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If you work out often, chances are you know the grime and stink that can accumulate in your fitness attire. “[Workout clothes] can get to a point where regular detergent just doesn’t work, but no one ever wants to throw them out because they’re so expensive,” says personal trainer Trevor McKenzie.
Cleaning high-performance activewear is challenging because the tightly-woven fibers tend to hold on to odor. Fortunately, laundry detergents specifically made for activewear target odor-causing particles and eliminate them from the close-knit fibers. We researched the best laundry detergents for workout clothes and evaluated their effectiveness, odor elimination, price, and ease of use.
Our top pick, Rockin Green Activewear Laundry Detergent, uses enzymes to get odors out, preventing them from returning.
Here are the best laundry detergents for workout clothes.
Best Overall: Rockin Green Activewear Laundry Detergent
Made from plant-based enzymes
No artificial fragrances
Rockin Green Activewear Laundry Detergent is simply the best for eliminating stubborn smells in sweaty workout clothes. Even workout clothes that smell clean after being laundered with standard detergents can get smelly quickly once you start sweating again—but not with Rockin Green. With over 7,000 5-star reviews on Amazon, this detergent is making a lot of athletes smell fresher for longer.
The Rockin Green powder detergent is a bit expensive, which is why many people save it for their smelliest laundry or fabrics that tend to hold onto odors. Workout clothes, car seats, and tightly woven towels can all benefit from this detergent. Since it’s a concentrated formula, we think the price is justified. It’s important to note that this detergent is also safe for colors. You can use it as a presoak or as a regular detergent in any washing machine.
On top of that, Rockin Green is safe for those with sensitive skin, and it uses plant-based ingredients to bust odors instead of harsh chemicals. It’s free of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), parabens, and artificial fragrances, so it’s safe for use on young kids’ clothing as well as your sweatiest cycling shorts.
Best Budget: All Free Clear Liquid Laundry Detergent
Good for basic cleaning
No perfumes, dyes, or phosphates
Recommended for sensitive skin
Not specifically made for athletic clothes
Doesn’t work well on stains
While this detergent isn’t specifically formulated for activewear or workout clothes, it still does an excellent job getting odors out of the smelliest items. Our at-home product tester loved that All Free & Clear is safe and it works well. “Everything that just needed a basic clean went in dirty and came out clean (which is the main thing you can ask of a detergent),” she says. However, it wasn’t successful at removing untreated stains.
This detergent doesn’t include harsh perfumes, dyes, or phosphates and is recommended by dermatologists for those with sensitivities. The price is also a big plus: “Retailing at around $15 for the concentrated formula, it's about 14 cents per load, which is fairly low compared to other detergents marketed as safe for sensitive skin,” our tester noted. If you wash a lot of workout clothes, affordability is a major perk.
Best Pods: Tide PODS 4-in-1 HE Turbo Laundry Detergent
Also includes stain remover, color protector, and odor eliminator
Easy to use
Works on performance fabrics
Can’t customize amount
Tide Pods 4-in-1 Sport Odor Defense pods are convenient and effective at eliminating stains and odors. Using a Febreze formula, they are made to work on performance fabrics and sweaty workout clothes. Each pod includes detergent, stain remover, color protector, and odor eliminator. It’s everything you need to keep your workout clothes clean and fresh in one easy-to-use pod. As with any detergent pod, one pod should work for most loads, but you can’t customize the amount for heavily soiled laundry.
You will pay for the convenience as these are more expensive than their liquid counterparts. Given that they include four functions and only need to be tossed into the washer drum, we think they are worth the extra cost. They also work in cold water, which can save you money on electricity costs if you do a lot of laundry.
Best Powder: Active Wear Laundry Detergent & Soak
Enzymes target odor-causing particles
Detergent and presoak
Might need multiple washes at first
This is another enzyme-based laundry detergent that actually breaks down odor-causing particles. It uses plant-based ingredients that target the particles that cause odors rather than just covering them up. Workout gear, especially performance fabrics with a tight weave, can hold these particles for a long time. Active Wear detergent is known for making sure they stay fresh.
You can use it as a detergent or a presoak treatment. If using as a presoak, let your clothes soak in a mixture of powder and water right in your washer drum for up to an hour and then wash like normal. This does use the powder faster, however, and it is already quite pricey. You don’t need to use much, but initially, you might need to run your workout clothes through multiple washes to eliminate any built-up gunk.
Best Laundry Booster: OxiClean Odor Blasters Stain & Odor Remover
Effective at odor removal
Safe for routine use
Safe for all machines
Not good for all fabrics
Need to use a large amount
If you are looking for an odor-buster to add to your existing laundry routine, OxiClean Odor Blasters powder is the absolute best. You may need to use quite a bit of it to effectively soak your stinky fitness attire, but it is affordable enough to use weekly, if not every day. For the best results, use it with every wash.
OxiClean can be harsh and not safe for all fabrics. It’s best to test it on some of your older or well-worn items first. If you use performance fabric athletic gear, this may cause it to wear faster. It is safe for all washing machines, even high-efficiency machines.
Best Smelling: WIN Sports Detergent
Very effective for performance fabrics
Available in scented and unscented
Easy to use
While it is expensive, many athletes love the smell of WIN Activewear laundry detergent. It is safe for all fabrics, even uniforms. WIN gets odors out by targeting the oils and sweat buildup in your fitness gear’s synthetic and performance fabrics. This means that your clothes will be fresh when they get out of the wash and stay that way when you wear them. WIN detergent also comes in Free & Clear—which doesn’t include fragrances—for those who have sensitivities. This version is just as effective as its scented counterpart.
The downside of this detergent is that it is quite expensive for everyday use. Many people opt to use it for their workout clothing only. It also works on outdoor apparel that can get stinky and sweaty, such as hiking and climbing gear.
Best Unscented: Molly's Suds Unscented Bulk Laundry Detergent Powder
Great for odors
Not good for cold water
May need to use more product
All of the formulas from Molly’s Suds get rave reviews for their odor-eliminating performance, and they’re made with ingredients that are safe for those with skin or smell sensitivities. Molly’s Suds Unscented formula doesn’t include parabens, synthetic fragrances, phosphates, or dyes. Instead, it is made of sodium carbonate from Wisconsin, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium sulfate, and sea salt.
You will need to use it with warm or hot water to make sure that the formula dissolves. If you wash your clothes in cold water, they may come out with residue on them. Molly’s Suds includes a scoop to make measuring each recommended amount easy. Note that you may need to use extra for large, dirty, or extra-smelly loads.
Best for Stains: OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Powder
Brightens whites and gets stains out
Can use around the house
Easy to add to washer drum
Available in fragrance-free and baby formulas
Need an additional detergent
Can cause colors to bleed on new clothing
Another trusted OxiClean product, the Versatile Stain Remover is a powder that you add directly to the washer drum alongside your laundry detergent. It brightens whites, gets stains out, and makes your laundry smell fresh. While you do need to use an additional detergent, this is a good booster. For best results, you should use it with each load of laundry.
You can also use OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover to keep things bright, clean, and fresh around your home. It is great to keep your gym shoes clean and bright, as well. The same formula is available in a fragrance-free as well as a baby-safe option that is also good for those with sensitivities. It is chlorine-free and color-safe, but may cause some color bleeding on brand-new clothing.
Our top pick is Rockin Green Activewear Laundry Detergent. It works like magic on stinky, dirty workout clothes by using plant-based enzymes to target the odor-causing particles while still being safe for those with sensitivities. For a budget-friendly option that is effective and reliable, consider All Free & Clear Liquid Laundry Detergent.
What to Look for in Laundry Detergents for Workout Clothes
Detergents come in liquid, powder, and pod form. Many of the best detergents for activewear come in powder form, and this makes it easy to add extra scoops to heavily soiled loads of laundry. Liquid detergents are equally easy to use and measure. Pods are the most convenient form of detergent but also the priciest. No matter what form the detergent comes in, some are only meant to be used as boosters to fight stains or odors alongside another detergent that cleans your clothing.
Ingredients and certifications
Many laundry detergents use oxygen-based cleaners and enzymes to target particles that cause odors. Performance fabrics are often tightly woven and so they hold onto these particles even more so than other fabrics. Look for a detergent that gets into the fibers to get rid of grime, dirt, sweat, and oil.
In addition, some detergents have certifications, such as the EPA Safer Choice certification, that mark the product as environmentally friendly and safe for your health. Plant-based ingredients and all-natural fragrances often fall into this category. EWG ratings also show the potential hazards of individual ingredients, and they are transparent about the amount of data collected. If you have sensitivities, look for a Free & Clear detergent that does not include synthetic fragrances or dyes.
Some detergents have added scents to make your clothing smell fresher. Look for detergents that get rid of the odor-causing particles instead of just covering them up with heavy scents. Some scented detergents are made to add a pleasant smell to your clothing rather than target the odor source.
What is the best way to wash your workout clothes?
Many laundry detergents marketed for workout clothes can be used like any other detergent. Add them to your washer drum or dispenser as directed on the packaging. If your clothes are especially smelly or dirty, consider using a detergent that can also function as a presoak treatment. For more information, check out our guide on how to wash high-performance activewear.
How do you get the sweat smell out of your workout clothes?
Laundry detergents that use oxygen-based cleaners or enzymes are the most effective at getting sweaty smells out of workout clothes. Initially, you may need to run your clothing through the wash multiple times to remove built-up grime and oils. For really stubborn sweat smells, presoak your clothes before washing them.
Can you wash your workout clothes with your regular clothes?
Yes, you can wash your workout clothes with other items as long as they are compatible (lights, darks, delicates). If you use laundry detergent made for workout clothes, you may end up spending more money because these formulas can be more expensive. Some people prefer to use a less-expensive standard laundry detergent for their regular clothes and save the more expensive detergent for workout clothes.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Katie Begley, a freelance writer specializing in home and family products. Katie has been writing for The Spruce since 2019. A Navy veteran, Katie is familiar with the need for laundry detergent that can stand up to dirty, sweaty workout clothes. To compile this list, she looked for detergents and boosters that were effective and safe for performance fabrics. She also talked to personal trainer Trevor McKenzie for insight on how to properly care for fitness attire.