Proper Care of Spandex Costumes
While there are some universal - or near universal - truths when it comes to the proper care of spandex costumes, some of it depends on the specific costume.
Fabrics used, whether it’s embellished or not, and the nature of the cleaning needed (ahem, blood stains on wrestling gear!) will all factor in to your customized care needs.
Let’s get to some details!
Proper Care of Your Spandex Costume
Care of your spandex costume goes beyond washing and drying - it can also involve protection ahead of time, and storage considerations.
A few guidelines for you:
Don’t Over-Wash Your Spandex Costume
While it may sound counter-intuitive, over washing your gear can be a bad thing, and will age it faster than if you don’t.
There are a few steps you can take to prevent needing to wash your costume more than necessary, though:
White or pale coloured outfits have a tendency to stain in certain areas - neckline, sleeve edges, collars, underarm, and crotch.
Fitness models and bodybuilders also have spray tan staining to think about, usually around the leg holes of their posing suits.
To prevent sweat or tan staining, you may want to treat these areas with ScotchGuard treatment, following manufacturer’s directions. Do this *before* you’ve stained your gear in the first place! 🙂
When considering Scotchgard treatment, be sure to test it on everything beforehand: scraps of the fabric used, the type of embellishment, etc.
If you don’t have access to scraps, you can test it on a small, hidden area of the garment, before treating the whole garment.
I’ll take the fabric, do whatever paint or crystalling the main costume has - in miniature! - and let that dry, before testing scotchgard.
Treat it, let it cure for a day or two, then try washing it. If nothing discolours or falls off, you’re good to go!
Hardcore pro wrestlers may want to consider Scotchgarding their entire costume, but - again - be sure to test the fabric first!
Note: You'll want to redo the treatment every once in a while.
Break Out the Vodka!
Sweat breaks down spandex, and can dull the finish on holo and foil type lycras... so “don’t overwash” and “don’t let bacteria eat your suit” is a bit of a balancing game.
The secret to not over-washing, though?
Keep a little spray bottle of vodka in your bag. As soon as you change out of your costume, spritz it generously with vodka, and allow it to air dry.
The vodka helps sanitize and prevent bacterial growth / smell, without the need for actually washing it.
Note: If you have actual dirt *beyond* just sweat on your gear, you should wash it.
Air Your Costume Out
As I mentioned earlier, bacteria is bad for spandex... and sweat + gym/skating bag makes a wonderful breeding ground for it.
Do NOT keep sweaty or wet costuming in your bag for any longer than it takes to get it home / to a hotel!
Rinse it Out!
Synchro Swimmers, especially: Rinse your suit out immediately after use, to remove chlorine.
DO NOT SHOWER IN YOUR COMPETITION SUIT. Body washes, shampoos, etc can be very damaging to some of the fabrics and embellishments used in competition synchro swim suits.
After rinsing, follow washing/drying info, further below.
Spot Treating Spandex
If you have a little dirt, dust, food, or other non-blood grime on your gear, you can spot treat those areas.
Rinse the area as well as you can, then gently rub a little mild detergent (see “washing” section) into the affected area.
Rinse well, repeat as necessary.
How to Wash Spandex Costumes
Hand wash in cold water, use gentle detergent - ideally a lingerie soap.
Whatever detergent you use, it should be gentle and free of chlorine bleach and fabric softener - both of those will break down the spandex.
Using a Washing Machine
To wash untrimmed garments, it's ideal to hand wash, but if you HAVE to machine wash, turn it inside out and wash on a gentle cycle, cool water, with a mild detergent - again, lingerie detergent is great for this.
Tumble dry on low heat, or air dry, laid out on a towel. Do NOT hang a wet garment.
Washing machines are OK (JUST ok, not good) for gear using only basic spandex.
If you have hologram, foil, etc in your costume, it will age it quickly. If you have embellishments, they can be damaged or possibly fall off in the washing machine.
Always wash embellished costumes by hand, NOT in a machine.
Dry Cleaning Spandex
Do NOT dry clean your spandex costuming!
Dry cleaning chemicals break down spandex and can kill the finish on any fancier spandex. (Foils, holos, etc).
Additionally, if you have any embellishment on it, their chemicals can dissolve the adhesive and ruin the garment.
Dealing with Blood Stains
If you get blood on your costume, deal with it right away - set in blood stains are almost impossible to get out.
Rinse as much of it out as you can with COLD water (heat will set it), blot excess water out, and plan to soak it as soon as you get home /to your hotel.
Don’t allow it to dry without getting the blood out first.
Once you’re able to - ASAP - soak the stained garment in cold water and a mild detergent. Lingerie soap is ideal for this, as they’re often formulated to deal with blood, as well as being gentle on fabrics.
You can find them in lingerie stores, the lingerie section of some nicer department stores, or online.
Gently rub a little of the detergent right into the blood stain, soak, rinse, and repeat as necessary.
Drying Your Spandex Costume
Heat destroys spandex - it kills the elasticity / memory of it, and will make your costume look old and fit poorly long before it should.
After washing, gently roll your costume in one dry towel to blot out as much excess moisture as possible, then lay it out flat on a new, dry towel to air dry.
NEVER ring your spandex costume out, and never put them away wet - wet spandex breeds mildew, which breaks down fabric.
Don’t hang a wet garment, as the weight can stretch it out.
If you absolutely MUST use a clothes dryer (and it’s not something that other factors - such as embellishments - about your costume prohibit!), turn your costume inside out and tumble dry on the lowest heat.
I’m often asked about ironing. Again - heat destroys spandex, so you should NOT iron your costume.
If you wash and dry it as described earlier, you shouldn’t have any wrinkles. Any wrinkles you DO have should come out as you wear the costume.
If you’ve balled your costume up and left it in your bag and really need wrinkles to come out, hang it in the bathroom and run a hot shower, or LIGHTLY steam it.
Ironing should be an absolute last resort. If you have to, use the lowest temperature possible, and be extremely careful!
Care of Spandex After Washing
Always be sure to examine your suit after it dries, make any repairs to lost embellishments if necessary.
If storing / travelling with multiple competition suits, find some acid free tissue paper to place between them. This will help prevent snags and damage that can occur in storage / while transporting.
Note: If your suit is very heavy from a lot of rhinestones, it may be best to not hang it, even when dry.
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