and-above) cup-sized suits? Share among yourselves as a gift to one another please and thank you.

Okay but back to those yellowing suits! There are things you can do, as I promised, and also a few basic care instructions you’ll want to bear in mind. And actually, let’s start with those basic care instructions and move into triage once those are out of the way.

Bullet points? Do you want some bullets up in here? Yes:

  • Always rinse your suit out post-swim.
  • When laundering your suits, hand washing is best but machine washing on cold is also A-OK. Because I am a realist. It’s not a bad idea, though, to get your hands on one of those mesh zippie bags. That will help to keep the suits from tangling up on your other clothes, which can cause them to stretch out.
  • Use a gentle detergent, which will help to keep the suit’s form and elasticity in tippy-top shape.
  • Never use bleach on a swimsuit.
  • Never wring the suit out. Press down on it, or press it between your hands, rather than twisting it to get water out — wringing a suit isn’t good for the material.
  • Always air dry your bathing suits (the good news here is that they’re designed to be fast drying).
  • Always lie ’em flat to dry. Either on a towel or a drying rack; This will also help to keep the suit from stretching out.

All of those things are designed to respect the delicate ecosystem of your swimsuit. Now, if that’s not a thing you care about by all means ignore those instructions and do whatever you want, cleaning-wise. But bathing suits are expensive and, more to-the-point, excruciating to purchase. What with all the trying on in florescent-lit dressing rooms with three-way mirrors and such. So extending their lifespan as long as possible is a thing I think we can all get behind!

Back to that yellowing swimsuit. The thing that’s happened to your suit is that there’s been some chlorine damage (those ozone-purified pools do have chlorine in them, just less of it) and also a buildup of skin and body oils and sweat, and that’s caused the yellowing. There are three main things you should do to reverse the yellowing and to prevent it from getting worse.

The first is to rinse the suit out after every swim — here we can take a page from our bra washing routine and rinse that suit right there in the shower as we’re rinsing ourselves. You’ll want to be sure to rinse out both the inside and the outside of the suit to rid it of both chlorine and the oils and such from your body.

The second thing to do, and I imagine from your note that you know this is coming, is to launder those bathing suits more often.

The last thing is to incorporate a laundry booster like Borax to help keep it’s whiteness. If after using Borax there’s still some yellowing, soak the suit for 15 or so minutes in a sinkful of warm water with a scoop of Borax, and then, while the suit is submerged in the solution, go over the yellowed areas with a soft toothbrush.

Now then, there are about a million (rough count) other home remedies for yellowing so if you’ve got a favorite (lemon & salt? Baking soda? OxiClean? Crushed up aspirin?) let us know in the comments.

I packed some spray-on sunscreen in my bag, where it exploded all over a chiffon shirt and a cotton skirt. I’ve laundered these items several times on a cold/warm wash but the stain hasn’t faded at all. How do I clean my sunscreen-covered clothes?!

There is a time in almost every woman’s life where she learns a tough lesson in a very, very hard way. And that lesson generally is: Any liquid with a sort of questionable cap situation goes in a Ziploc before it goes in your bag. (Be sure to seal it!) I learned it via a leaking bottle of contact solution. And also second hand from a broken vial of Angel by Thierry Mugler perfume in a roommate’s tote bag.

Those of you who have not yet learned this lesson the hard way will likely not heed our tale of warning. But maybe you will heed this warning that I offer to our LW: if you’ve stained an item of clothing, you mustmustmust check it post-laundering to be sure the blemish came out before you put it through the dryer cycle. The dryer will set a stain in, and once you’ve dried a stained item of clothing it becomes increasingly difficult to remove the discoloration. I fear that the skirts in question may have been dried, which is going to make our work here harder. But that’s okay, we aren’t afraid of a little hard work, are we? We are not!

With that bit of fretting out of the way, whenever we talk about grease stains, here are the four products you’ll want to know about.

1. Dish soap
2. Cornstarch, talcum, chalk
3. Lestoil, Pine Sol
4. Dry-cleaning solvents

In that order.

If you can catch the stain as it happens, always reach first for dish soap. Yup, plain old dish soap! Put a small amount on a rag or a sponge, add some water, squeeze several times to work up a goodly amount of suds and so that the sponge isn’t sopping wet, and then get after that grease stain. It may take more than one pass, but on a fresh stain you have an excellent chance of vanishing it with just a bit of dish soap and water.

If that doesn’t work, or you can’t get to the stain immediately, or you’re working with something that doesn’t love water (like a leather handbag), the next stop will be to reach for cornstarch, talcum or chalk. These are absorbent powders that, when piled up on a grease stain, will suck the offending mess out of the fabric.

If you weren’t able to get to the stain when it was fresh, and the item is launderable, both Lestoil and Pine Sol are products that work wonders on grease stains when used as a pre-treatment solution. Dab a small amount onto the stained portion of the garment, allow it to work for about 15 or so minutes and then launder as usual. Be sure to check to be sure the stain is gone before you transfer the clothes to the dryer. If there’s still a trace of the stain, go ahead and do another round of pre-treating followed by laundering. Sometimes these things just take a second pass is all!

If all else fails, it’s time to turn to the Big Guns: dry-cleaning solvents. We went through instructions on how to use them back when we talked about nail polish stains, so here I will link and then take my leave!

Jolie Kerr is the author of the upcoming book My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha (Plume, 25 February 2014); more cleaning-obsessed natterings can be found on Twitter, Kinja, and Tumblr.

Squalor appears on Jezebel and Deadspin on alternating weeks.

Image via Kzenon/Shutterstock.

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