You might be thinking, Lingerie? I don't own lingerie; I just have underwear. After all, the average woman's closet doesn't exactly resemble a Victoria's Secret model's. But the fact is, all undergarments are delicate, and should be treated as such. Valentine's day may be long past, but wedding season is just around the corner, to be followed by plenty of hot summer nights, so you'll want to know how to keep your pretty little things pretty.

Use lingerie bags in the washer

Unlike many as-seen-on-TV-type products, lingerie bags -- those little white mesh things you've probably seen before in the intimates section at Walmart -- are not just a unnecessary item on which the makers can earn a little extra cash. They have a practical use, and that is to keep your intimates -- especially those that are lacy or made from a delicate material like nylon or silk -- separate from the rest of your laundry. That way, things like shirt buttons or hooks on other garments aren't snagging on your underthings and destroying them, if not immediately, then over time. You'll want to keep three or four lingerie bags around: one for panties, one for bras (though regular machine washing is not recommended for bras), and at least one larger one for nighties and such. When it comes time to dry, go ahead and take the garments out of the bags, but remember to set your drier on delicate -- this is a cooler cycle, which will ensure your underthings aren't broken down over (a relatively short) time due to high heat.

Better yet, wash your lingerie separately from most other things

You still might want to use lingerie bags, but also washing your intimates completely separate from everything else is even better. Why? Because your washer also has a delicate cycle, and it's there for a reason: where cold or hot water is okay for most things, undergarments should be cleansed in warm water, because it's gentler than the other two options. On the other hand, you don't want to be washing, say, jeans on delicate because it won't provide an adequate cleaning for such a heavy fabric. It's easiest just to keep lingerie apart from the rest of your laundry. If you don't have enough to constitute a decent-sized load, fill it out with light blankets or sheets -- something light-weight that won't snag on your undies or thrash them about too badly. Again, remember to dry them on delicate as well. [Note: Your machines may say "wool" or "woolens" instead of "delicate" -- or you may find it easier to remember that you want your washer on warm/cool (wash/rinse, respectively) and your drier on low.]

Hand wash bras whenever possible

Bras exist to perform one very specific function above all others, and it's one they must perform with precision: providing support. Especially if you have a large (read: heavy) bust, a lack of proper support can lead to problems that are, at best, annoying -- like an uncomfortable or inappropriate amount of, um, movement -- and, at worst, a serious threat to your health -- like severe back problems. And nothing is more detrimental to a bra's ability to support the girls than a washing machine. This is because, even on the delicate cycle, that baby is spinning and agitating fast, giving your clothes a run for their money. And no lingerie bag on the planet is enough to protect your bras from the over-time effects: warped underwires, weakened elastic and stretched-out cups and bands. These are effects that you might not be able to see, or even necessarily feel when you put it on, but after a while, your body will let you know in some unpleasant ways. And many of us put out a pretty penny for bras that fit and support just so; we're guessing you don't want to throw that hard-earned cash way by unwittingly rendering them all but useless.

And speaking of a bra that fits...

Here is a great how-to guide on properly fitting yourself for a bra. You may even find out that your A-cups are actually D's -- we're not kidding!

One last quick tip:

Throw an extra drier sheet in

Bras and panties in particular, for reasons we won't go in to because you all know what they are, tend to pick up quite a bit of our more unpleasant scents. If they are laundered properly, that problem should be obliterated by the time you throw the load in the drier. Nevertheless, it doesn't hurt to add an extra drier sheet for good measure, not only to guard against any residual odor, but also to keep static electricity at bay.