Leotards today are made from high-performance materials that need a bit of special care to maintain their stretch and texture. Always turn solid color leotards inside out before washing to prevent snags. Wash by hand or on a gentle cycle using a gentle or sports detergent. Do not use fabric softeners which can build-up on the fibers. Use warm or cold water - never hot. Do NOT place in a dryer, hang in direct sunlight or hang near high heat sources like radiators. The heat pressed logos will peel off if heat is applied to them.
If the leotard has stains, treat before washing following the specific direction for each type of stain. For heavy body soil and perspiration, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach and water following package directions and soak the leotard overnight before washing as usual.
The metallic threads used in leotards are more delicate than regular fibers. They can break and even tarnish during washing. Metallic designs should always be washed by hand with a gentle touch. Use a gentle detergent and no fabric softeners that can dull the threads.
Tights and Leggings
All tights and leggings should, ideally, be handwashed in cool water with a gentle detergent. If it is necessary to wash them in a washer, they should be placed in a mesh bag before adding to the washer. Use a gentle cycle, cool water and a mild detergent. Air dry away from direct heat - never place in a dryer. Before you wear a pair of tights each time it is ideal to give them a spray with hairspray, this help with runs and holes.
Many dance costumes - especially those for children - are very delicate and not meant to be washed. Do not clean or wash the costumes before the first performance because they may not withstand the cleaning and fade or lose their shape.
However, if you need to wash the costume, read the cleaning directions carefully. Most can be washed by hand in cold water using a mild detergent. Remove as many bows or trimmings as possible before washing. Do not wring the costume. Roll in a towel to remove excessive moisture and dry flat or hang to air dry. Do not place in direct sunlight which may cause fading.
For costumes that are made of velvet, chiffon, leather or satin, use a professional dry cleaner.
Tutus or Costumes with Tule
For most ballet dancers, a tutu is a significant garment that declares that you are gaining knowledge and position in your ballet training. Most tutus are separate garments from the leotard but if they are all one piece, the washing instructions remain the same.
The biggest challenge in washing tutus is to prevent crushing. To wash a plain tutu, fill a bathtub with lukewarm water and a small bit of a mild detergent. Swish the tutu gently through the water. Drain the tub and refill with clean water to rinse. Remove the tutu, shake gently to remove as much water as possible and then hang to air dry.
If the tutu has a metal hoop, it should be removed before washing. The metal can rust and ruin the tutu. If there is added trim, it should be removed to prevent fading. Beads and sequins that are glued on and not hand-sewn may come off during washing.
Many dance shoes have suede soles for flexibility that can accumulate a great deal of dirt and wax. The soles can be cleaned by using a suede brush after every wearing. The suede nap should be brushed in one direction until the soil is removed and the nap has returned.
Canvas dance shoes can be placed in a mesh bag and washed in the washer on a gentle cycle in cool water. Allow them air dry. You may need to stuff them with white tissue paper to help them retain their shape.
Leather shoes should be cleaned with leather cleaner or a good saddle soap. Patent leather shoes can be cleaned by spraying window cleaner on a white cloth and wiping down the shoes.